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Selection of high yielding varieties in different crops for improved profitability

The impressive increase in food grain production has resulted, in addition to other components, primarily due to improved crop varieties, capable of exploiting the environment so provided. Better environment alone cannot lead to better yields from genetically inferior varieties, beyond a certain limit. Similarly, improving the environment beyond a certain limit for any variety may also adversely affect its performance. For example, the tall varieties of wheat respond to nitrogen application upto 60 kg/ha, but higher doses used to reduce the yield, mainly due to lodging. Now improved varieties of dwarf wheat have been tailored which give increased yield upto, even beyond 120 kg N/ha application. The present day improved varieties of rice, wheat and pulses possess all or combinations of major characters which enable the farmers for wider choice.  Further, improved varieties play pivotal role in enhancing productivity of any crop. Improved variety alone can add 20‐25 % to increased productivity, even if other components of production remain the same. Improved varieties/hybrids of cereals and millets helped in ushering the green revolution.  Hence selection of a variety / hybrid by the farmer for crop production is very important to realise the benefits.

Definition of the variety

It is a strain released by Central / State Variety Release Committee for commercial cultivation by the farmers. It is a synonym of strain, cultivar, race and genotype. However, the term variety is most commonly used by the farmers, agriculture workers and seedsmen.


It takes 10‐12 years to develop a variety, depending upon the method of breeding employed. Various methods (introduction, selection, hybridization, mutation, poly‐plodization, biotechnological means, etc) have been designed to breed the varieties. The specific objectives of breeding would vary greatly from crop to crop. Some of the main objectives of breeding are higher yield, improved quality, disease and insect pest resistance, tolerance to abiotic stresses, change in maturity duration, improved agronomic characteristics, photo/thermo‐insensitivity, synchronous maturity, non‐shattering/ non‐lodging habit, determinate growth, dormancy, elimination of toxic substances, suitability to new seasons/areas, etc.

Criterion for selection of varieties

For realizing optimum productivity of any crop in any production environment, the choice of an appropriate variety is extremely essential. Improper choice of the variety would result in low productivity, even when adequate quantities of inputs are applied. It is equally important to use the latest recommended varieties, since all varieties tend to lose disease resistance on account of evolution of pathotypes/biotypes of the disease.  The following goals are need to be set before selection / development of a variety.   

  1. The variety to be selected for cultivation must be adapted to the specific agro ecological / production conditions.
  2. Developing varieties of all maturities from ultra early to ultra late.
  3. Providing varieties that will perform well in major growing areas, across seasons and circumstances
  4.  Developing varieties with sound agronomic traits
  5. Developing varieties of very early and early maruting to meet the needs of  the needs of small and marginal farmers

Role of genotypes in productivity enhancement:

 Dwarfing genes in rice and wheat:

The semi dwarfing gene in rice (sd-1) is one of the most important genes deployed in modern rice breeding. Its recessive character results in a shortened culm with improved lodging resistance and a greater harvest index, allowing for the increased use of nitrogen fertilizers. The sd-1 gene was first identified in the Chinese variety Dee-geo-woo-gen (DGWG), and was crossed in the early 1960s with Peta (tall) to develop the semi dwarf cultivar IR 8, which produced record yields throughout Asia and formed the basis for the development of new high-yielding, semi dwarf plant types.  Since the 1960s, sd-1 has remained the predominant semi dwarfing gene present in current rice cultivars. 

 Simillarly, in wheat ‘‘Norin 10,’’ a cultivar from Japan, provided two very important genes, Rht1 and Rht2, that resulted in the reduced height (or dwarf) wheats and rust resistance.

 Noblization of Sugarcane:

 The Indian canes were of Saccharum barberi, largely grown in North India. They were hardy but poor in yield and sugar content, while tropical cane of Saccharum oficinarum had thicker stem and higher sugar content but it performed badly in North India due to low winter temperature.  C.A Barber and T.S Venkatraman at Sugarcane Breeding Institute, Coimbatore transferred thick stem higher sugar content and other desirable characters from the noble cane to Indian cane is commonly referred as nobilization  of Indian canes.

 Development of hybrids:

Intensive research was started in India during 1952 in the Maize Coordinated Project and first hybrid was released during 1960. Subsequently three more maize hybrids were also released during 1960. Later on, research work was initiated on Bajra and Pearl millet and Sorghum (Jowar) crops during 1961 and first hybrid in sorghum and in Pearl millet was released during 1964.  Some of the hybrids released in Maize, Sorghum, Bajra and Cotton is give below.

 a) Maize: Ganga series of hybrid, Ganga safed-2, African Tall, Manjari, Deccan etc.

b) Sorghum : CSH-1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,910,12,14 and 15 R.

c) Bajra: WCC-75, PHB-10, ICTP-8203, Shradha and Saburi.

d) Cotton: H-4, Var.Laxmi, Savitri, NH-44, Jaylaxmi, etc.

 Varieties developed and released in the recent past:

With the concerted efforts of breeders working in State Agricultural Universities, ICAR Institutes and State Department of Agriculture a large number of varieties/hybrids of cereals and pulses have been developed and released. Thus from 1999 to 2009, 220 varieties of rice, 146 of wheat and 290 of pulses ( 71 of chickpea, 19 of pigeonpea, 56 of mungbean, 39 of urdbean, 19 of lentil, 36 of fieldpea and 50 of minor pulses which include cowpea, mothbean, horsegram, Lathyrus and rajma) have been recommended for NFSM states.

