Small and marginal farmers would be the worst sufferers of climate change, Union Minister for Agriculture and Food Sharad Pawar said here on Wednesday.

“In the wake of water scarcity, erratic rainfall and changing temperature regimes, in addition to prevalent diseases and threat of new race of wheat stem rust Ug99, small and marginal farmers will be challenged. With the cost of cultivation already high, even a slight reduction in productivity will adversely impact their income in real terms,” he said at the 81st annual general meeting of the Indian Council of Agriculture Society (ICAR).

To address the impact of climate change on agriculture, a National Institute of Abiotic Stress Management was established. Two other institutions, the National Institute on Biotic Stress Management and the Indian Institute of Agricultural Biotechnology, were on the anvil.

The Minister described the year as “challenging” due to drought in the kharif season. He said the government had taken steps to augment production and productivity of rabi crops to at least partially offset the losses in kharif. The acreage under wheat, winter/ boro rice, pulses, maize, sorghum and bajra was increased to yield additional production. Improved soil moisture, due to late monsoon rains, had brightened the prospects of rabi production in the entire country.

Lauds ICAR efforts

Lauding the ICAR’s efforts in developing cost-effective amelioration technologies for water-logged, salt-affected and acid soils, he mentioned the drought-tolerant horsegram mutant released for the north zone in the tribal-dominated Eastern Ghats of Orissa. Gene sources for resistance to the Ug99 rust with new genes were also located.

The ICAR had devised a pond-based farming technology for water-logged areas. It could enhance net water productivity and net returns in rice.

With livestock as the best possible insurance against the vagaries of nature such as drought, famine and other natural calamities, the standardisation of hand-guided cloning technique in cattle for the first time in the world and the birth of buffalo calf ‘Garima,’ produced through this technique, was an encouraging development.

Mr. Pawar said the ICAR was undertaking a major capacity building exercise to deal with the challenges in the sector. As a result, it had filed over 50 patents applications from 13 of its institutes during the year. Two applications had entered the national phase in the U.S., France and Japan.

Minister of State for Agriculture, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution K.V. Thomas emphasised the need for providing nutritious food to the growing young population of the country.

ICAR chief Mangala Rai gave details of achievements made by it during the year, particularly the development of the drought-tolerant Sahbhagi dhan and the flood-tolerant Swarna Sub 1 variety of rice.

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