Saturday, 4 June 2016

Thursday, 21 April 2016

CSIR-National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI) Herbarium is Online Now

Dhirendra Kumar
News Curator cum Moderator
Indian Botanists
Union Minister for Science & Technology & Earth Sciences, Dr. Harsh Vardhan, launched the "CSIR-NBRI Herbarium Online" on the CSIR-NBRI website (, thus making One Hundred Thousand Herbarium collections accessible worldwide. He also released a flyer "CSIR-NBRI HERBARIUM ONLINE" on the occasion.

The Minister took keen interest in reviewing the detailed features of the new website like Mechanism to enter specimen label data, taxonomic upgradation data, descriptors, GPS Data & Specimen Images & Video Images and Link to Genomics Data and GIS Maps. He applauded the efforts put in by Bioinformatics group and advised that there should also be a provision for the availability of the data on uses, information useful to general public (especially students, teachers, researchers, environmentalists etc.) like distribution, landscaping, geographical occurrences so that it becomes a unique knowledge resource of the country for every citizen.

It was also informed that digitization of One Lakh specimens of higher plants has been completed thus making it a unique database of India in terms of Data Profile. This database has a future potential of linking the other 95 Herbaria of India.

Addressing a gathering of Senior Scientists, Entrepreneurs, Industrialists, Officials and Farmers at NBRI, Lucknow, the Minister said that Scientists should think out of box and work towards development on innovation driven research. He stressed upon the idea that CSIR sister labs should work together in synergy in networking mode by sharing of ideas, coordinated planning and carrying forward the initiatives of the Government of India. Encouraging each Scientist to have a dream and transforming lives of common masses of India by developing plant based products, he emphasized on the need for optimal utilization of resources provided to the CSIR labs in terms of manpower and Research & Development infrastructure.

Director, CSIR-NBRI, Dr. C.S. Nautiyal, gave a brief presentation on the R&D activities, Public Interactions, and Novel products developed by the Institute. He also presented a brief account of National Facilities of the Institute viz., National Herbarium and about three lakh holdings in the same; Botanical Garden and its theme gardens; and the recently created Bonsai House, Jurassic Gallery along with some plant varieties newly developed by the Institute. Apart from the national facilities, Director's presentation also included three short term deliverables (Anacardic Acid, Thebaine Rich Opium Poppy Lines and Low Grain Arsenic Rice Variety) and Mission Mode Projects planned by CSIR-NBRI for the next few years to come. Director also informed the Minister about an international Project awarded by GEF / UNIDO to CSIR-NBRI. This project involves development of Neem based pesticides to eliminate the use of D.D.T. from India. 
Source: Press Release, Press Information Bureau, India

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

The Union Cabinet, Government of India, Approves Signing the Paris Agreement adopted at COP 21

Dhirendra Kumar
News Curator cum Moderator
Indian Botanists

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi today gave its approval for signing the Paris Agreement adopted at the 21st Conference of Parties held in Paris in December 2015.

Minister of State (Independent Charge) of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Shri Prakash Javadekar, will sign the agreement on behalf of India on 22 April 2016 at the high level signature ceremony convened by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon.

The Paris Agreement on climate change is a milestone in global climate cooperation. It is meant to enhance the implementation of the Convention and recognizes the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities in the light of different national circumstances.

The salient features of the Paris Agreement are as follows:

a) The Paris Agreement acknowledges the development imperatives of developing countries. The Agreement recognizes the developing countries' right to development and their efforts to harmonize development with environment, while protecting the interests of the most vulnerable.

b) The Paris Agreement recognizes the importance of sustainable lifestyles and sustainable patterns of consumption with developed countries taking the lead, and notes the importance of 'climate justice’ in its preamble.

c) The Agreement seeks to enhance the 'implementation of the Convention' whilst reflecting the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances.

d) The objective of the Agreement further ensures that it is not mitigation-centric and includes other important elements such as adaptation, loss and damage, finance, technology, capacity building and transparency of action and support.

e) Pre-2020 actions are also part of the decisions. The developed country parties are urged to scale up their level of financial support with a complete road map to achieve the goal of jointly providing US $ 100 billion by 2020 for mitigation and adaptation by significantly increasing adaptation finance from current levels and to further provide appropriate technology and capacity building support.

India had advocated a strong and durable climate agreement based on the principles and provisions of the Convention. The Paris Agreement addresses all the important concerns and expectations of India.
Source: Press Release, Press Information Bureau, India

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

The Mimetic Peculiarities of the Plant World

Megha Panpalia Machhar
Banasthali Vidyapith, Tonk, Rajsthan

Both, plants and animals, have in one way or the other embarked on mimetic phenomenon as a means to thrive well in this dynamic and ever challenging environmental surroundings.

The plant kingdom is overwhelmed with number of genus and species. The plants are well-known for their adaptive strategies to subsist in the natural territory.One such stratagem is the mimicking act of the plants to shield themselves from herbivory ,to enhance their survival rate and in some cases for pollen dissemination. For instance many species of orchids are known to imitate the bees or appear as tongue, some plants appear as stone, still others appear as bird droppings or diseased.

An early hint of this deceptive act of the plants was given by German naturalist Christian K. Sprengel in 1793. Although a less observed phenomenon, mimicry in plants is a consequence of evolution through natural selection and random mutations that are beneficial and are passed onto generations after generations, thus, conferring them with survival advantage.

