Harnessing modern tools is critical to help farmers overcome the devastating effects of drought and it is promising to note that the community of scientists was collaborating on one of the most important issues affecting farmers — with agriculture in India being dependent on the ‘wager of monsoons,’ Krishna Byre Gowda, Karnataka Agriculture Minister said at the InterDrought-V conference, organised by ICRISAT in Hyderabad.
He said that 160 of 176 blocks in Karnataka were currently declared as drought-affected. He looked forward to technologies and solutions to be developed by scientists to tackle the problems faced by farmers due to greater variability.
“Given the severity of drought, a central challenge for researchers and policy makers is to devise technologies that lend greater resilience to agricultural production under this stress. Therefore 942 participants from 315 organizations from 56 countries assembled here to address this important issue,” said Rajeev Varshney, the Conference Organization Chair and Research Program Director, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).
In the inaugural address, Rob Bertram, Chief Scientist, Bureau of Food Security, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) said, “A combined approach including crop improvement, agronomic practices and irrigation needs to be used for mitigating drought stress in developing countries.”
“By using a holistic approach, organizations like ICRISAT need to work together and contribute to this important international food production constraint to feed the world. Prime Minister Modi has laid before us the challenge to double the income of farmers. It will be essential to enhance crop production and link farmers to markets,” said Dr David Bergvinson, Director General, ICRISAT.
“Farmers need to be placed at the centre of research and developing activities related to drought so that they can have more produce and better incomes,” said S Pattanayak, Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India.
“Drought research needs to be handled from different angles. We need breeding, physiology, biotechnology, agronomy to make the crops resilient,” said Dr JS Sandhu, Deputy Director General-Crops Sciences, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).
Francois Tardieu, Research Director, INRA-Montpellier and Chair, InterDrought V said that from one year to the next, weather variability was identified as the critical risk to farming. This needs urgent solutions, and the conference served as an important call to action, he added.
A Climate Smart Agriculture workshop, held during the conference co-chaired by David Bergvinson and RS Paroda, former Director General ICAR has come up with a declaration on Climate Smart Agriculture. This will be circulated widely to donors and policy makers.