In conversation with Dr. B. S. Gotyal: RES Early Career Entomologist Awardee 2021
By Rajgopal, N. N.
As an Entomologists, every individual likes to work in economically well-established crops to create a footprint of their own. But, here an exceptional personality created his own niche by working in a lesser-known and minor crop Jute, by serving the nation as an ICAR- Agricultural Research Scientist for the last 12 years. Dr. Bheemanna Somanna Gotyal, Senior Scientist, ICAR- Central Research Institute for Jute and Allied Fibres, Barrackpore, Kolkata awarded with the "The RES Award for Early Career Entomologist" by the Royal Entomological Society, United Kingdom. He is the second Indian entomologist to be honoured by this prestigious award by RES. He is a renowned scientist in the field of Host Plant Resistance, Bio-ecology, Pest management, and Genetic improvement of jute genotypes against biotic stress.
It's worth knowing more about such a dynamic personality and it’s my privilege to interview Dr. B. S. Gotyal. Team Indian Entomologist congratulates him for his achivements.
Rajgopal: From NAAS Associateship to the Early Career Entomologist of RES, UK how are you feeling?
BSG: At the outset, I feel happy and extend my sincere thanks to the Indian entomologist magazine for interviewing me. Let me speak frankly that nobody wishes for the award before they actually put in their sincere hard work especially in science. During my journey of science in jute research for 12 years, I was inspired by Dr. G.T. Behere, CCRI, Nagpur when he first received the NAAS Associateship in plant protection and it made me seek his guidance for applying NAAS associate award. Though I failed during my first attempt in 2018 but again tried in 2019 without losing hope and finally I got selected. I feel immensely happy to be associated with NAAS, which boosted my confidence level.
The RES “Early Career Entomologist Award” is concerned, I should give due credit to Dr. Babasaheb Fand, CICR, Nagpur, and Dr. T. Venkatesan, NBAIR, Bengaluru as Dr. Babasaheb received this award in 2020 which inspired me to seek his guidance and also to prepare my document in a better way. Dr. Venkatesan is already a Fellow of RES he is kind enough to nominate my name for the award. I feel greatly honored to receive such an award from the prestigious “Royal Entomological Society, London”.
Rajgopal: Tell us something about your childhood. Where and how you were brought up?
BSG: I hail from a remote small village called ‘Anjutagi’ in Bijapur District of Karnataka; the majority of the families are from an agricultural background with minimal education. I did my early days schooling in the regional language, Kannada from a government school. I was fond of reading and writing during my childhood and all the teachers throughout my education supported and inspired me to progress. When I was 15 years old, my father passed away as he was the only bread and butter earner for the family. Thereafter it was really a tough time to continue my studies. My mother is illiterate and she was doing casual agriculture labour work to take care of family with her daily wages. Her earning was not sufficient to run the family with her four sons.
My elder brother had completed his M.A., B.Ed. but still, he was in search of his job, and by realizing the financial situation of the family he started working in the private sector to support the family. Later he was appointed as a government school teacher and then he took care of his mother and all three brothers. Then my second elder brother also secured a village accountant job and both of them shouldered the responsibility of my higher education and see that I should not look back. Now my younger brother is also working as Police in Karnataka.
Rajgopal: Growing up, did you always dream to be an Entomologist?
BSG: During the early days of my life, I never dreamt to be an entomologist. My real interest started in entomology during my graduation period at UAS, Dharwad. I was so passionate to remember the scientific names of insects. The quality of teaching was highly impressive that helped me in achieving maximum grade in all entomology courses at UAS, Dharwad, and my real interest deepened in the subject.
Rajgopal: As entomologists everyone like to work on economically vibrant crops where entomologist will get recognised, how do you felt when you got posting as jute entomologist?
BSG: As you know ARS is an All India Service and everyone has to follow the council order of posting. When I had completed the foundation course (85th FOCARS) at NAARM, Hyderabad in 2009 and I got my posting at ICAR-CRIJAF, Barrackpore. After seeing my posting, frankly speaking, I was completely disappointed and I had never seen the jute crop before and I was also not having any idea about the crop and scope of entomology research in jute crop. Still, I joined the ICAR-CRIJAF institute just because of compulsion as there was no other option left for me. After joining the institute, I was not able to focus on research and was simply thinking to get my transfer and I tried many times also but every time I failed. Here, I must give my due credit to my wife (Pooja) for changing my mindset from transfer mood to research mood and it helped me to get settled and I started understanding the jute crop and decided to do something in this crop though there are certain difficulties. I was also showed that there is a lot of opportunities and challenges than difficulties to do the excellent pioneering work in the jute crop.
Rajgopal: You worked quite a long period in jute on aspects like Host Plant Resistance, Bio-ecology and pest management, and Genetic improvement of jute genotypes against biotic stress. So which one may be the breakthrough research that caught the attention of the Royal Society and why?