Some of the well-known examples of deception and trickery in plants are stated below.

Ophrys apifera 
Orchids present the best examples of plant mimicry. One such orchid is Ophrys apifera, which resembles like a bee, hence commonly known as Bee Orchid. Native to Europe, the whole flower mimics as an insect feeding on flower. This traitorous species tricks the male bees by appearing to them as their female counterparts, as a result, the male bees try to copulate with the latter, furthering the dissemination of the orchid pollen.

If you happen to walk down the wide areas of South Africa and Namibia you chance to see interesting pebbles which are, in fact, small succulent plants Lithops , member of the plant family Aizoaceae. They protect themselves from being eaten up by looking similar to a stone. They are well adapted to sandy soil , water scarcity and soaring mercury levels.

These herbaceous flowering plants of the family Lamiaceae are natives of Europe, Asia and North Africa.They are known to exhibit Batesian mimicry to the stinging nettles, thus, protect themselves from predators by growing in proximity to their dopplegangers. Unlike stinging nettles the dead nettles donot bear any stinging hair and are, therefore, harmless.

Orchids are one of the enthralling plant species we have come across. These are, in fact, most deceptive species in the floral kingdom. Another one in the Que is the Cryptostylis , commonly known as the tongue orchid. These mimic the female counterparts of the Ichneumon wasp (commonly known as orchid dupe wasp- Lissopimpla excelsa). The male wasps are deceived by these beautiful tongue orchids, who sexually go down and try to copulate with them.

The Passiflora is comprised of nearly 400 species of tendril-bearing herbaceous vine, commonly known as passion flowers. They hold a special interest among the botanists in context to their relationship with Heliconiine butterflies. These butterflies have co-evolved with these flowers. The butterflies have known to lay their eggs on the Passiflora leaves. Eggs when hatch into healthy larvae feed glutanously on the leaves, thereby, damaging them. The vine in response bear bright yellow spots that mimic the distinctive brightly coloured eggs of the butterflies. As a result, the butterflies do not lay eggs on such leaves fearing competition for their off-springs.

Commonly known as the Sundews, these are the largest genera of Carnivorous plants. The leaf surface mimics tiny water droplets that appear as sundew but are, in fact, mucilaginous glands. As a result, insects often fall prey to this deception to fulfill their poor mineral requirements.

Ophrys insectifera
It is one of the most enchanting and bewitching orchid species, known as the fly orchid. These flowers perfectly imitate the female counterparts of the insects and also secrete sex pheromones. As a consequence, attract the male insects who attempt for copulation but end in pollen dissemination.

Caladium steudneriifolium
Although plants do not have a brain but they are smart none the less and Caladium steudneriifolium is a perfect example of this. In order to protect itself from herbivory and avoid ovi posting moths they have their leaves appear as variegated and diseased. As a result, moths and caterpillars donot turn to these unhealthy plants for any of their purpose.

Stapelia asterias
On crossing the South African deserts one may come across some left-over pieces of flesh, pecularity being their star-shaped; these star-shaped chunks are ,in fact, cactus-like mat forming succulent plants. These succulents have a putrid stench similar to that of rotten meat, attracting insects and flies that aid in dispersal of their pollen grains.

Aviona papyracea
Another native of South Africa, it is dwarf perennial herb. Its tiny green leaves are covered with white papery stipules. From a distance they appear as bird droppings while on the other hand their closer view gives them snake-like appearances, owing to their white scaly stipules. It is their typical yet unique appearance which protects them from herbivory.

The above description surely makes us go down with enthralling characteristics of the plant kingdom. These are some of the discovered examples. There may be many more other engaging phenomenon and still new species and plants yet to be discovered which would surely take our breaths away.

I would like to sum up my article with a beautiful quote by George Washington Carver:

"I love to think Nature as an unlimiting broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in".


1. Mimicry in Plants, Spencer C.H.Barrett, Scientific American, Volume 255, number 09, September 1987.

2. Royal Botanic Gardens.


4. First Nature.

5. The Encyclopedia of Succulents.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Adopt Cultivation of Improved Varieties of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants to Enhance the Income: Dr Harsh Vardhan

Dhirendra Kumar
News Curator cum Moderator
Indian Botanists

The Union Minister for Science and Technology and Earth Sciences Dr Harsh Vardhan, and Vice President, CSIR has urged the farmers and entrepreneurs engaged in cultivation, processing of medicinal and aromatic plants to adopt improved technologies and improved varieties for raising their income. Speaking at a Kisan Mela (farmers’ fair) organized at CSIR-Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants CSIR-CIMAP in Lucknow today, he said, this would also help in production of quality raw material demanded by user industries.

Dr. Harsh Vardhan addressing the farmers
The Minister said that medicinal and aromatic plants are the valuable green wealth of the country. These should be sustainably used for creating livelihood opportunities of poor people residing in rural areas. He also said that there are immense possibilities for promotion of production of medicinal and aromatic plants and industries by startups. Dr Harsh Vardhan called upon the scientists to develop improved technologies for conservation and cultivation of these plants keeping in view the changing climatic conditions and limited as well as diminishing agriculture resources. He said that farmers should be apprised regularly about the new developments being made in the research laboratories by organizing awareness meets, workshops and farmers fairs in different parts of the country.

