Economics For Everyone - Gains Of Green Revolution

M S Swaminathan, the father of India's Green Revolution and a renowned Indian agricultural scientist, passed away on Thursday, September 28, 2023, at his residence in Chennai, at the age of 98. Swaminathan was awarded the first World Food Prize in 1987.

Swaminathan was instrumental in developing high-yielding varieties of paddy that helped ensure India’s low-income farmers produce more yield. His last rites are likely to be held on Sunday. During his tenure in office, Swaminathan served in various capacities across departments. He was appointed Director of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (1961-72), Director General of ICAR and Secretary to the Government of India, Department of Agricultural Research and Education (1972-79), Principal Secretary of, the Ministry of Agriculture (1979-80), Acting Deputy Chairman and later Member (Science and Agriculture), Planning Commission (1980-82) and Director General, International Rice Research Institute, the Philippines (1982-88).

                           M. S. Swaminathan: The Visionary Father of Indian Agriculture

In 2004, Swaminathan was appointed as chair of the National Commission on Farmers, a commission set up to look into farmer distress amid alarming suicide cases. The commission submitted its report in 2006 and suggested, among its recommendations, that the Minimum Selling Price (MSP) should be at least 50 percent more than the weighted average cost of production.

Let us try to understand what we mean by the Green Revolution

In India, the term "Green Revolution" is applied to the policy efforts which also as a part of its program involved the introduction of high-yielding variety seeds by the Indian government for the agricultural sector during the 60’s.

In the mid 60’s India was on the brink of mass famine. Borlaug was invited to India by the adviser to the Indian minister of agriculture M. S. Swaminathan. Despite bureaucratic hurdles imposed by India's grain monopolies, the Ford Foundation and Indian government under the leadership of the able Minister for Food and Agriculture Mr.C.Subramaniam and the then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri collaborated to import wheat seed from CIMMYT. Punjab was selected by the Indian government to be the first site to try the new crops because of its reliable water supply and a history of agricultural success. India began its own Green Revolution program of plant breeding, irrigation development, and financing of agrochemicals.

India soon adopted IR8 - a semi-dwarf rice variety developed by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) that could produce more grains of rice per plant when grown with certain fertilizers and irrigation. In 1968, Indian agronomist S.K. De Datta published his findings that IR8 rice yielded about 5 tons per hectare with no fertilizer, and almost 10 tons per hectare under optimal conditions. This was 10 times the yield of traditional rice. IR8 was a success throughout Asia, and dubbed the "Miracle Rice". IR8 was also developed into Semi-dwarf IR36.

What was the Green Revolution in India?

  1. Continued expansion of farming areas

As mentioned above, the area of land under cultivation was being increased right from 1947. But this was not enough to meet with rising demand. Other methods were required. Yet, the expansion of cultivable land also had to continue. So, the Green Revolution continued with this quantitative expansion of farmlands.

  1.  Double-cropping existing farmland

Double-cropping was a primary feature of the Green Revolution. Instead of one crop season per year, the decision was made to have two crop seasons per year. The one-season-per-year practice was based on the fact that there is only one natural monsoon per year. This was correct. So, there had to be two "monsoons" per year. One would be the natural monsoon and the other an artificial 'monsoon.' The artificial monsoon came in the form of huge irrigation facilities. Dams were built to arrest large volumes of natural monsoon water which were earlier being wasted. Simple irrigation techniques were also adopted.

  1.  Using seeds with improved genetics

This was the scientific aspect of the Green Revolution. The Indian Council for Agricultural Research was re-organized in 1965 and then again in 1973. It developed new strains of high-yield value (HYV) seeds, mainly wheat and rice but also millet and corn. The most noteworthy HYV seed was the K68 variety for wheat. The credit for developing this strain goes to Dr. M.P. Singh who is also regarded as the hero of India's Green Revolution.

Impact of the Green Revolution

In the 1960s, rice yields in India were about two tons per hectare; by the mid-1990s, they had risen to six tons per hectare. India became one of the world's most successful rice producers and is now a major rice exporter. Thus at a time in the '60s when the country was facing the spectre of severe food shortages, the introduction of Borlaug's high-yielding varieties of seeds set in motion a technological revolution in Indian agriculture that led eventually to the country achieving self-sufficiency in foodgrain

  • The Green Revolution resulted in a record grain output of 131 million tons in 1978-79. This established India as one of the world's biggest agricultural producers. No other country in the world which attempted the Green Revolution recorded such a level of success. India also became an exporter of food grains around that time.
  • Yield per unit of farmland improved by more than 30 percent between 1947 (when India gained independence) and 1979 when the Green Revolution was considered to have delivered its goods.
  • The crop area under HYV varieties grew from seven percent to 22 percent of the total cultivated area during the 10 years of the Green Revolution. More than 70 percent of the wheat crop area, 35 percent of the rice crop area, and 20 percent of the millet and corn crop area used the HYV seeds.
  • Crop areas under high-yield varieties needed more water, more fertilizer, more pesticides, fungicides, and certain other chemicals. This spurred the growth of the local manufacturing sector. Such industrial growth created new jobs and contributed to the country's GDP.
  • The increase in irrigation created the need for new dams to harness monsoon water. The water stored was used to create hydroelectric power. This in turn boosted industrial growth, created jobs, and improved the quality of life of the people in villages.
  • India paid back all loans it had taken from the World Bank and its affiliates for the Green Revolution. This improved India's creditworthiness in the eyes of the lending agencies.
  • Some developed countries, especially Canada, which were facing a shortage in agricultural labor, were so impressed by the results of India's Green Revolution that they asked the Indian government to supply them with farmers experienced in the methods of the Green Revolution.


CIMMYT – International Maize and Wheat Improvemnet Center (in Spanish: Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maíz y Trigo, CIMMYT).CIMMYT grew out of a pilot program in Mexico in 1943, sponsored by the Government of Mexico and the Rockefeller Foundation.

CIMMYT acts as a catalyst and leader in a global maize and wheat innovation network that serves the poor in developing countries. Drawing on strong science and effective partnerships, we create, share, and use knowledge and technology to increase food security, improve the productivity and profitability of farming systems, and sustain natural resources. CIMMYT aims to be the world's premier applied research organization for maize and wheat and associated cropping systems, as well as a leader in partnerships to help maize and wheat farmers in developing countries enjoy enhanced livelihoods and escape poverty through more productive, sustainable agriculture.

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Frank J. Williams 9 months ago Member's comment

Vrey interesting,