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14th October,2008…one most memorable day in the college life of every III year BT (that stands for ‘Biotechnology’ all ye non-collegians..!!) student from Malla Reddy Engineering College.

Open sesame Credit: Mystical Tara

Open sesame Credit: Mystical Tara

A long awaited (or precisely, should i say….’kept awaited’) industrial visit had finally become a reality!!! Whoa…what a nice sunny day to visit a vast expanse of lush green fields dotted by concrete labs, a couple (or a lil more) of lakes, with intertwining paths connecting all the spots you would want to, within that place.

NOTE:- If you always pictured an industry as a huge concrete building with a really high chimney piping out the smoke into the air, with large petrifying equipment the head and tail of which you neva understood…..then now you would want to rethink and reconsider!!! ‘Coz ICRISAT is jus’ the kind of a place that could get you wrong.

Oh yeah….finally i did mention the place visited, the ‘International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics’…so that is why it is ICRISAT…short n sweet (and a lot better too!).

That looks like...Yummie! Credit: Mystical Tara

That looks like...Yummie! Credit: Mystical Tara

After a jolly good long journey in the not so irkingly hot sun (not to forget the seat-bumping, throat-achin’ fun we had in the bus where everyone discovered an inner Farhan Akhtar, rockin’ eh…?!!) we finally landed at, should i say, a ’scientific paradise’!!

Following a short security check, we were directed to the visitor’s auditorium where the Visitor’s Communication Officer, Mr.Ravi gave us all a better insight into the research prospects, aims and objectives of the institute. And of course, an audio-visual served as an additional source of info.

Presently led by Dr.William.D.Dar, Director General, ICRISAT, the institute was established in the year 1972 and it functions basically towards developing hybrid, resistant, and high-yielding crops for growth in the semi-arid tropics. It has specialised in modifying and developing improved varieties of two kinds of cereals (namely, Sorghum and Pearl millets) and three kinds of legumes (namely, Chick pea, Pigeon pea and Groundnut). The institute’s most notable work in research has been the development of plants resistant to the pest ‘Helicoverpa’, ICRISAT bein the first institute in the world to have produced transgenic Chick pea, Pigeon pea, and Groundnut.

U bet those are groundnuts! Credit: Mystical Tara

U bet those are groundnuts! Credit: Mystical Tara

And here I need to mention that the samples of transgenics that we saw were pretty mind-boggling as in the sense of their unusual shapes, color,etc. And we were told it was not only the virtual appearance that differed but also a lot on the nutritional content too!!

Coming back to the greatness of the institute, as we were made to witness, ICRISAT is one of the 15 institutions in the whole wide world under the ‘Consultative Group for Institutes in Agricultural Research (CGIAR)’, Washington D.C. The CGIAR has several other institutons in nearly six regions of the sub-Saharan Africa including Niger, Kenya, etc.

The most significant part of the AV shown to us was where the objectives and aims of the research institute were highlighted. The institute holds the following objectives closest to its idea of research:

1.             Agro-ecosystem development;
2.             Crop improvement and management;
3.             Harnessing biotechnology for the poor;
4.             Institutes, Market, Policies;
Soon after, we moved to the ‘Satventure’ section that houses nearly everything, minute yet significant, related to the institute somehow! You could call it an ‘agricultural museum’, a collector’s brainchild where we

Ikebana using millets..:) Credit: Mystical Tara

Ikebana using millets..:) Credit: Mystical Tara

found jus’ about everything that we heard of from Mr.Ravi…..seeds, seeds, and more seeds, soil samples, equipment used in the laboratory and a few in the field as well, schematic charts, representations, journals on pests and plant biology,etc.

In that ‘etcetera’, there are a couple of things a visitor wouldn’t want to miss out upon. First, the handmade utensils, ladles, and hats displayed as an encouragement to rural handicrafts and also because of their unusual source…..dried vegetables. Yes! I am sure you would have never heard of vessels made out of pumpkin, and ladles made out of bottle gourd!!! Secondly, there was this tribal room part of the museum that depicted every scene from the fieldwork in rural areas (a mini ‘Madame Tussaud’s’…eh!!).

Lunch time! Indeed after such a lengthy AV, and virtual experience on all related to ‘agriculture’ (note:- please read it as ‘food’ here…!!) you wouldn’t resist yourself from goin into an ‘aseptically hygienic’ canteen. A food-lover myself, I bet all of us relished the tasty food without actually burnin any holes in our pockets…yes, but we did pay for ourselves!!

Time for some serious work post-lunch now. Though not supposed to but we were shown around certain labs in the campus (I bet this was the best part of the entire visit!!) thanks to a little pleading and a little influential pressure!

On our last leg, Mr. Ravi briefed us upon the opportunities offered by the institute, in terms of a student or a career prospect. He had been patient enough to take all our queries and resolve our ambiguities.

And one most memorable trip thus ended up walking down the memory lane, as they say (which was actually the road to the main gate!)…..and by this time, we all very well understood how ICRISAT lives up to its motive of ‘Science With A Human Face’……….

On an ending note, there always goes a line or two of appreciation for the people behind the great job which includes Dr.G.Vijayalakshmi, HOD and Ms.Visalakshi, Associate Professor, both from the BT Dept., MREC who made all the efforts to realise the visit!

And ya…..hope to be back there sometime again………soon!!!!!

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