Dr Harsh Vardhan lauded the efforts made by CSIR-CIMAP in reaching the unreached and said that these efforts be given a new push for making visible impact by creating new avenues for self-employment in rural sector. Expressing his satisfaction on development and release of improved varieties of essential oil bearing lemongrass and anti-malarial drug-producing artemisinin-rich Artemisia annua by CSIR-CIMAP, the Minister pointed out that participation of user industries should be ensured for promotion of each aromatic and medicinal plant so that poor farmers and entrepreneurs should not face difficulty in marketing of their produce.
Dr. Harsh Vardhan giving a plant to a farmer
Dr Harsh Vardhan further said that today people are inclined towards the use of drugs and cosmetics made from natural resources as ill effects have been reported from the use of synthetic drugs world over. It is also necessary to make initiatives to improve trust of the people towards herbal drugs he added. The Minister said that scientists should standardize the ayurvedic drugs so that their use can be increased in health care of the poor people. Dr Harsh Vardhan also emphasized the need for development of such plant varieties which can withstand vagaries of nature and can be grown in stressed soils ensuring utilization of large tracts of waste lands available in the country.

Other major events organized on the occasion of CIMAP Kisan Mela included interactive meet with farmers and entrepreneurs on the production and marketing of medicinal and aromatic plants, sale of publications and high quality planting material of mint, aromatic grasses and other medicinal plant varieties developed by CIMAP, demonstration of improved plant varieties and herbal products, live demonstration of distillation/ processing using CIMAP’s improved units, training on rose water and flower-based agarbatti making, demonstration of ‘Early Mint Technology’, integration of medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs) in traditional cropping system. A unique pilot-scale herbal product manufacturing unit ‘Technology Business Incubator Centre (TBIC)’ was also inaugurated by the chief guest Dr Harsh Vardhan. In TBIC, various machines have been installed to facilitate manufacturing of creams, gels, shampoo, oils, face wash, floor mopping liquid in approx. 100 Kg batch size. The TBIC will help the technology users and entrepreneurs to manufacture the herbal products based on CIMAP technology. This will also serve as an incubator centre for the startups.
Dr. Harsh Vardhan meeting the farmers, at a Kisan Mela
The Minister was accompanied by Shri Naveen Chandra Bajpei, Deputy Chairman, State Planning Commission, UP and Shri Praveer Kumar, Agriculture Production Commissioner, UP, Dr. Sudeep Kumar, Head Planning and Performance Division of CSIR, Dr R. A Vishwakarma, Director, CSIR-IIIM, Dr(Mrs.) Madhu Dikshit, Director, CSIR-CDRI, Dr CS Nautiyal, Director, CSIR-NBRI, Dr Alok Dhawan, Director, CSIR-IITR and Prof. AK Tripathi, Director, CSIR-CIMAP.

Representatives from various industries such as IPCA Laboratories, Jindal Drugs, Herbochem Industries, AIMIL Pharma, PIRINIC Pharma, AMORE Herbals, Ajmal Group, Essential Oil Association of India (EOAI), ICEOFF, and Spices Board, SIDBI, etc. and several buyers of medicinal and aromatic plants attended the Kisan Mela. Different laboratories of CSIR such as NBRI, CDRI, IITR and IICT demonstrated their technologies relevant to rural areas. Beneficiaries of CSIR-CIMAP technologies and services together with other companies also exhibited their products by putting up stalls in the Kisan Mela and interacted with the Minister and other dignitaries present on the occasion.

About 4000 farmers and entrepreneurs from UP, Bihar, Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Odisha and others states of the country participated in the Kisan Mela.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Role of Plant Scientists in Digital Farming and Digital India

Kapil Mohan Sharma, Jaykishan Amarcholi and Ronak Patel
Navsari Agricultural University,
Navsari, Gujarat


With advancement towards a digital nation, digitization of agriculture – the backbone of Indian economy can’t be left behind. Currently, due to many reasons farmers are leaving their work behind and moving towards other alternatives. By using wide network of digital information we can imagine a nation where farming will no more be considered as a neglected job and to feed the growing population digitizations can act as one of the best supporting pillar. Integrating digitial services to agriculture sector with the help of plant scientists, farmers can be empowered towards a better and lucrative farming. By using wide network of digital information it will be possible to step ahead in farm based activities starting from its cultivation, weather information, marketing, consultancy and many more. On its better adoption, farmers can access weather news and information on how to deal with it. Incidence of pest/disease can be predicted by remote sensing, alerting concerned people to take action. Good agricultural practices are updated in every farmer’s mobile. Farm consultancy will be at finger tips.
Varietal information, which variety serves best, which practices gives better result, how to extend shelf life and many more will be more available to farmers via plant biologists thorough this media. Visualization of problems of farmers and their solutions will be more real-time which will reduce uncertainty from farmer’s part serving a betterment of agriculture.

