He sowed good seeds for harvests of plenty

Barwale was awarded the prestigious World Food Prize in 1998.

BADRINARAYAN RAMULAL BARWALE who turned Jalna, an otherwise nondescript district in Maharashtra, into the epicentre of the Indian seeds industry, breathed his last in Mumbai recently.

Barwale, who was 86, founded India’s first private seed company, Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company Pvt Ltd (Mahyco), in 1964, and remained its chairman till his end.

Widely regarded as the father of the Indian seeds industry, Barwale was awarded the prestigious World Food Prize in 1998.

In 2001, he received the Padma Bhushan from the Indian government.

“Grieved to share about the sad demise of Dr B R Barwale. He devoted his life for the upliftment of Indian farmers and the best way we can honour him and his life is to continue to take his legacy forward,” Mahyco said on its Twitter and Facebook accounts.

In a tweet, former Agriculture Minister and Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar said Barwale “was instrumental in making food security a reality in India.”

Born into a small agricultural family in Hingoli in the poverty-stricken Marathwada region in 1931, Barwale was clear right from the beginning that quality seeds are vital to improve the plight of poor farmers.

His first experiment with seed production was with Pusa Sawani, a virus resistant variety of okra developed at the Pusa Institute.

The fact that the farmers could harvest bumper production as the cultivar was free from disease, instilled a lot of confidence in him, said Charudatta Mayee, president of the Delhi-based South Asia Biotechnology Centre and former director of the Central Institute of Cotton Research in Nagpur.

Subsequently, following the setting up of Mahyco, a small team of breeders employed by him exploited hybrid breeding technology to develop a series of high-yielding cultivars of sorghum, pearl millet, cotton, sunflower, pulses and oilseeds, said Mayee, who briefly worked with Mahyco before going away for his PhD.

“In fact the hybrids in dryland agriculture proved a boon because they tolerated the erratic behaviour of the monsoon with their genetic flexibility to yield in extreme weather,” said Mayee.

Barwale played an important role in bringing Bt cotton into the country.

Mahyco formed a 50:50 venture with Monsanto Investments to form Mahyco Monsanto Biotech and introduced Bt cotton varieties in 2002. – BUSINESS LINE (The Hindu)