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CSIR GOLDEN JUBILEE

N

M.V. DESHPANDE

National Institute of Science Communication(CSIR) Dr. K.S. Krishnan Marg New Delhi 110 012

Novel Biopesticides M.V. DeshpandeNational Institute of Science Communication (CSIR) First Edition: July 1998 ISBN: 81-7236-186-6

CSIR Golden Jubilee Series Publication No. 23 Series Editor Volume Editor Cover Design Illustrations Production Printing Dr Bal Phondke Dr Sukanya Datta Pradip Banerjee Sushila Vohra, Neeru Vijan, Malkhan Singh, Mohan Singh, Yogesh Kumar Pamila Khanna, Seema, Rohini Raina, Ashok Kalra Jawahar Lai, Sudhir C. Mamgain, Gopal C. Porel, Tika Ram, Rattan Lai, Om Pal

Designed, Printed and Published by National Institute of Science Communication (CSIR) Dr K.S. Krishnan Marg, New Delhi 110012

The Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), established in 1942, is committed to the advancement of scientific knowledge, and economic and industrial development of the country. Over the years CSIR has created a base for scientific capability and excellence spanning a wide spectrum of areas enabling it to carry out research .and development as well as provide national standards, testing and certification facilities. It has also been training researchers, popularizing science and helping in the inculcation of scientific temper in the country. The CSIR today is a well knit and action oriented network of 41 laboratories spread throughout the country with activities ranging from molecular biology to mining, medicinal plants to mechanical engineering, mathematical modelling to metrology, chemicals to coal and so on. While discharging its mandate, CSIR has not lost sight of the necessity to remain at the cutting edge of science in order to be in a position to acquire and generate expertise in frontier areas of technology. CSIR's contributions to high-tech and emerging areas of science and technology are recognised among others for precocious flowering of tissue cultured bamboo, DNA finger-printing, development of non-noble metal zeolite catalysts, mining oif polymetallic nodules from the Indian Ocean bed, building an all-composite light research aircraft, high temperature superconductivity, to mention only a few. Being acutely aware that the pace of scientific and technological development cannot be maintained without a steady influx of bright young scientists, CSIR has undertaken a vigorous programme of human resource development which includes, inter alia, collaborative efforts with the University Grants Commission aimed at nurturing the budding careers of fresh science and technology graduates. However, all these would not yield the desired results in the absence of an atmosphere appreciative of advances in science

and technology. If the people at large remain in awe of science and consider it as something which is far removed from their realms, scientific culture cannot take root. CSIR has been alive to this problem and has been active in taking science to the people, particularly through the print medium. It has an active programme aimed at popularization of science, its concepts, achievements and utilijty, by bringing it to the doorsteps of the masses through both print and electronic media. This is expected to serve a dual purpose. First, it would create awareness and interest among the intelligent layman and, secondly, it would help youngsters at the point of choosing an academic career in getting a broad-based knowledge about science in general and its frontier areas in particular. Such familiarity would not only kindle in them deep and abiding interest in matters scientific but would also be instrumental in helping them to choose the scientific or technological education that is best suited to them according to their own interests and aptitudes. There would be no groping in the dark for them. However, this is one field where enough is never enough. This was the driving consideration when it was decided to bring out in this 50th anniversary year of CSIR a series of profusely illustrated and specially written popular monographs on a judicious mix of scientific and technological subjects varying from the outer space to the inner space. Some of the important subjects covered are astronomy, meteorology, oceanography, new materials, immunology and biotechnology. It is hoped that this series of monographs would be able to whet the varied appetites of a wide cross-section of the target readership and spur them on to gathering further knowledge on the subjects of their choice and liking. An exciting sojourn through the wonderland of science, we hope, awaits the reader. We can only wish him Bon voyage and say, happy hunting.

