NEW DELHI: Dr MS Swaminathan’s career was marked with several groundbreaking research in genetics and crop breeding. He was instrumental in developing high-yielding wheat varieties which played a pivotal role in India’s Green Revolution during the 1960s and 1970s.
His other notable contribution was the development of the “semi-dwarf” IR8 variety of rice, also known as ‘miracle rice’. This breakthrough earned him the title of the ‘Father of the Green Revolution in India’.
In his opinion, it is not wheat, but rice that would be the crop of the future in terms of climate change. Among other issues, wheat production can be affected by night temperature. If the temperature rises by two degrees, wheat production may fall by about 6 million tonnes. Thus, he declared that rice is going to be the future crop and the “food security saviour”.
He urged scientists to develop varieties that can better adapt to climate change and boost rice yields.
The introduction of the “miracle tice” by International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) helped save India from a massive famine in the 1960s. IR8, followed by subsequent varieties developed by researchers, also triggered the Green Revolution in India.
However, there was more to be done given the country’s rice yield that stood at a low of 3.5 tonnes/hectare despite India being the second-biggest rice producer.
Interestingly, in Bihar, eastern UP, West Bengal, and Assam, the peasants and the agrarian labourers used to pronounce IR8 as ‘Aare Aath’.