Introduction


Wheat is the second most important staple food after rice consumed by 65% of the population in India and is likely to increase further due to changes in food habits. Wheat is mostly consumed in the form of chapati in our country for which bread wheat is cultivated in nearly 95 per cent of the cropped area. Durum wheat, which is most suitable for making macaroni, noodles, semolina and pasta products, occupies about 4 to 5% of the area, and is predominantly grown in Central and Peninsular parts of India. The organized wheat research in India is almost a century old. It was primarily initiated at the then Imperial gricultural Research Institute (IARI) Pusa, Bihar. During the sixties, the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi served as flagship of the Indian wheat programme. The All India Coordinated Wheat Improvement Project, initiated in 1965, was subsequently upgraded in 1978 of the status of the Project Directorate and later on was hifted to its present location at Karnal in 1990. Through coordinated research efforts more than 316 wheat varieties suited to different agro-ecological conditions and growing situations have been released so far. The packages of technology, services and public policies introduced since the beginning of the first Five Year Plan in 1950, the country has transformed itself from a "begging bowl" image to one which now occupies the second position in terms of wheat production and area in the world. The wheat production increased from a mere 12.5 million tons in 1964 to around 73 million tons in recent years. India has the capacity to become world leader in the production of wheat. The country has already overtaken the USA and attained the 76.4 million tons mark in 1999-2000. It is now realized that sustaining, the wheat productivity is essential to provide food security to the population of India, which by the year 2020 A.D. will be about 1.25 billion. The projected demand for wheat by the year 2020 A.D. will be 109 million tons and to achieve this, new technological advances are to be made. In the area of crop improvement emphasis would be to develop new genotypes that are responsive to high input management and capable of yielding beyond 7.0 t/ha. The wheat growing area in the country is classified into six major zones. Based on the state wise acreage, currently, wheat is being grown on an area of over 27 million hectares. About 72% of the area falls in two mega zones comprising of NWPZ and NEPZ followed by 17% in CZ while NHZ, PZ and SHZ constitutes about 11% area. Out of the total wheat area, 82-85% falls under irrigated conditions while the rest is under rainfed agriculture. In the current wheat production level of 73 million tons, NWPZ alone produces about 56% followed by NEPZ (less than half of NWPZ) and Central zone. To arrive at potential production levels, current area and production levels, and persisting yield gaps were studied zone wise and region wise. Analysis of component wise yield gap helps in devising strategy to achieve the potential output level. It is important that these gaps are filled, assuming that there is little scope for area expansion due to constraints of land availability for agriculture owing to other requirements of the economy and crop competition with the agriculture. It is estimated that wheat production can be increased beyond 95 million tons if these gaps are bridged. North eastern plains zone and central zone are capable of contributing significantly in future although north western plains continue to dominate in wheat production likely to increase further due to changes in food habits. Wheat is mostly consumed in the form of chapati in our country for which bread wheat is cultivated in nearly 95 per cent of the cropped area. Durum wheat, which is most suitable for making macaroni, noodles, semolina and pasta products, occupies about 4 to 5% of the area, and is predominantly grown in Central and Peninsular parts of India.