Agriculture and India

Undoubtedly, India is the country where the farming contribute the maximum engagement of  human resources. According to Agriculture Census 2010-11, the total cropped area is 193.76 million hectare out of 328.88 million hectare of total area that accounts for 58 % of total area. Moreover, this implies the huge nature of this group and need to work on this. Though by the same census it shows that there is a rise in cropped area, still many of the farmers are now turning out and the forthcoming generation is not taking up agriculture as their profession may result in steep decline of the most important sector of India particularly in employment. Presence of other lucrative employment opportunities might be another possible reason for migration from the farm sector. These migrations in different sector can directly or indirectly influence the farming sector and one of them is 'Digitization of farming sector and Digital India initiative.

Digital India

Digital India is a initiative launched by Government of India to digitally connect the whole India. Since farming is a integrated part of India’s economy, it is of necessary that we strengthen our system for the benefit to the users (farmers) with this digitization process. To do that government has taken many initiative, some of them are:
1. mKissan : It is an online advisory services that enables the farmers to receive messages directly in their mobile phone such that they can know when to, how to, what to particularly for the weather based problems.
2. Farmers’ Portal: It is the web enabled services that is linked up with mKissan and other services. “Its a one stop shop for farmers” where they can buy seeds or fertilizer, locate dealers, get advisory and much more. Only farmers are needed to register themselves based on the location of their work particularly their district in a particular state and based on this the farmers will get their advisory.
3. Crop Insurance: An helpful app for the farmers, also available in mobile app. This enables the farmers to calculate their risk, make the crop wise insurance, gets updated about prices of insurance and so on.
4. DACNET: This is a website developed to e-connect the farmers to farmers via their voices under an ICT application. It act as an information centre, interaction of day to day activities and availability of all extension and advisory services.
5. AgriCOOP: This is integrated services enabling to know about prices, weather, connecting institutes and many other.
6. Kishan Call Centre: Calling 1800 180 1551 have made a huge impact in farming group. This gives real time call based advisory services by the experts to the farmers, making them more informed regarding the crops.
7. AgMarket: This service has let the farmer know about the prices in the market and reduces the chances of getting cheated. They also enabled them to buy or sell commodities in the or from the market.

Role of Plant Scientists in Digital India

Although so many services have been launched recently by Government of India and the backbone lies with the Plant Scientists. The data collection is done at multiple centres and not so clear for the farmers about how to use them in their farm. Plant scientists can help farmers in digitization of the data and its utility. The farmers become the major beneficiary as they can now get better guidance in this regard and take correct steps in their farming practice. 
The role of plant scientist is not only concentrated in giving the advisory via digital platform but can act further to initiate better development that ultimately leads to precision farming.Further, by getting digitally connected, its easy to share technologies from one location to other and distribute it. New technologies will be faster distributed. Simulation models can be judged for multiple locations that will give better opportunity for new crops or cropping system. Crop can be regulated according to market need which is now at our finger tips. Biotic and abiotic stress can be judged based on apps simulated by plant scientist. This will reduce the farmers to regularly visit the farm centres. 

Way Ahead 

Currently, Digital India initiative has enabled the Indian farmers in a large way. It has provided services to the farmers to link up with plant scientist such that they get better knowledge but still there is more work to be done. In many of the advanced countries, where farming is taken as a commercial business, they have integrated their farm structure in such a way that they made the farm more in their control. The crop is regularly checked by satellites based on their infra-red spectra. By this they can see if the crop is in stress or not and if yes, what is the level of their stress. By getting such updates farmers get a feedback loop and necessary steps are suggested. This integrated loop is digitally connected it means wherever you are you can see what is happening in our farm. Such services are not yet available in India for commercial purposes, there lies the open window for plant scientists to work and integrate to make the farming system more advanced fulfilling the dream of “Digital India” to “Digital Agriculture”.
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Plant Scientists and Smart Cities

Deepika Sharma
BSc(H) Botany, III year
Gargi College, Delhi University

Last year Indian government launched Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and Smart Cities Mission. 
“Through AMRUT, the aim of the Government is to give cities themselves the chance to plan their future growth. Under these schemes we can go ahead and we can do it together (Centre and state). India is rapidly urbanising,” PM Modi said at the launch of this scheme.
Government has not given, one single definition to smart cities. The basic principle behind the smart city is the self reliance, sustainable development and optimum utilisation of available resources. Urban centres have skill, job opportunities, and development. But if we look back then one would realize that this development is at the cost of the health of the urban space. Unhealthy population is not a good sign of any region.
But where do plants and plant scientists fit in this whole idea? 
The biggest stress to urban ecosystem is the pollution. Plants create enough space for oxygen in this cocktail of pollutants. But this is not it. Smart cities for healthy and sustainable environment doesn’t mean planting any plant and thinking that’s enough is wrong. Plants can’t be substituted or ignored while building any city. This certainly doesn’t mean that we have the liberty to promote any plant anywhere. The plants that are native to a particular region will be in better synchrony to that environment but if this plant is introduced to its non native place then it can turn invasive. Eg: Prosopis juliflora in Delhi. P. juliflora has clutched the entire ridge area that has prevented other native plants to prosper in this region. We need expertise of plant scientist who can guide which plant is better for a particular region and also maintain a regular statistics across the city. Plants also give aesthetic appeal to the city.

Plant scientists can also help in assisting government to promote agriculture in the urban space. Food  security is something which is one significant threats to our economy. Hence, it becomes important to keep a chunk of land for agriculture in the cities as well and not solely rely on the farm produce of the villages. This will open newer job opportunities and also increase the productivity.

