Noted agricultural scientist M.S. Swaminathan said here on Tuesday that a revolution in small farm management was essential to revitalize the agriculture sector in India.

Addressing an Open Forum at the venue of the 97th Indian Science Congress here on Tuesday, he said corporate farming would be disastrous for the country. Farming is the largest private sector enterprise in India. Any bid to take away land from the farmer would be counter productive. However, a symbiotic relationship between farmers and industry that results in a win- win situation for both is good.

Mr.Swaminathan said group farming initiatives, with farmers sharing machinery and other resources, would be good for a country like India.

Farming, he emphasized, should be socially sustainable.

Anticipatory research

He stressed the need for anticipatory research to help vulnerable communities cope with the impact of climate change and improve the yield and quality of farm produce including crops, milk and meat. “The threat posed by rising sea level would require the mapping of vulnerable areas in the Maldives, Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar islands”.

Terming climate change as a mega calamity, he said the heavily- populated coastal areas in Kerala would feel the impact of the phenomenon. “Climate refugees would be forced to migrate from coastal to inland areas and food and security would be affected. The effect will also be felt on the farming of rice and plantation crops which contribute to the economy of the state”.

The situation, he explained, called for intensification of research into climate-resilient crops. He proposed the establishment of an international research centre for below sea level farming in Kuttanad.

He also underlined the need to marry frontier science with traditional agricultural practices.

Mr.Swaminathan identified four major challenges to science and technology in the 21st century, namely climate change, nutritional deficiency, concerns over the safety of biotechnology and biodiversity loss.

He proposed the establishment of R&D centres in each of the 127 agro climatic zones in the country for management of crops. “Food self sufficiency in home-grown food is a must for a country of our size”, he said. The future belongs to nations with grains, not guns, he said.

Self employment

Highlighting the need to attract youth to the farm sector, he suggested providing opportunities for students to seek self employment in agricultural services like pest control and manufacture of value-added products.

Citing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s inaugural speech at the Indian Science Congress, he said the outcome of the UN Conference on Climate Change at Copenhagen was not satisfactory. He however hoped the December 2010 conference to be held at Mexico would lead to legally binding commitments on emission control.

He reiterated the need to have a regulatory mechanism for genetically modified crops. The regulations should enjoy the confidence of the people, he said.

Expressing concern over the continuing loss of biodiversity due to habitat destruction and deforestation in the country, he called for community involvement in conservation programmes. “Biodiversity is the feedstock for modern biotechnology”, he observed.

Mr.Swaminathan said supply of micro and macro nutrients, clean drinking water, primary health care and sanitation were important for nutritional security.