Improvement in Cereals:

In rice, since1968 as a result of concerted efforts more than 850 rice varieties and 46 hybrids have been released for commercial cultivation in the country.  Popular rice varieties developed includes Jaya, Swarna, Pusa 44, Sona Mahsuri etc and hybrids includes KRH-2, Pusa RH-10 PA 6444, Sahyadri-4, etc.    

India is the second largest wheat producing country with the production reaching 93.9 million metric tonnes in 2011-12.  This feat was achieved as a result of development of improved high yielding varieties of wheat more than 260 high yielding, disease resistant varieties of wheat are released. Besides triple dwarf wheat UP - 310, many high yielding varieties are added in later days. They include PBW - 343, PBW - 396, Sreshtha, DP 2425 for irrigated areas of north western Punjab. Durum wheat - suitable for instant foods and having high export value - varieties such as PDW - 215, PDW - 233, Malav Shakthi, HD 4672 etc are released for cultivation.

In maize, 130 composites and hybrids with high yield potentiality have been developed so far. Some early maturing hybrids with high yielding qualities are Vivek - 9, Pusa early hybrid Makka - 3, JH 3459, KHMH - 175, Kohinoor and Aravalli Mekka - 1. High protein hybrids like Shaktiman - 1 and Shaktiman - 2 are also released. They are useful for baby food industry and poultry feed industry.

Improvement in Pulses:

India has key place in global pulses production and contributes about 25% to the total pulse basket. During 2007-08, the total pulse production was 15.11 million tonnes from 23.81 million ha area. About a dozen of pulse crops, namely chickpea, pigeonpea, mungbean, urdbean, lentil, fieldpea, lathyrus, cowpea, common bean, mothbean, horsegram and ricebean are cultivated in different agro-ecological regions. The major pulse producing states in the country are Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, which together contribute for 75% of the total pulses production in the country.

On account of their values as nutritious food, feed and forage, pulses remained an integral component of subsistence cropping system since time immemorial. They are grown as a sole crop, intercrop, catch crop, relay crop, cover crop and green manure crop etc., under sequential/mono-cropping in different agro-ecological regions. In the cropping systems of dry areas pulses are predominant due to their low input requirements and capacity to withstand drought and consequently perform relatively better than other crops in the fragile and harsh climate prevailing of the regions. Intercropping is commonly practiced to obtain sustainable production even under adverse weather conditions. The development of short duration varieties of mungbean, urdbean and pigeonpea has paved way for crop diversification and intensification in North India. On slopes of hilly regions, urdbean, mungbean, cowpea, ricebean and frenchbean not only provide nutritious food and fodder but also act as an excellent cover crop. In these regions, pigeonpea, urdbean, mungbean soybean, etc., are also grown on rice bunds. In response to market opportunities and concern for systems sustainability, many new cropping systems involving pulses have replaced/modified the traditional crop rotations. Some glaring example are rice -wheat- mungbean, rice - chickpea/lentil, pigeonpea - wheat, rice-urdbean/ mungbean, soybean+pigeonpea, groundnut + pigeonpea, potato + rajmash, etc. In humid regions of North-East India and drier regions of central and coastal regions of South India, some of the pulses like urdbean, mungbean, lentil and lathyrus aregrown as para crop (relay) which facilitates double cropping and sustainableproduction of the systems. 

The varieties suiting to above cropping system in different pulses are enlisted below.

Chickpea: MNK 1, IPCK 2004-29, Phule G 0517, PKV Kabuli - 4

Pigeonpea: UPAS 120, Manak, Pusa 33, AL 15, AL 20, Pusa 9, Sharad

Mungbean: Pant Mung 2, IPM 02-03, HUM 2, SML 668, Pusa Vishal, Pant Mung 2, PDM 11, Narendra Mung 1

Urdbean: PDU 1, Narendra Urd 1, Uttara, PDU 1, Pant Urd 19

Lentil: DPL 15, DPL 62, IPL 81, IPL 406

Fieldpea: IPFD 99-13, IPFD 1-10, IPF 5-19

 Genetically Modified Crops: 

Genetically modified (GM) crops can play a major role in increasing the productivity of global agriculture, helping farmers to meet the food, feed, and other demands of a rapidly rising world population, while saving water and forest lands. The use of GM crops for nearly two decades has consistently increased harvests, saved farmers money, and reduced the use of pesticides. First generation GM crops featured input-conserving traits, like resistance and tolerance. New GM crop varieties in the pipeline will offer traits such as drought and heat tolerance and improved nutritional quality, healthier food, and nutrient use efficiency. More than 20 countries grow GM crops for their high yields. Such crops are resistant to herbicides, and some are said to be resistant to even the strongest herbicides. Despite such risks, the use of GM crops is likely to increase worldwide. A set of international rules governing GM crops has been created through the adoption of the supplement to the biodiversity protocol for redressing damage caused to ecosystems by GM crops.

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Please note that this is the opinion of the author and is Not Certified by ICAR or any of its authorised agents.