Next step is the upkeep of plants. Sowing plants is not enough. The timely maintenance and check is a significant part. It is necessary that roadside plants be pruned regularly so that the branches do not hinder commuters or pedestrians in any ways. Also it is equally important that trees be also checked by arborist. Falling trees can be dangerous too and are potential to cause accidents.
This is very important for the urban ecology. It will be unrealistic to compare with that of the countryside. Conditions differ in the two. But yes, government needs to work out and architect to make it better for the living. Plant scientists have the major role to play to input their skills in this way.

Smart city is a planned city which can make best out of its available resources. It represents healthy and skilled society which is in equilibrium with its environment.

Changing Trends of our Food Habits-Cultural Beliefs and Traditions Eroded.

Ranee Om Prakash 
Curator-Flowering Plants, 
Department of Life Sciences,Natural History Museum,
South Kensington, SW7 5BD. U.K.

 The modern era is witnessing new and innovative ways of food consumption viz. vitamins enriched food and organically grown vegetables as a result of which mankind is moving away from what is natural. I describe a few examples of changing trends in our food habits. Gone are the days when we followed the advice of our elders for breakfast, we would have normal porridge made from broken wheat (dalia) or oats. While shopping in supermarkets, we now naturally tend to look for cereal packets with “rich in iron and Vitamin B12” and modern generation is now looking towards foods which are having vital nutrients in the food packaging. A few yoghurts now mention “Vitamin D and Calcium added”. Many cereals like Nachni (Eleusine coracana Gaertn.), Rajgira (Amaranth) are now consumed as healthy diets by way of salads. These are naturally rich in iron and one does not need additional irons and vitamins added to it, these could be simply incorporated in our diets rather than going for artificially enriched foods.

The packaging of such food items is an example showcasing the food items. You have not only various flavoured waters e.g. Lemon, Strawberry in the markets but also vitamin enriched waters. Modern life demands time and less time for preparation and cooking. Markets have many varieties of fast foods available and the use of plastic bags should be discouraged.

Despite the attempt of various government efforts discouraging use of plastic bags, it is a common sight to still see people shopping and carrying items in plastic bags. During my recent trip to the Nilgiris in Southern India, I saw lots of plastic bags everywhere. On mountain slopes, retailers and the market places. Such a waste of inner desire of not to use plastic bags. Inspite of having rubbish bins for throwing away these bags, majority of people throw rubbish by the road sides and they feel no shame or moral responsibility in doing so! The same public if they visit foreign countries, would double check before throwing rubbish and will use rubbish bins. General public should take the initiative themselves of using recyclable bags and not pollute the nature. Plastic is degraded by using microorganisms like Azotobacter sp., Bacillus megaterium, Halomonas sp., Pseudomonas sp. and Ralstonia eutropha (Chee et al. 2010). If you keep sugar in plastic bags at home, you will notice that after a while, the bags start to disintegrate. It is this property of sugar that it is now used for biodegradation of plastic and research in this aspect is being undertaken at some research institutes across the world including India. These plastic bags have somehow taken the place of eroding our traditional beliefs and cultural values. For example, normally people would offer water, some food grains and flowers to “Surya Dev” (Sun God) by way of standing in the river and offering prayers. A lot of times, I have witnessed people throwing these already offered flowers to gods from their homes in plastic bags in the rivers. This not only pollutes the river but also affects the living organisms in the river. Neither the fish get to eat the food they were expecting to have nor the prayer was done properly the way it should have been done. This reflects how our culture and traditions are changing. Not only the beliefs have changed but also the traditions have changed.

It is a good practice to buy unequal sized carrots, cucumbers and other vegetables which are devoid of any fertilisers- organically grown, however now due to the change in our living habits and lifestyle; people tend to choose carrots, cucumbers of equal size and thereby encourage artificial cultivation of fruits and vegetables.

The third international "Fascination of Plants Day" 2015 was celebrated on 18th May across the world. Events like this where botanists can engage with local schools, colleges and  museums to get as many people as possible enthused about plants and their importance in sustainably producing foods, forestry, agriculture, biodiversity and conservation issues should be initiated. Important days like Children’s Day (celebrated on 14th of November in India), Independence Day and local excursions organised by schools/colleges can be used for these kinds of activities. Botanists can also come together to organise bioblitz (an activity of biological surveying with an attempt to record all the living species within a designated area) and citizen science (also known as crowd-sourced science, involves public participation in scientific research) to have short events and projects. Simple projects like recording plant species in the gardens or parks will not only encourage the study of plant sciences and record plant species, but will also contribute to the various checklists and floras. The Botanical Survey of India (BSI) can be used as common umbrella to initiate these kinds of activities all across India. By this way, the botanists can address the key issue of the role of plants in environmental conservation. The numbers of students studying plants sciences across the world especially taxonomy and nomenclature is declining rapidly and it is time that younger generation pick up the skills and expertise from the older generation before the subject is completely wiped out!

The initiative run by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on “Swacha Bharat Abhiyan” is good for social cause and the day India awakens and becomes morally responsible with the thought of “Swacha Bharat” ingrained in minds, India will not be far behind than the other developed countries in the world in being a very neat, clean and beautiful country. A country’s development is measured in terms of economic growth (GDP), a range of socio – economic indicators viz., social well-being, population, quality of life and improvement in human welfare. It is also measured by way of environmental quality –sustainable development.Let us also encourage the government of India to have more initiatives and awareness on environmental conservation and sustainability.

