Hyderabad: Telangana’s agriculture sector is ill-equipped to deal with climate change, said experts at a climate change conference in Hyderabad on Friday.
They were speaking in a panel discussion on rain-fed agriculture at the Centre for Social and Economic Studies (CESS) in the city.
The experts noted that changes in rainfall patterns were imminent. With a majority of Telangana’s farmlands being rain-fed (63 per cent), the state’s agriculture sector will be deeply affected if corrective measures are not taken, they said.
What seems to be aggravating the problem is the fact many of the crops that the state’s farmers cultivate are not suitable to its lands. Nearly 54 per cent of the cultivated area in Telangana is classified as ‘dry land’, yet water-intensive crops are grown here extensively.
B Venkateswarlu, former vice-chancellor of the Vasant Naik Marathwada Krishi Vidyapeeth, said, “No one would think that rice would be a major crop in Telangana. But rice and cotton (both water intensive crops) make up 60 per cent of the cultivated area. Crops such as maize and chillies are grown in considerable amounts but crops such as pulses and cereals, which were earlier predominant crops here, have been marginalised.”
Mr Venkateswarlu said new crops, mostly commercial ones, were replacing traditional crops. From data collected between 2007 and 2015, it was found that several crops recorded a massive fall in cropped area. Sunflower dropped by 86 per cent, ground nut by 69.7 per cent, sesame by 82.8 per cent. During the same period, the area under paddy grew by 28.3 per cent and cotton by 128 per cent, while maize rem-ained largely the same.
“The crops that are replacing traditional crops need more water, and their survival depends on it. Earlier millets could survive major gaps between rainfalls or shortages. These crops cannot,” he said. He admitted that the cropping pattern was mainly dictated by market forces and it was indeed a challenge to dissuade farmers from growing a crop unsuitable to their land.
The solutions to these problems are many. Mr Venkateshwarlu suggested that the state could go for more micro-irrigation, something that Maharas-htra has done well. He also wanted more coordination between researchers and farmers. “Issues that are on the minds of both expe-rts and farmers need to be addressed first,” he said.
Another solution that was discussed was the study of climate change adaptation benefits for various welfare schemes that target farmers. Such a study would keep policymakers headed in the right direction, said the experts.
S. Naresh Kumar, principal scientist at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, said reaching the masses was indeed a challenge....