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With agriculture at its heart...

Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) has its origin in 1868 at the agriculture school in Saidapet. The school was shifted to Coimbatore in 1906 and evolved introducing in stages, a licentiate programme in agriculture, Bachelors degree, P G courses, M Phil and PhD programmes.

The university has added colleges, research centres and extension centres and introduced new courses, keeping pace with global developments and requirements.

TNAU has seen several breakthroughs including increase in productivity by the application of science, technology and management. I remember the spectacular results achieved in Dharmapuri by TNAU working with local farmers: production of brinjal, for instance, shot up to record levels. Today, the focus is on horticulture.

Vice Chancellor K Ramasamy (KR) laid equal emphasis on doing research and development work at the university and in taking the results to the farmer. He pointed to undergrad students of horticulture, accompanied by senior staff members, visiting villages and interacting with farmers. This helps the students develop an affinity for villages and make them work towards bringing social change. He cited the instance of such focus on 18 villages in Periyakulam that is resulting in improved productivity of brinjal and drumstick.

 

User-friendly technology…

KR brings with him rich experience, both global and national. With a doctorate from Belgium, he spent a couple of years at the Michigan State University, before working for nine years with private universities. He is thus well-connected with our traditional roots as also with state-of-the-art practices. He points to the contrast of the large-sized farms of the West that lend to precision farming with India’s small-sized farms: “92 per cent of our farms are less than 1.82 ha each. For most of these farms, even operating a small tractor is a problem. Traditionally, we had developed a number of special tools suited to specific needs like the vettu aruvaal for cutting plants and trees and veechu aruval for cutting grass. Kalai Kothu, mann vetti have been used for centuries. These need to be refined and expanded,” he said.

To the query on the reluctance of agricultural graduates to work in rural areas, KR responded:  “agricultural machines in the west are designed for user comfort. Tractors have air conditioned cabins and are user friendly. Why can’t we provide such comforts that will attract the young educated to work in farms?” This is of particular relevance in the present context when most agricultural engineers and graduates are women.

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