Adaptation to climate change critical for food security

Written by Sandip Das | Updated: Mar 28 2011, 06:53am hrs
For the first time in the recent years, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee devoted considerable amount of time on the importance of agriculture sector for the Indian economy in his recent Budget (2011-12) speech. He announced a number of scheme for augmenting production of foodgrain specially pulses and oilseeds. Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) is expected to play a key role in providing technological support in government's quest for augmenting foodgrain during decades. S Ayyappan, director general, ICAR spoke to FE's Sandip Das on challenges and opportunities in boosting production.

On the vagaries of climate change and need for a sustaining growth in food production

We need to response to the vagaries of weather or climate change by developing ranges of tolerant seeds which can deal with salinity, drought, erratic rainfall and other adverse impact of climate change. Adaptation to climate change is also critical for sustaining food security of the country.

With vagaries of climate change adversely impacting agricultural activities across the country, a unique exercise to prepare a contingency plan at the district level is currently being under taken for preparing district administration for dealing any eventualities.

Initiated by agriculture ministry through ICAR and state agricultural universities, a district plan for 100 districts of the total,600 odd districts have been prepared and are currently being validated by state governments and agricultural scientists. We are documenting the experiences of farmers at the grassroots level for dealing with natural disaster. Currently, Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA) as the nodal body is doing data collection and would introduce the district specific agriculture strategy. During the 12th Plan we are expecting a massive boost to the programme with larger allocations.

Is the soil health a cause of concern because of excessive use of fertiliser

With depletion of soil because of excessive use of fertiliser we are facing new challenges. We need to focus on optimal use of fertiliser for retaining vital character of the soil. At present, we are using excessive nitrogen while other key components of soils are being less used. Besides technologies such as zero tillage, System of Rice Intensification (SRI) are new methods we need adopt to conserve soil health.

Do you think market linkage is key to augmenting farm income

Besides the soil health and adaptation to the climate change, we need to focus also another critical component integration of farming with the market. Instead of mono crop, the need to integrate fisheries and horticulture with agriculture. Our motto is to ensure 'seed to market'

As part of effort to increase food grains productions in eastern India, we have formulated strategies as eastern zone with comfortable water tables has huge opportunities. There is scope for increasing yield in eastern India as yield in Punjab and Haryana is around 5-6 tonne per hectare while eastern states have yield in the range of around 3 tonne per hectare while country's average is around 4.5 tonne per hectare.

For eastern India we are aiming at increasing seed replacement ratio amongst farmers and increase in use in fertiliser use. Proper marketing linkage is another critical area in the states such as Orissa, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Assam and Jharkhand.

Any comment on recent budget

On the budget, a sound beginning has been made although the financial allocation to agriculture sector is meagre. We have a long way to go before agriculture sector gets its due share.