Competition for food between humans and plant pathogens is as old as agriculture. Day by day, the problem is becoming more severe because of urbanization. The chemical warfare against pathogens has a much shorter history. Their rapid action, low cost and broad spectrum have brought chemical pesticides into limelight very fast. However, incessant use of chemicals in agriculture creates serious health problems in humans. A more dreadful situation that concerns us all is the building up of toxic residues which disturb soil ecosystems. In 1962, Silent Spring signalled the beginning of a "biological control" era. Hasty generalization and too much expectations of the farming community have retarded the speed of the success and commercialization of biopesticides. Hopefully, their selectivity and specificity, low cost of production and environmental friendliness will make biocontrol agents successful in the near future. Researchers are identifying newer targets for the control of plant pathogenic fungi and insects. One of the favoured targets, discussed in the book is chitin, a structural polymer of fungal cell wall and insect cuticle. Its absence in vascular plants and mammals make the target agents relatively nontoxic. A two pronged attack on chitin is suggested. Chitin synthesis inhibition and/or degradation stops the proliferation of the pathogen and can save the crop. Above all, the controlling agents developed against this target can very well work in the integrated pest management programme. Finally, I would like to quote a very effective analogy given by Rachel Carson in Silent Spring. "We stand now where two roads diverge. The road we have long been travelling is deceptively easy, a smooth super highway on which we progress with great speed but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road the one 'less travelled by' - offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth".

Initial efforts to write a popular article in NCL Bulletin were encouraged and supported by Dr. K. R. Srinivasan and Mr. H.B. Singh, the then editors of our house magazine. Mr. S.K.Nag and Dr. Sukanya Datta, NISCOM were instrumental in crystallising the thought of writing this book. I am thankful to all of them for their help in making my entry in this fascinating world of popularizing science. My contact with the farmers was Drs. A.S.Patil, VSI, Pune and M.S. friendly discussions with them on the ers have certainly given me the feel pathogen control. established through Gaikwad, NCL, The problems of the farmfor the need of plant

The best way to convey the message is through cartoons and pictures. My brother Mr. Govind Deshpande , Mr. Salil Lachke, my student, and Mrs. Jyoti Pathak, NCL have made the book delightful. Thanks are due to my students, Mrs.Vandna Ghormade, Ms.Aradhana Amin and Ms.Manisha Chitnis, who have tried to bridge the gap between popular science and research by way of valuable suggestions. Dr. M.C.Srinivasan, Scientist Emeritus and Dr. Paul Ratnasamy, Director, NCL, Pune have given rightful direction and place to my project in the laboratory. My gratitude is due to them. Last but not the least, my thanks to the funding agencies, DST and DBT, New Delhi for their support to carry out research on chitin metabolism and its role in plant-pathogen interaction.

(UXc)

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Trees, fields and towns Bugs against bugs Common bond Executing the enemy Bio-protection in fields Glossary

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Trees, fields and towns

he most important innovation in the structuring of human society happened as early as in 10,000 BC when man started growing plants in the field. This new life-style saved a lot of the energy and time spent in hunting for food. Humanity thus progressed from living in trees, to openland and eventually, settlements There are two starting points of human civilization. Southwestern Asia (near east) and Mesoamerica (northern Mexico to northern South America) are the two regions where agricultural societies domesticated wild barley, wheat and legumes for the first time. In time, farmers from the near east migrated to western Europe. But nowhere in eastern North America did agriculture start until 2000 BC, when it was introduced initially as a part-time occupation for womenfolk. Soon the demand for food by urban populations exceeded the production capacity of the farmers. Three solutions offered themselves for meeting the increasing demand for food: one, to bring more land under cultivation; two, to increase the output from existing land under cultivation and three, better utilization of the food produced. The best approaches to achieve these goals were im-

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NOVEL BIOPESTICIDES

How would man meet increasing demand for food

proved cultural practices, greater use of fertilizers and protection of crops from pathogens. With the advent of agriculture, plant diseases became a problem. Farmers grow one kind of crop over large areas of land. This means that pests literally have a field day. It thus necessitates great care in restricting the pathogen's entry in the field, otherwise it can wipe off entire crops, causing widespread famine. Literally