Plant Breeders Shortage Crisis: Experts' Insights on this Pressing Issue

Plant Breeders Shortage Crisis: Insights from Experts on this Pressing Issue (Representational Image Source: Pexels)
Plant Breeders Shortage Crisis: Insights from Experts on this Pressing Issue (Representational Image Source: Pexels)

As populations grow and resources remain limited, we need efficient ways to improve crop production to deal with food shortages and plant health issues. This is where skilled plant breeders come in, using innovative breeding techniques to find solutions to these problems. Hybrid varieties developed by crossing two different varieties not only increase production but also enhance disease and pest resistance in crops.

Unfortunately, a recent study published in Crop Science revealed a critical shortage of skilled plant breeders in countries like Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. This situation could also arise in India. Let’s understand the depth of this issue through some expert opinions.

According to Dr. Ashutosh Kushwah, Maize Breeder at Punjab Agriculture University, there has been a notable increase in the enrollment of young students pursuing PhDs. "Previously, we had eight seats, but now we have fifteen," he says. However, he expresses concern over the employment prospects for PhD graduates in the breeding sector. "Many PhD holders are unable to secure jobs in breeding. They often shift to other government roles such as ADO, or move to corporate jobs to sustain their livelihood," Dr. Kushwah explains.

Dr. Kushwah also discusses the situation in foreign countries, where students sometimes secure jobs after intermediate education and Indian students are recruited for PhDs abroad. "However, these opportunities do not always guarantee secure employment, leading some graduates to explore other sectors," he added.

At last, Dr. Kushwah highlighted that while there is no shortage of plant breeders, ensuring stable and promising career opportunities within the breeding sector remains a pressing issue.

Dr. S.C. Vimal, Plant Breeding Professor from NDUA&T, Kumarganj mentioned, “There are almost seven vacant contractual positions at my university for projects related to releasing new varieties. However, a lack of funding limits us and discourages students from joining the institute. This financial issue forces them to pursue other jobs.”

He added, “If proper jobs for plant breeders continue to decline, it won’t be long before we face a food crisis in India and globally. As land holdings shrink, old varieties lose their resistance, and skilled breeders retire, this all points towards a grim future for agriculture. It is required to address this issue urgently.”

Shalini Kumari, a postgraduate student in plant breeding, added, "Plant breeding requires the availability of required chemicals, germplasm and resources, which are lacking in most universities. This issue needs to be addressed to ensure the release of skilled plant breeders. Breeding is a field that revitalizes the income and production of an area, and the decline in the number of plant breeders is a major concern that should be addressed more frequently."

Addressing the mentioned issues in the field of plant breeding is crucial for sustaining agricultural productivity and ensuring food security. Immediate action is needed to support and retain skilled plant breeders to prevent a future food crisis. By investing in plant breeding education and infrastructure, we can safeguard the development of resilient crop varieties and promote sustainable agriculture. This will not only boost the income of farming communities but also contribute to global food stability.

© 2023 All rights reserved. PRYM Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

Contact Us