Kerala should think of changing its cropping patterns and systems to combat the effects of climate change, Kadambote Siddique, Director, Institute of Agriculture, University of Western Australia, has said.

On a visit to Kerala Agricultural University, his alma mater, Dr. Siddique told The Hindu that crop simulation models indicated that the area under rice and wheat was likely to decline globally in the coming decades and food grain production was under threat from rise in temperature and rainfall uncertainties associated with global warming.

“Agriculture had been seriously affected by the heat wave of 2003 in the European Union, drought of 2004 in southern African countries, drought in Australia and other wheat growing countries in 2006, and droughts in 2002 and 2009 in India,’’ he said.

Fast-changing climate

He observed that climate in Kerala was fast changing with rainfall during southwest monsoon declining and a rise in temperature being projected in relation to global warming. ‘‘It is predicted that a third of Kerala's biodiversity would vanish or would be close to extinction by 2030. A decline in wetlands is causing floods, droughts, and groundwater depletion. Sand-mining should be checked. There is also an urgent need for an action plan for afforestation and protection of natural forests,’’ he said. He called for new agronomic practices and development of new varieties and breeds. “Despite several biotic and abiotic constraints, agricultural production in Australia increased on account of improved agronomic practices, new varieties, and diversification of farming systems. India too can do it,” he said.

He said that proper assessment and management of ecosystems was imperative. “Land use pattern should be re-assessed and revised to the extent possible to conserve our water bodies, paddy fields, and biological hotspots. We have to use existing bio physical models to predict ideal combinations of nature and development,” Dr. Siddique said.

Technology’s role

He said that modern technology could be used to combat the effects of climate change. “Use of modern systems such as Geographic Information System (GIS) and Global Positioning System (GPS) to assess environmental damage is as important as diagnosing diseases. We blissfully ignore environmental analyses as we are callous about the impact of environmental damage. We do not assess the climate sufficiently early. Making climate prediction at the regional level is important for making farming profitable,” he said.

An alumnus of KAU, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi, and the University of Western Australia, Dr. Siddique has worked for more than two-and-a-half decades in the fields of crop physiology, production agronomy, germplasm enhancement, breeding, and industry development of pulse and cereal crops. He has contributed to the expansion of the pulse industries in Australia. He has developed and commercially released chickpea, lentil and lathyrus varieties that have superior yield and are disease-resistant.

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