Preparing for climate change: Prof M S Swaminathan
Chennai, May 02, 2017: The latest report on rising sea level suggests that oceans could rise almost 3 meters by 2100. The new figure includes rapid loss of mass from the Antarctic ice sheet. The mean temperature may also rise by about 3°C. Although these climatic changes will have very adverse consequences to Indian agriculture as well as the health and wealth of the people, the current US Administration believes that India is not taking the necessary steps to contribute towards climate change mitigation. While this is not correct, as we are a member of the Paris agreement, it is important we take anticipatory action to ensure that our food, health, water and work security systems are not jeopardised.
By way of illustration, I shall give a few examples of the action we should take. First in the case of wheat which will suffer through high night temperature, we should develop and popularize varieties which are short duration and are characterised by more yield per day. Alternate climate smart crops such as millets can also be promoted. In the case of potato, production will suffer since disease free seed which is now produced during the aphid free season will no longer be available. We may have to cultivate potato from true sexual seed. In the case of rice, we should select farming systems which can avoid the adverse impact of high temperature. Similarly, in the case of coastal areas, we should promote the sea water farming and below sea level farming techniques developed by MSSRF. Sea water will then become a blessing. Sufficient genetic material should be assembled in the form of genetic gardens of halophytes. These are few examples of the kind of anticipatory action we should take. There is no time to relax. While we can hope for the best, we should also prepare for the worst scenario in the climate change area.
M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) established in 1988 is a not-for-profit trust. MSSRF was envisioned and founded by Professor M S Swaminathan, agriculture scientist with proceeds from the First World Food Prize that he received in 1987.