Why I had to write this book?
To be honest, I never nurtured any desire or intention to write a book. But then, where I have reached today in my eventful journey, there are many a professional and personal factors that have made me to venture into this area.
Passion for Science
The desire to dwell deep into the agricultural practices, understand the actual problems and strive to find practical solutions comes naturally to me since I was blessed to be born into a farming family. It was also ingrained in me to impress my father, who epitomized the farming community I had known, through my knowledge of plant science. The ambition to become a ‘Plant Doctor’, a title that the farming community bestowed upon me many decades later, was kindled in me when I took up to study Botany at the post-graduation level and I was drawn to the subjects of Mycology and Plant Pathology.
The excitement was quite short lived when I realized that the knowledge acquired during the course was too inadequate to answer all the queries of my farming fraternity. To be a plant doctor there were many more subjects like entomology, plant nutrition etc., I had to learn.
Passion for Research
Further, university education through my Master of Philosophy and doctoral studies made me a ‘specialist’ in a very narrow area of seed pathology. I ended up teaching seed pathology to post-graduate students at the university. But in fact Indian farmers needed more ‘Generalists’ with comprehensive knowledge of crop husbandry than ‘Specialists’, to address their routine needs. Thus I realized there was a long way to go before I could fulfill my dream of becoming a plant doctor.
I wasn’t serving the main purpose of my university education by teaching a super specialty subject to a few students who would add to the existing group of specialists, doing research in a narrow field of plant science and publishing papers to justify my position at the university. I wasn’t touching lives of members of my community and causing positive difference. I quit my stable job of a professor, causing lot of anguish to my dependents and loved ones, and joined the seed industry as a research Plant pathologist.
Passion for Photography
The new role offered me with ample opportunities to work with world class scientists and learn a great deal about agriculture. I got to travel across the continents, attend conferences, meet renowned researchers, participate in research programs and capture symptoms of various crop ailments using my photographic equipment. While enjoying my hobby of photography throughout this hectic phase of my life, I amassed a great deal of knowledge and pictures.
While enjoying my hobby of photography throughout this hectic phase of my life, I amassed a great deal of knowledge and pictures.
I had this collection of excellent, true to life pictures and practical knowledge that could be processed to fulfill the above need. These thoughts started weighing heavily on my conscious. When the pressure became obvious and many friends who were aware of my practical experience and collection of photographs encouraged me to take up this task since we strongly believed that no such book exists and when published it would of immense value to the farmers, extension workers, agri-input dealers, teachers and students, and most important, for persons aspiring to become ‘Plant Doctors’.
Eventually, when I quit my job in the seed industry and started consulting, the need for being a generalist became imperative. In the process of gaining practical experience in management of crop ailments, I developed new concepts for disease management, which culminated in two unique and highly successful products, one of them effective against the ‘hard to control’ virus diseases.
During the time I was consciously trying to get closer to becoming a useful generalist, I gathered many books and journals, both in India and abroad. My quest for finding a comprehensive, book or manual that would enable a generalist to effectively perform the role of a plant doctor, ended up in vain.
How did Dr. Vasanth Kumar Thimakapura work for PLANT DOCTOR Book?
But, I had this collection of excellent, true to life pictures and practical knowledge that could be processed to fulfill the above need. These thoughts started weighing heavily on my conscious. When the pressure became obvious and many friends who were aware of my practical experience and collection of photographs encouraged me to take up this task since we strongly believed that no such book exists and when published it would of immense value to the farmers, extension workers, agri-input dealers, teachers and students, and most important, for persons aspiring to become ‘Plant Doctors’ And thus I embarked on this not-so-familiar journey of writing a book. Here I am placing ‘THE PLANT DOCTOR’, dedicated to the farming fraternity, with all the humility at my command.
The purpose of knowledge, technologies and skills that emanate from the seats of higher learning and the R & D Institutions, is served only when they reach the user and result in anticipated results. It is often seen that there exists a knowledge and skill gap among the practitioners, which could be due to several reasons, among which, mismatch between the magnitude of the farm sector and the resources available to the extension machinery, knowledge and skill gap among the extension personnel and input dealers, who play a key role in reaching the technologies to the users are very apparent. These are constraints that need to be addressed on priority. The recent efforts to address the issue through training the input dealers by offering a well-structured Diploma in Agricultural Extension Services for Input Dealers (DAESI), is a laudable step taken in this direction. It is also pertinent to explore the possibilities of involving the private sector and financial institutions, which presently play a very limited role.
The consequences of these inadequacies are many, among which, the immediate economic losses suffered by the practitioner and the long term negative impact on the environment are of paramount importance. These stem from lack of timely and accurate diagnosis of plant diseases and pests; ignorance of nutritional disorders, whose symptoms are often mistaken for those of pests and diseases; indiscriminate use of inputs like chemical fertilizers and pesticides out of ignorance and sheer desperation to save the affected crop; incorrect recommendations of pesticides and fertilizers by input dealers because of lack of knowledge in respect of the malady as well as the product.
The results are glaring and manifested in uncontrolled crop losses and farmer distress; high cost of production due to indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, growth promoters etc.; deterioration in soil health that is often irreversible, over exploitation of precious resource like water, food and environmental pollution leading to raising cost of public health. The low productivity and increased cost of agricultural inputs, especially the petroleum based products have a greater impact on the National economy.
The onus is on the key players comprising of technology generators like the Universities, National laboratories, R & D Institutions in public and private sectors, NGOs etc., and the extension wings of the Universities, Union and State departments of Agriculture, Horticulture and allied sciences, Input manufacturers and dealers, NGOs, etc.
The author Dr. Vasanth Kumar Thimakapura has an exemplary academic record of being a subject scholar at the undergraduate level and achieving excellent credentials as a researcher throughout his post-graduation, M.Phil., and Doctoral studies at the Department of Applied Botany and Biotechnology, University of Mysore, Mysore.
He has served as Assistant Professor at the Department of Applied Botany and Biotechnology, University of Mysore and guided many students of seed pathology. He has gained extensive knowledge and skills in the areas of crop production, protection and breeding during his tenure of over 15 years in the seed industry, where he worked at key positions as plant pathologist. He has served as technical advisor to the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of Karnataka, NDDB, BASF-India, Reliance Industries and many other organizations.