 Chee, J. Y., Yoga S. S., Lau, N. S., Ling, S. C., Abed R. M. M., Sudesh K. L. 2010. Bacterially Produced Polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA): Converting Renewable Resources into Bioplastics. Appl Microbiol & Microbiol Biotech A Mendez Vilas (Ed).


Dr Nitesh Joshi* and Ambika Joshi
*Rizvi college of Arts, Science and Commerce ,Associate Professor in Botany,Mumbai
Jaihind college ,Department of Botany,Associate professor in Botany ,Mumbai.

Air pollution

India is growing fast since the last couple of decades, with every year new cities being added to the list. Compounded with this development the so called peri- urban areas also starts experiencing the unavoidable menace of air pollution. That pollution of any types is harmful to the human beings and the ecosystems in general is now a very well known fact. The problem of  suspended particulate matter is fast increasing with increasing construction activities in the cities. In such a scenario citizens often ask, the questions, how much air pollution is there in the area and what Plants have been often used to clean our environment. Shri Narendra Modis call for an SWACHH ABHYAN falls under this category. Cleaning of our cities lies not only with public discipline but also with plants. Research has thrown light on various aspects showing how plants can efficiently be used to keep our environments clean , so also how these can effectively warn the citizens of a failing or deteriorating environments. Considerable literature is available in the area of plants and pollution. However at a local level and for all practical purposes there are no clear cut guidelines regarding the use of plants as indicators of air pollution or green belt development. The current article highlights on the guidelines for establishments of an national level indicator for monitoring dust and green belt development.

In India several scientists have worked on effects of air pollution and plants. However there is an urgent need to spread this work to make use for general citizens and municipal corporations and horticulturists all over the country. The learned botanists can come to the rescue in such cases . an attempt is made to answer some of these questions over here.
Types and sources of Air pollutants

Plants growing in the ambient environment of urban-industrial area would be exposed to not  only one but to a mixture of many pollutants. According to Rao (1985), the effects of air pollution (gaseous pollutant, acid deposition and particulates) on various levels of ecosystem organization may be summarized as follows:
a) Absorption and accumulation of pollutants in plants and other ecosystem components such as soil surface and ground water.
b) Injury to producers (plants) and consumers (animals) due to pollutant accumulation; for example leaf necrosis in plants and dental fluorosis in animals.
c) Change in number, density and diversity of species and a shift in competition.
d) Loss of stability and reduction in the reproductive ability of species.
e) Degeneration of associations of biotic components.
f) Disruption of biogeochemical cycle.
g) Extension of eroded areas in the landscape.

Plants as Indicators and Biomonitors

Plants are important to maintain ecological balance but they also get affected by air pollution either directly or indirectly.They have been harmonizing nature from the days life appeared on the planet by regulating the concentrations of CO2 in the air and now they are destined to commence a more modern and hazardous role of reducing the quantum of air pollution through adsorption, absorption, accumulation, detoxification and metabolization (Rao, 1980). Bio-indicator may be a plant or an animal which reveals the presence of a substance in its vicinity by showing typical symptoms which can be distinguished from the effects of other natural or anthropogenic stresses (L. Steubing and H. J. Jäger,1982). Being stationary, plants play a very important role in indicating the changes taking place in an environment. Two aspects of Bioindicators in plants are known : Sensitive plants are those which show clear symptoms of pollutant effects even in the lowest concentrations. Accumulator plants are those which readily accumulate specific air polluting substances that can be analysed in the plant material often by physico-chemical methods. This leads to a quantitative determination of  pollution load as that plant then acts a receiver or absorber only, without any injury and is actively involved as a selective capturer of pollutants (Posthumus, 1982).


Different levels of organization of the plant can be used for phytomonitoring, ranging from the single plant (leaf or even plant cell) to the plant association and the ecosystem. Some air pollutants have very low ambient concentrations and are complicated to measure accurately with physical and chemical methods. Plants can accumulate those pollutants to a level that is easier to analyze. Some of the parameters which can be used for phytomonitoring of air quality are Plant growth,Macro characters, micro characters and biochemical characters: The need to use genetically uniform material and uniform culturing practices are also important. Such systems have been used by Chaphekar (1972), Posthumus (1982), Joshi (1990), etc. Standardization of methods is also essential to compare results at different sites, months or years.

Monitoring Dust in a City

Chaphekar, (1995) used leaves of trees like Mangifera indica, Thespesia populnea and Polyalthia longifolia for the estimation of dust fall in 20 different types of localities of Mumbai city in order to monitor airborne dust settling by gravity. They also observed marked reduction in growth of potted plants of Commelina benghalensis transplanted in heavily polluted areas of Mumbai city. Joshi and Joshi (2013) showed that Hyptis suaveolens had high dust capturing capacities among the plants in the city of Mumbai. Recently, Faqih A.G., Joshi N.C. and Joshi A.N. (2014) studied the foliar dust capturing potential of a common plant Pedilanthus tithymaloides growing along road dividers and traffic islands of Mumbai and prepared a foliar dust map of the city based on their study. A co- relation between foliar dust fall and traffic count was found to be positive. Collecting the dust from the leaf and then representing it as dust in gm/m2 is an well accepted method , using either filter paper or crucible.

