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In an endeavor to Promote Regenerative and No-Burn Agriculture (PRANA), a delegation of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) visited the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) to deliberate on crop residue management and explore mutually beneficial areas for future collaboration. Led by Ms Jennifer Morris, Chief Executive Officer, USA and Dr Annapurna Vancheswaran, Managing Director, TNC, India, the delegation held parleys with Dr Satbir Singh Gosal, Vice-Chancellor, PAU and deans, directors, additional directors and heads of various departments of the University. Mr Guru Koppa, Project Director, PRANA, India, also accompanied the delegation.

Explaining the genesis and thrust areas of PAU, Dr Gosal said: “This University, modelled on the pattern of Land Grant Universities of USA, has forged strong bilateral ties with various organizations, educational institutions and industry for student-faculty exchange, commercialization of technologies, skill development and other research and extension areas. These collaborations have propelled PAU, students and farming community to scale great heights academically, agriculturally and economically. In addition to securing top rank among agricultural universities of India in 2023, it is numero uno in the development of wheat and rice varieties in India, as well. ” Voicing concern over the issues of water depletion, stubble burning and climate change, he said that the high productivity was the main reason behind all the emerging challenges and that the University was focusing on recommending short duration rice varieties, in-situ management of crop residue and development of climate resilient varieties and technologies. Besides paddy straw management, he suggested partnering in food processing, value addition and marketing also. Dr Gosal apprised the delegation of solar energy, nanotechnology, organic farming, use of Artificial Intelligence in farm mechanization, etc. and PAU’s extensive outreach to 11 lakh farmers via WhatsApp groups.

Dr Morris, while lauding the monumental contributions and unflinching commitment of PAU towards agriculture that steered Green Revolution, evinced interest in holding joint venture in the area of environment protection with emphasis on putting full stop to straw torching. “TNC is a wide-reaching environmental organization, having its roots in 79 countries,” she told, adding that mutual collaboration can avert the crisis and result in sustainable environment.

In her remarks, Dr Vancheswaran said that TNC aimed at arriving at a tipping point to eliminate crop residue burning across Northwest India. With regenerative agriculture in-focus and to associate 2.5 lakh farmers with non-burning agriculture by 2025, TNC would like to enter into cooperation with PAU, having vast agricultural experience of 60 years, in the area of crop residue management to stop paddy blaze.

Presenting an overview of PAU, Dr AS Dhatt, Director of Research, highlighted the recommendation and development of 940 crop varieties at the state level and 229 at the national level. The nouveau wheat varieties PBW 826, PBW RS 1 (loaded with dietary fibres) and PBW 869 (suitable for Happy Seeder) are set to make mark in Punjab in the coming Rabi season, he observed. Further, Dr Dhatt, while dwelling on crop residue burning menace, said that the smoke emanating from burning was causing air pollution, soil physical health deterioration and microbial biodiversity losses. “PAU is spreading the message that paddy straw is gold, don’t burn, conserve it in the soil,” he told, adding that in-situ management via Super Seeder, Smart Seeder, PAU Happy Seeder, PAU Super SMS and Surface Seeding improved soil health and saved fertilizers.

Dr GPS Sodhi, Additional Director of Extension Education, shed light on the exemplary farmers-scientists’ linkages, developed by PAU through the development of high-yielding crop varieties and path-breaking technologies. He explained the role of 18 Krishi Vigyan Kendras and 15 Farm Advisory Service Centers in transferring technologies to the fields and providing timely solutions to the agri-problems.

Dr MIS Gill, Registrar, in his welcome remarks, informed about PAU’s organizational set-up comprising five constituent on-campus colleges of Agriculture, Horticulture and Forestry, Agricultural Engineering and Technology, Basic Sciences and Humanities, and Community Science, advocating three components of research, teaching and extension.

Dr Kiranjot Sidhu, Dean, College of Community Science; and Dr Dhanwinder Singh, Head, Department of Soil Science, also suggested tie-up in the women empowerment and soil science, respectively.

Dr Vishal Bector, Associate Director, Institutional Linkages, conducted the programme and proposed a vote of thanks. Later, PAU VC presented a set of publications to the visiting delegation.

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