Stating that rice is going to be the future crop and the “food security savior”, renowned agriculture scientist M S Swaminathan on Monday said there is no time for scientists to relax but develop varieties that can better adapt to climate change and boost rice yields. No doubt introduction of the first “semi-dwarf rice variety IR8” by International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) way back in 1967-68 and subsequent other varieties triggered Green Revolution in India, but much more need to be done as the country’s rice yields are very low at 3.5 tonnes/hectare despite being the second biggest rice producer, he said.
“It is not wheat but rice is going to be the crop of future in terms of climate change. Wheat cannot, as night temperatures are important. If temperature goes up by two degrees, wheat production will fall by 6 million tonnes,” Swaminathan said at an event organised by IRRI to commemorate 50 years of the introduction of rice variety IR8.
Since “rice is going to be the food security savior”, he urged IRRI and Indian scientists to develop new rice varieties that can cope with challenges of climate change. Swaminathan, who is known as Father of India’s Green Revolution, however, cautioned scientists to develop such farm technologies which are economically sound.
“Indian farmers are ready to adopt technologies provided they are economically sound,” he said. Noting that many are doing good research in rice and for example hybrid rice is making impact in China, Swaminathan said, “But still there is no time to relax. ...the only option is to raise yields to meet the future needs.”
Emphasising the need to protect traditional rice varieties, Minister of State for Agriculture Sudarshan Bhagat said Indian farmer prefer to grow traditional varieties and they need to be saved while promoting new ones.
Since 50 per cent of India’s rice area is in north east which is prone to floods and drought, more research need to be done on rice varieties suitable for this region, he said. Bhagat also said that the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) should play a key role in achieving the government’s target of doubling farm income by 2022.
Stressing on the need to increase rice yields, ICAR Director General and Secretary Department of Agricultural Research and Education Trilochan Mohapatra said, “We are still struggling to get 8 tonnes per hectare mark.”
“I am told there are lines with potential to cross 10 tonnes per hectare mark. Use experience of IRRI and take advantage for India’s interest and come out with such varieties to boost yields and achieve the Prime Minister’s aim of doubling farm income,” he said.
This month marks the 50 year of the world’s first high- yielding rice variety ‘IR8’ that sparked the Green Revolution in Asia and saved the region from famine in 1960s and 70s. India grows rice in 44 million hectare land and output is estimated at 104.32 million tonnes in 2015-16 crop year.
On challenges of raising rice yields in India, IRRI Representative for South Asia Nafees Meah said, “There
is huge difference between west and eastern region of India as far as yields are concerned. Rice yields in Punjab average at 6 tonne per hectare. There is more scope to work in eastern parts.”