The Eastern region of India is rich in natural resources. However, its potential could not be harnessed in terms of improving agricultural productivity, poverty alleviation and livelihood improvement.
The region has 31.4 million ha netsown area. However, productivity of major agri-horti crops, fisheries is low compared to its production potential.
The region has about 69% marginal farmers.Small and fragmented land holdings limit, by and large, the adoption of latest farming practices.
Further,soil acidity and salinity, which covers about 11.3 million ha area, limits the productivity of major crops to great extent. In general, soil salinity/acidity, lowest per capita income, ever-increasing human population and highest population density per sq km, poor infrastructure facilities for storage, processing and marketing etc., are some other factors responsible for poor agricultural growth in Eastern India. Ground water utilization in eastern region is also very meagre, particularly in Assam plains, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Jharkhand. Appropriate technologies to encourage use of ground water, in combination with other practices will, however, increase cropping intensity and lead to remarkable production gains. Further, water productivity is very low (0.21-0.29 kg/m3) in most states of eastern region.
The region also lacks in quality animal breeds, feeds and fodder, and adequate animal health care mechanism. A sizeable part of the cultivated area in eastern region does not have provision for assured irrigation. As a result, even short drought spells adversely affect the stability of agricultural production. According to one estimate, about 10 million ha area is drought prone. The region also suffers from various biophysical constraints such as water congestion and flooding during kharif. Plateau areas, characterized by nutrient . poor red, yellow and lateritic soils, undulating topography and high rainfall, are subjected to run-off, soil erosion and land degradation.
Keeping these facts in view, technology integration, scaling up and framing of demand driven productivity enhancing research agenda, in a network mode, using both conventional and frontier technologies ensuring scientific management of natural resources and production sustainability is essentially required since agriculture in eastern region is, by and large, diverse and risk prone. Research priorities need to be re-oriented accordingly so as to address diverse researchable issues and also to achieve the target of food security particularly during 12th Plan period.
ICAR-Research Complex for Eastern Region needs to be strengthened further in terms of scientific manpower and infrastructural facilities so as to cater the R & D needs of 407.10 million people of the region. The institute is grateful to Secretary, DARE and DG, ICAR, Dr. S. Ayyappan, for his dynamic leadership and encouragement. Dr. A. K. Singh, DDG (NRM), ICAR also deserves special thanks for his consistent guidance and monitoring of research and extension activities. I also appreciate efforts of Chairman, RAC and Chairman, QRT for strengthening the R & D activities of the Complex.
(Dr. B. P. BHATT)