BSG: Yes, I worked for 12 years in jute crop. Before I frame my research work plan I took the advice from my HoD, Dr. S. Satpathy sir who is a very good entomologist, based on the previous work done in jute entomology, he suggested to me that there is a need and scope for Host Plant Resistance (HPR) research in jute crop. Then we framed our project plan and I started working on his advice and suggestions. I must thank my Director, Dr. Gouranga Kar for his constant encouragement and support for my research activities. During the course of work, I found an excellent wild jute species, Corchorus aestuans which is quite resistant/immune to jute hairy caterpillar, Spilosoma obliqua. Then I started to know more about it and discussed with plant breeders in our institute and they told me that this species is crossable with our cultivated jute varieties and I felt this is an added advantage for me to go further and did its biochemical assay to confirm biochemical basis of resistance. It is confirmed that because of its higher content of phenols and peroxidase it is showing resistance as compared with other cultivated and wild jute species. Then my colleague Dr. S. B. Choudhary asked me why not go for registration of this wild jute species at the NBPGR gene bank, this idea of registration I was not knowing, then he guided me for germplasm registration, and later we got it registered at NBPGR, New Delhi. Now the plant breeders are using this resistant source as insect-resistant donor parent for breeding jute varieties. I feel it is my breakthrough research along with other works that caught the attention of the Royal Entomological Society.
Rajgopal: In the era of plastics, how the jute industry will cope up? What are your suggestions and action plans for improving it and jute farmers sustainability?
BSG: No doubt, the jute is a very important crop as we all know the ill effects of plastics in the environment and because of this we are talking about the “Clean and Green Environment”. So I strongly believe that the best candidate to replace the plastic is jute made bags and other jute fabrics as these jute based products are biodegradable, cheap and they can be reused. I am also optimistic that the jute industry will still get more importance in coming days because recently the Government of India has made a policy i.e. compulsory packaging food grains in jute bags. Hence, there is more scope for higher production of jute fibre and its gaining importance in the market which will certainly help in increasing our jute farmer’s income and they will be more sustainable.
Rajgopal: What is so cool about ‘Entomology’ that you did not choose any other agricultural science for post-graduation? Which is your favourite branch of Entomology to work?
BSG: The more love and passion for entomology has started in my graduation and as I told earlier that all my teachers were very experienced and with good teaching skills which helped me to secure good grade in all the subjects. It automatically increased my interest towards entomology and I always love to read entomology books. The passion of reading entomology during my graduation helped me to secure first rank at ICAR-JRF examination to pursue my post-graduation at IARI. After completing my M.Sc program; I got admission for Ph.D at IARI under the guidance of Dr. Chitra Srivastava madam, a well-known storage entomologist.
Now after 12 years of research in Host Plant Resistance (HPR), I feel it is more favourite branch and wish to continue my future research in the same line.
Rajgopal: IE would like to know who has impacted you the most in your life as an inspiring personality both academic and personal.
BSG: Obviously it is my parents and my loving brothers who have really made an impact on my personal life because they took so much pain for providing all the basic needs for my studies. They always kept a high hope and trust in me that I should always do well in my studies; accordingly, I did my best and continue the same in the future.
If I have to tell about my academic impact, I always consider that, I am more lucky to get most experienced and very good entomology teachers at UAS Dharwad namely, Dr. J. S. Avaknavar, Dr. N.S. Sattagi, Dr. B.S. Nandihalli and Dr. D. N. Kambrekar. Among many of my teachers, if you ask few at IARI are Dr. B. Subrahmanyam sir, Dr. V. V. Ramamurthy sir, Dr. Chitra Srivastava madam and Dr. Subhash Chander sir. My special regards to Dr. B. Subrahmanyam sir because of his excellent teaching skill which is uncomparable and I really enjoyed his teaching in the course “Recent Advances in Entomology” during my Ph.D. program.
Rajgopal: After ‘Early Career Entomologist’ what’s next? How are you planning your research in future?
BSG: Still I have a long way to go and pursue my future research with more dedication and sincerity and this early career entomologist award from RES bestowed on me has shouldered more responsibility to do good research in my future career. It is really an inspiring one and I feel that, sincere and hard work will never go in vain and I keep doing the same in rest of my career.
Rajgopal: Any message for Indian entomologists and the ‘Indian Entomologist’?
BSG: I sincerely suggest all young entomologists to be more focussed on the particular area of work. Based upon interest on the particular branch of entomology, you try to find out innovative and need based technologies which will certainly help in increasing your confidence and in turn give you satisfaction.
Indian entomologist is a very good online magazine containing very interesting article on various entomology topics and I always love to read this magazine. It is praiseworthy to all editors and associate editors for bringing this magazine more regularly.
For further details please check: https://www.royensoc.co.uk/res-award-early-career-entomologist
Mr. Rajgopal, N. N. is a Scientist (Agril. Entomology) at Lac Production Division, Indian Institute of Natural Resins and Gums, Namkum, Ranchi, Jharkhand. He is also the Associate Editor of the Indian Entomologist.