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Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), the lighthouse of path-breaking agro-technologies that have metamorphosed the agricultural face of India, held its annual agricultural fair ‘Kisan Mela’ at Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), Rauni, Patiala, here today. The Mela floated the theme Vigayanak Kheti de Rang, PAU de Kisan Melayan Sang, calling out farmers to adopt PAU recommended smart and advanced technologies, including farm machinery and equipment, irrigation technologies, post-harvest processing techniques, and agricultural structures to enhance farm mechanization and improved efficiency in agricultural operations.

The Kisan Mela was inaugurated by the Chief Guest Sh. Harpal Singh Cheema, Cabinet Minister, Finance, Planning & Excise and Taxation, Govt. of Punjab, who appreciated the commendable outreach of the university through its Kisan Melas that serve as an apt platform for farmer-scientist interactions. He called upon the farmers to keep themselves abreast of the latest farming techniques keeping in mind the futuristic trends. Lauding the research initiatives of the university, he said, “The knowledge-enhancing technical sessions, trainings and workshops conducted at PAU are planned keeping in mind the needs of the farming community at large and farmers should take full benefit from the novel initiatives of the university.” Sh. Harpal Singh Cheema also stressed on the need to diversify into oilseeds, millets, pulses, and leguminous fodder crops; besides opting for in-situ crop residue management facilities recommended by PAU and its KVKs. He further assured all possible financial assistance to the University for fructifying its research.

World renowned Indian agricultural scientist and PAU alumnus, Dr Gurdev Singh Khush, Chairman, Dr Gurdev Singh Khush Foundation; and Former Head of Division of Plant Breeding Genetics & Biochemistry, IIRI, Philippines, who catalyzed the Green Revolution by developing about 300 high-yield, disease-resistant rice varieties, also lent his eminent presence to the Kisan Mela at Rauni, along with his wife Dr Harwant Kaur Khush. He spoke emphatically of how individuals, institutions and philanthropists must work in lock-step through years to make human life more satisfying by freeing it from poverty, hunger and destitution. Sharing his own journey as a researcher, he shared how he had first shared PR 6 variety with PAU, during his tenure at IRRI; and how he continued to share more than 30 varieties with the scientists and farmers of Punjab to promote agricultural growth for sustainability. He expressed elation to see a mammoth gathering of farmers at the fair, which he said, he had never witnessed anywhere else in the world. He further urged the farmers to shun stubble burning and return organic matter to the soil, “No microbes, no nitrogen, no crop”, he summed up, emphasizing soil health and water conservation.

Highlighting the institution’s spearheading innovations and manifold contributions to agricultural sciences, Vice-Chancellor of PAU, Dr Satbir Singh Gosal, dilated that PAU has played a titular role in revolutionizing agriculture practices, research and education in the country and is currently focused on conservation agriculture, developing new varieties and hybrids in vegetable and horticultural crops, apiculture, and farm mechanization. The collective efforts of the varsity and the farmers of the state had led to a remarkable contribution of 51% of wheat to the central pool in 2022, in spite of holding a mere 1.5% of the nation’s geographical area. The College of Agricultural Engineering and Technology (CoAE&T) in the University has developed 60% of the agricultural machinery prototypes used in the country, he proudly claimed. With a focus on developing climate-resilient, environmentally hazard-free and highly productive technologies, PAU is also exploring micro-irrigation, biosensors, Artificial Intelligence, and precision agriculture, he revealed. He exhorted the farmers to opt for PAU’s popular innovative farm machinery such as Happy Seeder, Smart Seeder, Super Seeder and Surface Seeder etc., for paddy straw management. Dr Gosal further indicated that another prime focus of the university was to enhance marketing, branding and value addition technologies; also citing the NRI Farmers’ Conclave held earlier in the PAU campus, which brought to fore the importance of agri-business, besides agri-production. He urged the farmers to expand into self-marketing of their produce as well as processed products. He further suggested the farmers to opt for hybrid seed production, and go for subsidiary occupations such as food processing, beekeeping etc. besides focusing on cooperative marketing and mechanization. He asserted that small steps in the right direction can contribute significantly in raising substantial income and promoting agriculture. Additionally, Dr Gosal informed the farmers that PAU is exploring drone technology for pesticide spraying and may soon recommend it formally. Dr Gosal also expressed gratitude towards the Govt. of Punjab for providing the University 1200 acres of land in Faridkot for carrying out farm/field trials and research.

Dr Ajmer Singh Dhatt, PAU’s Director of Research, gave a gist of the varsity’s numerous research technologies in the field of cropping systems, farm mechanization, agro-forestry systems, biofertilizers, pesticide residue analysis, pest management, post-harvest handling and processing techniques as well as advanced technologies like micropropagation, GM crops, nano fertilizer, etc. Sharing PAU’s extensive research, he shared that till date, 940 crop varieties and hybrids developed at PAU have been recommended, and 225 approved at the national level; and that the University is presently looking for further efficient crop breeding management practices. He also impressed upon the farmers to retain stubble in their fields as it doubles organic carbon and improves soil fertility. He further shared the characteristic features of popular wheat crop varieties such as PBW Zinc 2, PBW RS 1 (which is beneficial for diabetics; its seed would be available next year) and PBW 826; PBG 10 (chick pea); J 1008 (maize) IPFD 12-2 (field pea); Ajmer Fennel 2 (fennel); etc. He further shared that research at PAU and its KVKs is meticulously planned as per the feedback received from the farmers. In view of the climatic variations, it is important for farmers to conserve natural resources and make every possible effort to adopt a novel look towards agricultural practices by incorporating the requisite techniques that can aid in changing the edifice of agriculture, he added.

Earlier, Dr Gurmeet Singh Buttar, Director of Extension Education, PAU, extended a cordial welcome to the distinguished guests, the participating farmers and farm women. He asked the farmers not to use the outdated pesticides as they are detrimental to soil health and crop produce. He advised the farmers to read PAU publications such as Changi Kheti to gain the requisite technical know-how on important agricultural practices and to participate enthusiastically in the farmer-friendly programmes conducted in the university.

Dr Tejinder Singh Riar, Additional Director Communication, coordinated the programme, and apprised the farmers about the admirable scientist-farmer linkage maintained by the University through its digital newspaper, weekly Facebook Live farmer-scientist interface, PAU Kisan App, WhatsApp groups, Kisan Doots (messengers), apart from more than 280 farm publications that shared vital information on a variety of agriculture and associated topics. He also shared information on the training programmes organized by the Skill Development Centre, PAU.

The Mela witnessed a huge rush of farmers who participated in the interactive sessions and purchased farm literature and fruit-vegetable-pulses kits from the sale outlets. Technical experts dispelled farmers’ apprehensions by guiding them on the cultivation of crops in the forthcoming season as well as post-harvest handling of the season’s crop. On the occasion, PAU’s Bulletin on “Rabi Season Crops”, besides an album by popular singer Sh. Ram Singh Albela was released; and five progressive farmers were honored.

Dr Gurupdesh Kaur, Incharge, KVK, Rauni, Patiala, felicitated and expressed her heartfelt gratitude to the Chief Guest Sh. Harpal Singh Cheema, Cabinet Minister; PAU Vice-Chancellor Dr Satbir Singh Gosal; Eminent Guests Dr GS Khush and Dr Harwant Kaur Khush; and the dignitaries including S. Mahinder Singh Sidhu, Chairman, PUNSEED, for their gracious presence that instilled a sense of trust in the farmers that the collective, relentless efforts of the government, university scientists and extension officials would script a new saga of agrarian success.

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