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Pune: NCL scientist working on eco-friendly solution to fight crop infestation gets CSIR Award

Rakesh Joshi hopes to dish out eco-friendly solutions to farmers which will target and kill one of the most common insects affecting Indian agriculture — the cotton ball worm

Written by Anjali Marar | Pune |
Updated: August 15, 2021 7:57:38 am
On Friday, Rakesh Joshi was announced as the recipient of the prestigious Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Young Scientist 2021 (Biological Sciences) award for his contribution towards the study of neglected metabolism among insects that infest standing crops.

“Three months ago, while I was on oxygen support for two weeks due to Covid-19, I felt greater vigour as a scientist to emerge healthy and it evoked a need to deliver for society,” said Rakesh Joshi, a scientist at the CSIR – National Chemical Laboratory (NCL).

Joshi is one of the recipients of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Young Scientist 2021 (Biological Sciences) Awards, which were announced on Saturday. This award, comprising a citation, a plaque and a cash award worth Rs 50,000, is annually given away by CSIR to scientists younger than 35 years who are working in the fields of Biology, Chemistry, Earth, Atmosphere, Ocean and Planetary and Physical Sciences. This year, there are seven awardees.

After his lengthy struggle to recover from Covid-19, the award has come as the sweetest gift for Joshi. On his journey to recovery during the last three months, he shared, “While at the hospital, seeing patients around me fight for their lives and sometimes not survive, the scientist in me felt a bigger responsibility towards society. Later, while recuperating with the help of family and friends, my mind would always be occupied with when I would be able to resume research and be back with students.”

Joshi’s Bioinformatics and Biotechnology lab at NCL has been working on neglected metabolism of insects that infest standing crops. Some day, he hopes to come up with an eco-friendly solution which will target and kill one of the most common insects affecting Indian agriculture — the cotton ball worm. He has been interacting with farmers from Pune and Nashik, his hometown.

“This insect, which is highly adaptive in nature, attacks young pods and consumes the vegetative part of the sapling. It results in poor crop yield,” said Joshi, who added that the insect attacks as many as 65 varieties of crops in India, mainly chickpea, cotton, legumes and maize.

“Our goal is to develop bio-controlled methods to target and attack only cotton ball worms in an eco-friendly manner. Presently, some controlled trials are on,” he said.

As India is primarily an agrarian nation, more dedicated research on agriculture needs to be undertaken by young scientists, said Joshi.

“India has a number of agriculture universities. There is a need for better networking of these universities with scientific institutions like CSIR – NCL. More youngsters need to take up research, which will identify and address India’s farming community,” said Joshi, who is also a visiting faculty at the Savitribai Phule Pune University.

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