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Brief History


By suman - Posted on 29 April 2016

  Brief History of Wheat Improvement in India

·         Historical perspective of wheat research in India

·         The three species of wheat namely, Triticum aestivum (bread wheat), Triticum durum(macaroni wheat) and Triticum dicoccum (Emmer or Khapli) grown on commercial basis in the Indian subcontinent from pre-historic times are of spring type. Another wheat species T. sphaerococcum that was cultivated in the ancient past during the Indus Valley civilization period has now almost vanished. Systematic wheat improvement in India started during 1905 and since then has undergone many developmental changes after pioneering works of imperial botanists Howard and Howard at Pusa (Bihar) in the beginning of twentieth century. The contributions made by the unknown and unsung Indian farmers in preserving enormous variability in form of land races of wheat through knowingly/unknowingly selection need special mention. The pure line selection practiced by earlier wheat workers in local land races which happened to be mixtures resulted in the development of several quality wheat varieties including NP 4, NP 6, NP 12, Pb8, Pb 8A, Pb 9D, Pb 11, K13, K46, AO13, AO 85, AO 90, Bansi, Motia, Gulab etc amongst which NP 4 won international award for its grain quality and also became popular in countries like Australia, South Africa and Hungary. Thereafter, recombination breeding between pure lines led to the development of varieties like Pb C 518, Pb C 591, NP 52, NP 80-5, NP 120, NP 125, NP 165, Niphad 4, AO 68, AO 113 and AO 115 however, with little emphasis on disease resistance. Following this Prof. K.C. Mehta and Dr. B.P. Pal initiated pathological research in wheat leading to the development of disease resistant NP 700 and NP 800 series. Notably NP 809 being the first Indian wheat variety resistant to all three rusts was a classical achievement. Some other popular old varieties were Pb C 228, C 273, C 281, C 519, Hyb 11, Hyb 23, Hyb 38, RS 31-1, Kenphad 28 etc. During 1947-48, total wheat production was just 5.6 million tons with an average yield of 0.8 tons per hectare as most of the Indian wheat varieties were tall in stature and prone to lodging, susceptible to diseases and less responsive to inputs. Despite of all possible efforts, India could not harvest beyond 12.3 million tons of wheat till 1964-65 crop season.

·         Advent of green revolution

·         The beginning of growing dwarf wheat cultivars was made by introducing the seeds of four varieties, Sonora 63, Sonora 64, Mayo 64 and Lerma Rojo 64 along with 613 segregating lines from CIMMYT, Mexico. This provided the base material for development and commercial release of another five important varieties namely PV 18, Kalyan Sona, Sonalika, Chhoti Lerma and Safed Lerma thereby ushering in the Green Revolution in India. These dwarf wheats were highly responsive to inputs, were non-lodging types and possessed desired level of disease resistance. Due to these qualities, the dwarf wheat varieties could yield exceptionally high under best management production conditions especially in Indo-Gangetic Plains (IGP). Later in 1970-75, it was realized that semi-dwarf, high yielding and input responsive lines should be crossed with local wheats to combine attributes from both the groups.

·         It was sheer coincidence that the advent of dwarf wheat and establishment of the All India Coordinated Wheat Improvement Project (AICWIP) happened concurrently in the year of 1965. This was an important milestone that brought about systematic developments in wheat research and had resulted in the real breakthrough in wheat productivity. Since then the wheat research had made spectacular advances in yield potential, productivity and sustainability of wheat system. Since the initiation of the Green Revolution in the mid sixties, India achieved remarkable increase in production and productivity of wheat. This is indicative from the fact that the area, productivity and production of wheat to the tune of 123%, 226% and 630% respectively by the year 2006-07 as compared to 1965-66. This achievement in India¬ís wheat production has been perhaps the most important and unparallel in the history of developing world as stated by the Nobel Laureate Dr. N.E. Borlaug. High yielding varieties released in India during 1975-2003 showed significant gain in productivity almost every 5-10 years. The launch of the Green Revolution and rise in production coincided with productivity growth in the magnitude of 2-3% at national level saving crores of rupees to Indian treasury for importing wheat from other countries. Few land mark wheat varieties like Sonalika, Kalyan Sona, HD 2009, WL 711, WH 147, UP 262, Lok 1, HUW 234, HD 2285, HD 2329 and PBW 343 dominated wheat areas for reasons of wider adaptability, high yield potential, disease resistance, grain quality, maturity duration, plant height and other desirable agronomic traits.

·         Landmark varieties of wheat in India and their yielding ability

Variety

Year of release

Yield potential (Q/ha)

S 227

1965

33.7

C 306

1965

36.0

Sonalika

1967

45.5

Kalyan Sona

1970

46.0

WL 711

1975

46.8

UP 262

1977

44.0

WH 147

1977

45.1

HD 2189

1979

45.7

HD 2009

1980

45.8

Lok 1

1981

45.4

HUW 234

1984

35.3

HD 2285

1985

42.5

HD 2329

1985

47.1

UP 2338

1990

51.3

WH 542

1992

61.5

Raj 3765

1995

48.9

PBW 343

1995

63.0

HD 2687

1999

62.9

HD 2733

2001

61.5

GW 322

2002

61.0

DBW 17

2006

64.1

·         India became second largest wheat producing country during 1997-98, and achieved a record production of 76.4 million tons during 1999-2000. The total production increased to the magnitude of more then six folds from roughly 12.3 million metric tons in 1964-65 to an estimated 93.9 million metric tons in 2011-12. This feat was achieved as a result of a strong research back up that facilitated the development of improved high yielding varieties of wheat resistant to diseases with stable performance. Some of the major landmarks in wheat improvement at global level were the introduction of new dwarf plant type utilizing Norin 10 genes and spring x winter wheat hybridization culminating into recombination breeding leading to the development of 'Veery' germplasm (1B/1R), development and use of long spike buitre gene pool for improving spike length and grain number and finally the development and use of synthetic wheats for improving a number of traits like resistance to biotic stresses, tolerance to abiotic stresses along with adaptability to varying environments.

·         Wheat varieties released in India during 1965-2007

·         The wheat programme since its inception (1965) has released 344 wheat varieties (291 bread, 46 durum, 4 dicoccum & 3 triticale) for cultivation under different production conditions in all the six wheat growing zones. The varieties have been released after very strict evaluation for yield advantage, disease resistance and the minimum required quality traits in order to provide the opportunity for varietal diversification to combat the threat of diseases and nutritional disorders.

·         Wheat & Triticale varieties released in India during 1965-2007

Species

Released by

Total

CVRC

SVRC

Bread wheat

199

92

291

Durum wheat

27

19

46

Dicoccum wheat

04

-

04

Triticale

02

01

03

Total

232

112

344