Dr. RK. Datta is a prominent name in Tropical sericulture research. He belongs to that rare genre of technocrats who successfully combined scholarship, research and administration in their career. He was born in 1943 in
As the Director of the Premier Sericulture Research Institute (CSRTI) at Mysore Dr. Datta steered the institution to higher levels of Science, Technology & training. He is widely regarded as the founder of a new school of silkworm breeding in
At 65, Dr. Datta is still involved in active research. Currently he is the R & D consultant to the Bangalore Company “Sericare” who produces various products useful to the silk industry as also large scale production of silk proteins for use in animal tissue culture, nutraceuticals and silk films. During 2005, he could initiate a project on burn wound cover utilizing the bioengineered silk proteins. Results of this research offers solution to the much awaited demand for covering the burn and ulcers with non allergenic- epidermal growth promoting biomaterials.
Talking with Dr. Datta has been a pleasant and enlightening experience, given his flair for conversation and humour. Dr. Datta can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
What is the importance of Indian sericulture, in the national and global contexts?
In India, importance of Sericulture at National level lies with its Immense potentiality to provide employment opportunity to rural people even more to women folk by avoiding their migration to alien urban areas (around 5 million people are engaged as full time or part time workers); also notable are its role in supporting to the need for recurrent income from sale of its products, its vital role in transferring wealth from rich to the poor; Employment support and continuance of handloom and decentralized power loom sectors both in rural or semi-urban areas of the country; Urban employment support like manufacturing seri-equipments, making silk handlooms, disinfectants, pest control products, growth hormones for mulberry and silkworm and finally and most importantly, it is catering to the demands of silk Saris, dress materials, silk carpets, blended fabrics etc in both rural and urban areas.
Its importance at the global context: Indian handloom materials like blended fabrics, dress materials, carpets which are unique in their quality and design are appreciated in the world market and demands are in increasing trend.
During your tenure as the Director of CSRTI,
The three major achievements that I would like to high light are One- release of high yielding mulberry variety like V1 along with its cultivation practices which produces one and half times to that of the prevailing variety. Two- release of high yielding bivoltine hybrid, CSR2 X CSR4 and the full proof package of practices for successful rearing. And three- Development of a non-corrosive, non-irritating rearing room disinfectant, Sanitech replacing age-old use of formalin as well as unique bed disinfectant, Vijetha.
As a silkworm breeder and being at the helm of the most important tropical silkworm breeding station at a crucial period of Indian sericulture growth, could you tell us your experiences in developing various silkworm hybrids for the tropic?
In our main breeding Institutes of Central silk Board the thrust on silkworm breeding is a two pronged approach, i.e. evolution of both bivoltine and multivotine hybrids. Some of the new multivoltine hybrids (Multi- x bivoltine breeds) evolved are found highly promising having improved shell ratio and yarn neatness. In tropical climate, farmers prefer to rear multi x bivoltine hybrids over that of bivoltines due to low risk factor. Fairly large number of bivoltine hybrids including double hybrids evolved at CSRTI,
Since National Sericulture Project, Bivoltine Sericulture has been given major stress. Do you think the salvation of Indian sericulture is through Bivoltine sericulture alone?
No. As I have mentioned in response to your question earlier, Indian sericulture is dependent on both multivoltine and bivoltine hybrids. This is so due to massive demand for silk saris in the country, where multivoltine silk support is crucial. Moreover, in tropical climatic conditions one can’t rear bivoltine hybrids in all the seasons.
Why in spite of technological advancements, foreign technology support and huge investments for past 15 years, diffusion of Bivoltine hybrids is just 5% in
It is unfortunate, despite evolution of excellent bivoltine hybrids only 9% of the total silk is the bivoltine (1200MT) one and the rest is multivoltine. However, some quantity of bivoltine hybrids also goes for preparing multi x bivoltine hybrids. Reasons are not difficult to understand- (i) bivoltine cocoons many a times do not fetch the expected higher price, since demand for multi-bivoltine cocoons is higher from the charka and cottage basin reelers [bivoltine cocoons are transacted in Ramnagaram (Karnataka State) market only]; (ii) processing cost of bivoltine silk is higher (iii) Chinese bivoltine silk are comparatively cheaper compared to bivoltine silk produced in India (iv) Farmers experience difficulty in raising bivoltine cocoons in tropical climate.
Given the potentials of silkworm as a model genetic system and a bio reactor, how well did
Significant progress has been made in Indian research on the molecular genetics and biotechnological researches on silkworm and mulberry including the use of silkworm bye-products. Research Publications of last ten years confirm that. Now transgenic silkworms were utilized for developing silkworm strains controlling the virulent silkworm disease like NPV using the latest technique of RNAi. Private Company researches are initiated on the use of silk proteins like fibroin, sericin for use of biomedical devices, nutraceuticals, mulberry tea, health drink etc. Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Govt. of
Sericulture is one of the most technology rich areas in Indian agriculture. Do you think matching technological progress was made in the post cocoon sector? What are the reasons?
So far as my knowledge goes silk technological researches undertaken at Central Silk Technological Research Institute (CSTRI),
Do you think that the allegation that
I don’t call it an intentional dumping of silk. National demand of silk is very high (23000MT or above) compared to that produced in
We see that sericulture gets gradually eliminated as countries improve their GDP. What is the fate of Indian sericulture in another 20 years time?
It is a fact and no one can deny that. Sericulture being highly labour intensive, it is difficult for making silk products at a cheaper cost. Owing to the huge internal demand of silk in the country we are able to sustain this enterprise. As long as elite classes pay for silk at a higher price, sericulture will continue to survive in the villages. But most alarming situation has arisen now due to sudden hike in labour cost that does not commensurate with the increase of silk price fetched in the market. Thus production drop in different states can’t be ruled out. However, Indian sericulture will survive as long as sale of Chinese silk remain moderately competitive or high in the market.