Further it was observed that:
1. The amount of dust is never constant in the atmosphere. It keeps changing with respect to variations in place, time, season, climate, etc. During the field work it was noticed that foliar dust recorded of various plant species differ at different sites and no plant behaves same at all sites i.e. the plant which is the best dust capturer at one site may be the worse in holding dust at other sites. Hence, each plant behaves independently at various sites without any trend or pattern. This may also because of varying wind speed, humidity, proportion of vehicular and industrial exhausts, etc.

2. In order to determine the best plant for capturing and retaining the atmospheric dust, screening of dust to the plants in a constant system (surrounding) was required. A special dust fumigation chamber was fabricated to analyze the plants under controlled and simulated conditions.

3. A dust chamber is used to explore the dust retention capacities of various trees , shrubs , herbs (Chapekar and Mancharkar, 2007). The plants were screened to dust under controlled (or still) and simulated conditions. The amount of dust was estimated to determine the dust capturing and dust retaining capacities of the plant species. The tendency to hold dust on leaf surface was measured in terms of DRI (Dust Retention Index). Many plants were found to get higher DRI values without fan but some were showing higher DRI values even with fan. The plants that receive and hold more dust without running fan are said to be good dust capturers. 

4. DRI values are percentage values of Dust captured and Dust retained on the foliar surfaces of various species. A list of plant species, herbs, shrubs, trees with their DRI will help in planning the type of plants to be grown along road dividers, residential areas, highways and gardens. Ficus benghalensis L., Ficus benjamina L. var. nuda (Miq.) M. F. Barrett, Lantana Camara L., Mangifera indica L., Muntingia calabura L. Pedilanthus tithymaloides Poit. Trema orientalis (L.) Blume, Ziziphus jujuba Mill.. Ervatamia divaricata (L.), burk with curled leaves, Clerodendrum inerme (L.) Gaertn are some plants with high Dust retention indices. However wind plays an vital role in the dust capturing capacities.

5. Cities in India are undergoing several changes with the introduction of mass rapid transport systems, construction activities of buildings, flyovers and highway renewal. The plants during the study reflected the same with high amounts of dust in areas with constructions activities or around the vicintiy of such areas. Therefore it is suggested to have green belt around road dividers with plants which can be trimmed as well as with high DRI. Plantations with a big canopy alternating with a shorter one are suggested. Ficus benjamina, Pedilanthes tihymalides, Nerium odorum and Bougainvillea species for example.

6. Around industrial areas the situations become complex with several industries placed together. Green belt development in such areas should focus on the utility of the area and the principle should be that the installation factory shouldn’t be seen and the trees should encircle the factory around 50 M.

Choice of plants for roadsides including traffic island should be in accordance with the width of the road. There should be a formation of screen between traffic and roadside residences. The plants should include shrubs and trees, with intermixing of ornamental herbs like Aralia. Another parameter which is important in choice of plant species for green belt development is 'Air Pollution Tolerance Index'. Several agencies and researchers have worked on this area and the data can be used by locals for developemet of green belt. For dust it is also the morphological parameters which play an important role dust retention. Vegetation provides a major filtration and reaction surface which acts to trap particulates. Through sedimentation, particles are usually deposited on the upper surfaces of leaves, particularly the larger particles.

The interception and retention of atmospheric particles is highly variable and primarily dependent on: 
1) the size, shape, and surface texture of the Particles, 
2) the size, shape, and surface texture of the intercepting plant part, and 
3) the micro- and ultra microclimatic conditions surrounding the plant. 

For particulate removal, species with high leaf circumference-to-area and surface-to-volume ratios, along with leaf surface roughness may be recommended. It may be concluded that within their limits of tolerance, plants absorb pollutants and to that extent remove air pollutants(Hill,1971). Several worker have published their work in other parts of the world on air pollution and its effects on plants (Manning ,W.J, and Fedder,J.(1980), and Yunus, M. and K. J. Ahmad, (1978) ).

Concept of Green belt 

Green belts are thought to be effective in such scenarios, where green plants form a surface capable of absorbing air pollutants and forming sinks for pollutants. Leaves with their vast areas in a tree crown, absorb pollutants on their surface, thus effectively reduce their concentration in the ambient air. Plants grown in such a way as to function as pollutant sinks, are collectively referred to as green belts (Kapoor, et al, 1996; Onkar, 2006 and S.C Sharma,2009 ). 

Plant scientists favour the development of green belts for use as parks within large urban industrial areas. Most city planners look to the green belt as a park system to provide areas for recreation and simply to break the monotony of the urban complex. Some have stressed the potential screening effect of green belts to remove air pollutants and thus serve to benefit human health. Commonly the green belt as such has been taken as a strip or a piece of land consisting of plants belonging to a few species, may be common or beautifully flowering ones for removal of air pollutants. Many scientist have also suggested the use of green belt, which is rows of trees for reducing pollution originating from industrial operations (Gupta V. K. and R. K. Kapoor, 1992;Hanson & Thorne, 1970; Warren, 1973; Ganguly 1976 and Chaphekar,1995). 

