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Karnal farmers get climate-smart

Farmers in the villages of Karnal, Haryana, are experimenting with maize cultivation along with wheat. Photo: Meena Menon  

Basmati farmers in Karnal district in Haryana are going back to what their forefathers did before the Green Revolution — growing maize. While it is the new varieties and not the old hardy ones, maize offers an option in view of the plummeting groundwater levels and climate vagaries in the area.

In Birnarayana village in Nilokheri block, Inderjit Singh has been planting maize for the last three years but has reduced the area from six to one acre. “There is no market for maize and the price is low. The minimum support price is around Rs.1,350,” he says. His father grew maize and cotton many years ago but maize is looked down upon.

“In the olden days, we considered it bad to marry into families which grew maize,” he laughs. He plants an acre of maize as an experiment. The price for basmati and wheat is much higher, but he admits that maize is a “tension-free” crop with fewer pests. Maize has a low price compared to rice and wheat but could prove an option in the long run.

This village is one of the 27 climate-smart villages in Karnal, part of a project by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security that aims to improve farmers’ income and resilience to climate risks.

Researchers, local partners, farmers and policy-makers collaborate to select interventions to enhance productivity, increase income, achieve climate resilience and enable climate mitigation.

Similar Bihar venture

While in Karnal the programme involves large landholders, in Bihar a similar venture has roped in subsistence farmers in 26 villages in Vaishali and Muzaffarpur districts.

India is one of the 18 countries in the world which is using climate-smart technologies.

The area under maize has almost doubled in Haryana in the last few years with farmers growing it from February to June. The government of Haryana supported diversifying into maize and it has endorsed climate-smart villages in its agriculture policy.

In Taraori, a major basmati-growing area and one of the four pilot sites in South Asia on climate-smart villages, 900 acres are under climate-smart practices of the 2400 acres here. Manoj Kumar Munjal of the Society for Conservation of Natural Resources and Empowerment of Rural Youth, says groundwater levels are falling by a metre a year in these parts. Maize could have more uses in the future and the demand could increase.

Farmers get the latest weather information on their mobile phones and they are encouraged to adopt practices like laser land levelling or using computer systems to make sure land is even so that it can be watered optimally, says Dr. M.L. Jat, agronomist at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre.

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Printable version | Jun 10, 2021 1:59:59 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/karnal-farmers-get-climatesmart/article6377570.ece

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