Three ICAR institutes engaged in COVID-19 testing on humans

New Delhi: The Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Shri Narendra Singh Tomar reviewed activities of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) in helping farmers overcome the problems arising due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and the nationwide lockdown to check the spread of the pandemic. While three ICAR institutes are engaged in COVID-19 testing on humans, ICAR has undertaken several efforts to help farmers during lockdown and given advisories to crores of farmers across the country. Shri Tomar directed all Agricultural Universities to conduct online classes.

During the review meeting, ICAR Director General Dr. Trilochan Mohapatra informed that the ICAR has issued National and state-specific advisory for farmers, translated into 15 regional languages and widely communicated through digital platforms adequately informing the farmers about the exemptions granted to farming related activities during lockdown and important agricultural operations to be carried out following all precautions.

On the directions of the Agriculture Minister Shri Narendra Singh Tomar, more than 5.48 crore farmers have already been reached through the issue of 1,126 advisories across the states by Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) through mKisan portal. Dissemination of advisory was also made through WhatsApp groups (4893 KVK WhatsApp groups covering 5.75 lakh farmers) and other digital platforms (reaching 8.06 lakh farmers). 936 News items on advisories issued by KVKs appeared in newspapers; messages were disseminated through broadcast of 193 radio talks and 57 TV programmes.

Research institutes used ICT tools including Expert Systems and Mobile Apps, and provided advisories on appropriate crop management technologies in wheat, rice, maize, pulses, millets, oilseeds, sugarcane, fibre crops, mango, citrus, banana, pomegranate, grapes, litchi, spices, flowers, vegetables, melons and plantation crops such as coconut, arecanut, cocoa and tuber crops.

Advisories to various stakeholders and technologies for processing, value addition and marketing of flower, vegetables and fruit produce have been extended to entrepreneurs, private firms and state governments.

Fisheries Research Institutes under ICAR prepared information, education and communication (IEC) materials in fisheries production for dissemination to various stakeholders engaged in fisheries. Dairy, Livestock and Poultry research institutes of ICAR are creating awareness regarding feeding, breeding and health care of animals as well as minimum processing of milk, eggs and chicken for boosting immunity to fight corona virus.

On the advice of Shri Tomar, the ICAR issued advisory to all Vice-chancellors of Agricultural Universities for taking classes through online mode and most of them are doing so using online tools. ICAR has notified three of its Research Institutes; NIHSAD, Bhopal, IVRI, Izatnagar, and NRC on Equines, Hisar for COVID-19 testing in humans. These institutes have also been designated for COVID testing of samples from Zoo animals by the Ministry of Environment and Forests. The NIHSAD, Bhopal has tested 23 suspected COVID-19 samples and all of them were found negative. Dr. Mohapatra said the ICAR will commission studies in climate change, virology and other diseases and undertake research on the transmission of virus from animals and birds in zoos and in the nature to humans and vice versa and whether crops can help fight such challenges.

ICAR institutes and KVKs have prominently disseminated the message for use of Arogya Setu mobile application to fight COVID 19 pandemic. As a result, 25.04 lakh farmers have been reached of which 2.92 lakh farmers have already downloaded the application for their use.

On the directions of Shri Tomar, the ICAR has provided its Guest Houses at various establishments across the country for setting up quarantine facilities besides providing RT-PCR equipment and operating staff for COVID-19 investigation. Dr. Mohapatra said the ICAR is also extending help to affected poor people by providing free food while the DARE/ICAR family has contributed about Rs 6.06 crores to the PM-CARES Fund.