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    Scientists develop early flowering transgenic mustard
    The Business Line (Online), 7 June 2018

    Researchers at Delhi-based TERI School of Advanced Studies have developed an early flowering transgenic variety of mustard.

    The work is important as Indian mustard is a major oilseed crop in the country and due to changing climate the number of cold days required for full plant cycle has shrunken.

    Scientists have been working on improving crop varieties by modifying plant genes to make them more adaptable changing climate. Early flowering and maturing varieties can help cope with climate change, without compromising on yields.

    Researchers led by Dr. Anandita Singh figured out the role of a regulatory gene, called MIR172 belonging to the micro RNA family, that is present in functionally varied forms in Indian mustard (Brassica juncea) and is responsible for a number of traits including timing of flowering. In plants, this microRNA enacts by negatively regulating the expression of some protein-coding genes involved in flowering time.

    By increasing the expression of this microRNA, the researchers have developed an early flowering transgenic plant of Indian mustard cultivar Brassica juncea cv. Varuna and shown that by manipulating flowering time, one can develop a plant variety with shorter life cycle and thus help have better yields through reduced exposure to the harsh climatic conditions in the fields.

    “Given the diversity in evolutionary lineages of Brassica MIR172 candidates that were discovered in our study, it will be interesting to characterize the entire range of natural variants of Brassica MIR172 by altering, modulating or tinkering the expression levels and pattern of these genes and studying the impact/outcome in the plants,” Dr Singh explained while speaking to India Science Wire. She said “we have good reasons to believe that novel natural alleles of Brassica MIR172 are both a blueprint and a valuable resource of favourable agronomic traits to be transferred into elite crop varieties.”

    Apart from MIR172, the research group is studying several genes that affect other traits that might be useful in generating better varieties. “Analysis of transgenics in natural field conditions showed that most Brassica genes govern several dependent and independent agronomic traits. Changing one trait to achieve a favourable out-come may offset another trait. Thus, future studies will involve careful optimization of gene levels for minimizing trait trade-offs,” Dr. Singh added.

    Dr. Sunil Mukherjee, NASI Senior Scientist at the Department of Genetics, University of Delhi South Campus, who was not connected with the study, feels the study is important. “Most crop plants are polyploids or having multiple copies of a gene in nature and a longstanding question in biology is how polyploidy influences gene expression. This research is a welcome move in this direction as MIR172 has been used as a probe in Brassica polyploidy and structural variants of MIR172 family have been nicely portrayed. It has also been shown that family members are functionally different and polyploidy affects gene outcomes.”

    The research team included S M Shivaraj and Aditi Jain, besides Anandita Singh from TERI School of Advanced Studies. The research results have been published in journal Molecular Genetics and Genomics. This work was supported by the Department of Biotechnology.
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    Like Shimla, threat of water crisis looms over many hill stations, metro cities
    Hindustan Times, 5 June 2018
    According to experts, several hill stations and metro cities could face a similar crisis within a decade and the warning signs may start showing in the next three or four years. People filling water from a water tanker in Fagli, Shimla on June 1.(HT Photo) Shimla, a summer-getaway for many, has been facing a water crisis for 14 days now, with residents urging tourists to stay away and protests erupting over inequitable distribution of water in different parts of the city.
    According to experts, several hill stations and metro cities could face a similar crisis within a decade and the warning signs may start showing in the next three or four years.

    “Cities like Bangalore and Delhi depend on groundwater. But, with increasing population and the natural sources of water — Yamuna in the case of Delhi and several lakes in the case of Bangalore — either being cemented over or being polluted, even the groundwater is not getting recharged,” said Sushmita Sengupta, programme manager of Centre for Science and Environment’s water programme.

    Sengupta said moving away from traditional conservation methods has added to the problem. “The hill stations usually receive high rainfall, but without conservation methods in place, it just runs off. More and more people are depending on piped water, which is taken from the valley and needs continuous pumping, leading to a shortage if there is any interruption ,” she said.

    According to experts, other hill stations might also face a situation similar to that in Shimla.

    “Shimla is not alone. The problem in hill stations is aggravated by a huge number of floating population of tourists that drives up the (water)?demand ,” said Arun Kansal, department of regional water studies, TERI School of Advanced Studies.

    Water conservationist Rajendra Singh said the crisis is likely to hit metro cities within the next few years. “At least 12 metro cities will face severe water crisis in the next five to six years, and in the next ten years there will be a crisis in almost all parts of the country,” he said .

    Water shortage has already become a reality for parts of Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, and Karnataka. “More than 70% of the ground water in the country is currently in ‘overdraft’, which means we have taken more water than the recharge,” said Singh, also known as India’s Waterman.

    India is one of the most water-challenged nations in the world, with at least 54% of the country being recognised as highly or extremely water stressed, according to a 2015-World Resources Institute report.
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    Mission Kakatiya best water management practice: NITI Aayog
    The Hindu (Online), 15 May 2018

    The intervention has bridged 63% ayacut gap and also helped stabilisation of ayacut
    A report prepared by NITI Aayog with the support of TERI School of Advanced Studies, New Delhi, has recognised the restoration and revival of minor irrigation tanks taken up by the Telangana government as one of the best practices in irrigation water management.

    The report observed “public participation will lead to ownership and help in long-term sustainability of the interventions” and suggested “restoration and maintenance of water resources should be a continual process and locals should be trained to manage their resources”. The report prepared in August last was kept in the public domain by NITI Aayog recently.

    The report comes as a breather of fresh air for the Irrigation Department, the implementing agency of Mission Kakatiya, after the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report found shortcomings in the implementation including unrealistic targets, skewed prioritisation and meeting the intended targets such as silt removal, for the year ending March 2017.

    Complimenting the objective of the intervention, the report stated that the government aims restoration of minor irrigation sources such as ponds and tanks to enhance development of minor irrigation infrastructure, strengthening community-based irrigation management in a decentralised manner for utilising 265 tmc ft water allocated for minor irrigation in the Godavari and Krishna river basins.

    When contacted, Irrigation officials said the first phase of the programme was completed in all respects and pending work of second and third phases were in progress. Grounding and execution of work sanctioned in the fourth phase was also in progress.

    The report said de-siltation of tanks, restoration of feeder channels, re-sectioning of irrigation channels, repairs to tank bunds, weirs and sluices and raising of full tank level (FTL) are being carried out wherever required. Further, the intervention had helped in increasing the storage capacity of tanks and other water bodies, made available water accessible to small and medium farmers, increased water retention capacity of the sources and improved on-farm moisture retention capacity.

    “The intervention has bridged 63% ayacut gap and also helped stabilisation of ayacut. Steps such as mixing of silt on farm land reduced use of chemical fertilizers and improved water retention capacity of the soil. An appreciable change was also observed in the nutritive values of the soil, development of fisheries and livestock and rise in the groundwater table in those area”, the report said.
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