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Experts voice apprehension over food security : 100 yrs of paddy research and beyond

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COIMBATORE, JAN. 9:
Government officials and ICAR experts today urged rice scientists to wake up to reality and ensure food security for all in the coming years.

In a nutshell, the officials, while stating that the foodgrain production scenario looked comfortable at present, voiced apprehension about the future in view of the erratic weather patterns on the one hand and the need for meeting the demands from the rising population on the other.

Mr V. Venkatachalam, Special Secretary, Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India, said that while there has been a four-fold increase in rice production from 1950 onwards, the challenge would be in increasing productivity in the coming years in the face of changing climate and scarce water resources.

He was speaking at the Centenary Celebration of the Paddy Breeding Station and Inauguration of ‘International Symposium on 100 years of Rice Science and Looking Beyond’, at the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University here.

“By 2050, foodgrain production would have to double to ensure food security to meet the growing population needs, which is expected to increase by almost 50 per cent. This increase in food grain production would not be possible if we do not make any breakthrough in research, make use of bio-technology, genomics, genetic engineering techniques and so on.”

“We have to strive to increase rice productivity and this cannot happen from increase in area under rice, but through crop intensity,’ he continued and highlighted the Government of India schemes such as the National Food Security Mission and Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana.

He urged the scientists to evolve multi-stress tolerant varieties, such that it resists all types of natural calamities and climate change.

The Agricultural Production Commissioner and Secretary to Government of Tamil Nadu, Mr Sandeep Saxena, said the State’s mandate was in doubling foodgrain production and trebling the income of farmers, albeit with the support of the farm varsity.

“To make this possible, we will have to follow the scientific techniques in cultivation to bridge the yield gap. The State would address this issue by bridging the gap first at the village level, before moving to the block and district level and so on, so, Tamil Nadu is in the forefront in productivity of almost all crops within the next five years.”

Thus stating, he cautioned the scientists of the huge challenge that they would have to face in view of changes in climate. “The number of rainy days in a year are shrinking but intensity of the rain is on the rise; normal weather pattern is changing,’ he said adding ‘the cyclone Thane destroyed almost 2.2 lakh hectares of food crop in the State. We were sailing very well towards achieving a food grain target of 150 lakh tonnes till the three districts of Cuddalore, Nagapattinam and Vizhupuram were hit badly by the cyclone, which devastated all crops.”

“These are furies of nature which may become more frequent in the times to come; the scientists will have to develop suitable varieties with properties to withstanding storm, wind and the challenges of water,” Mr Saxena said.

Dr Swapan K. Datta, Deputy Director-General (Crop Sciences), Indian Council of Agricultural Research, said “even as we march towards achieving rice production target of 100 million tonnes this year, we should remember that a right policy would be driving force for tomorrow’s research and productivity.’

He said how with scientific intervention, policy decisions and management initiatives, the country’s rice productivity levels had risen from 800 kg/hectare to3.7 ton/hectare, while emphasising the need to remain more focused on basic science and rice research.

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