Plant species suitable for green belt 

This new approach has evolved in recent years which aim at growing plants in and around industrial areas and roadsides. And for that, selection of tree species is a task that requires sound knowledge of the plants and their response towards environmental stresses, especially dust fall & emission of gaseous pollutants. Capacity of plants to reduce air pollution is well-known.To check the spread of air pollutants emitted from industrial complexes, it is recommended by many scientists that vegetation be grown around such areas . It is known that plants differ considerably in their response towards pollutants (Rao, 1985). Some are highly sensitive & show immediate injury symptoms while others are hardy and tolerant. Tolerant plant species can function as pollution sinks & therefore a number of environmental benefits can be derived by planting tolerant species. They will help to reduce overall pollution load and make the air free from pollutants and particulate matter. Therefore appropriate selection of tolerant plant species, which can withstand pollution, may result in pollution mitigation. Parameters have been suggested for the choice of plantations of green belts, for e.g. , Air Pollution Tolerance Index (APTI) values, ( Singh and Rao,1983) and Dust Retention Index (DRI) for different plant species have been worked by Chaphekar and Mancharkar, 2007, in Pune. Dust interception capacity of plants depends on their surface geometry, phyllotaxy, and leaf external characteristics such as hairs, cuticle etc., height, and canopy of trees.

Removal of pollutants by plants from air is by three means, namely absorption by the leaves, deposition of particulates and aerosols over leaf surfaces, and fallout of particulates on the leeward side of the vegetation because of the slowing of the air movement (Tiwari, 1994). A comprehensive report is prepared by the Central Pollution Control Board of India on green belt development (C.P.C.B, 2000). The work carried out by this laboratory at Rizvi College , Botany Department financed by the University Grants Commission under the title “Studies on monitoring Suspended Particulate Matter using urban plants and understanding their Green Belt Potentials”, highlighted the importance of roadside plants, to monitor dust and types of plants species effective in reducing dust pollution . Elsewhere also work done by ecology department  of Pune University highlighted the important dust capturing capacities of certain avenue trees and at Institute of Science, Mumbai in the past . Plants like Nerium odorum, Pedilanthes tithymaloides, Ficus benjamina, Bougainvillea spectabliis growing on road dividers all over the country were found to be effective dust retainers.

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Ped Lagao Desh Bachao (Plant a Tree and Save Country)

Abhishek Kanojia
Kirori Mal College , Delhi University.(Bsc.Botany III YR)

When we talk about SWACHH BHARAT ABHIYAN we should consider not only the cleanliness. We should also cover the pollution problem. Not only soil and water pollution but air pollution in which botanists can help in better way . Botanists have  knowledge about plants, and can educate people in crop and other green waste management of plant origin which may include how to do composting, how one can install gobar gas plant in nearby society or village house where there this technique is still unknown . Also we can create awareness about the harmful effect of burning leftover in farming fields to farmers and also our city people, gardeners about the burning of green as well as dry leaves in parks which create many problems because of the gases released during the burning of the same .We can educate people about the importance of plants ,by making them aware about that the fruit they eat have seeds which having the potency to give rise the whole tree. People ate fruit with immense pleasure of mango , imli, jamun, papaya but after eating we just throw away their seeds,  we can appeal our countrymen to sow that seeds in near by parks or any available space so that at same time can contribute in purifying air quality of India. All botanist can visit to nearby schools especially from which they are alumni and help in setting up garden especially medicinal or herbal garden with the help of skilled gardener.We can help in park adoption scheme. By helping them in scientific way about the plant and there effects. We can help govt in setting new policy or Scheme "EK GHAR EK PEDH"(एक घर एक पेड़) suppose from 125 Crore Indians if 5-10% of population adopt this scheme can lead to grater achievement. 

After this if we talk about digital India,  botanist can help in this scheme by making e-literature of plants related text ,books. We can make some resourceful material about plant resource utilization in which we can tell people about the therapeutic effects of plants . We can help in making virtual herbarium . So that in coming years there should be less wastage of plants. 

If we talk about aadarsh garam yojna I think adarsh garam should be a village with no waste. Means waste of some process can act as raw material for another process, there should be renewable source of energy, zero green waste from houses as vegetables fruit left over food can be food for animals , the dung of animals can be used to set up gobar gas plants . The plastic should be banned .with some amount of permanent green cover in the village. 

With regard to  Make in India programme we should think about what botanist can do or make in India.We can create the some great varieties which yields so much to meet the nation need and can be exported as well, especially we can develop high yielding varieties of pulses so that in coming years there is no need of importing pulses. We import different type of orchids from other countries, can't we set up certain Institute which can create certain varieties of orchid which can grow in Indian climate other than northeastern part of India where they naturally grow. Today most of the ayurvedic species of plant are endangered we can set up certain machinery for the protection of these germ-plasms. We can help the jute industry to produce so much that people use jute bags instead of polythene bags which is creating tremendous amount of problems. 

We may suggest to the prime minister to bring a scheme where  state chief minister, members of parliament and members of legislative assembly actively participate in environmental activities to give right message to people that Government  is doing something for the environment. And I always says that there can be tremendous amount of pollution problem ...but solution is one plant a tree. ....."PEDH LAGAAO DESH BACHAAO".......