Research identifying crops resilient to climate change

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Research identifying crops resilient to climate change

Pune Mirror

Mar 26, 2019, 06:00 IST

The study is picking up in tribal pockets that have sustaine

In pursuit of food security, the Urali Kanchan-based, charitable organisation, BAIF Development Research Foundation has begun identifying cultivars (plant varieties cultivated with selective breeding)
that will be resilient to climate change, withstanding adverse weather conditions and erratic rains.

The exercise is drawing hugely on native intelligence. “The research focuses on identifying a number of traditional crop cultivars, particularly from the tribal belts of Maharashtra,” informed Sanjay
Patil, thematic programme executive at the foundation.

To date, 645 varieties of such crops have been found with peculiar characteristics that can adapt to different scenarios. “The process of documenting and identifying more such varieties is still on,” he explained.

Among those already listed, there is the ‘kadu wal’and ‘god wal’, which are cultivars of a hyacinth bean crop that can grow on residual moisture in the soil, containing the requirement of water. “Such cultivars ensure yield during droughts experienced by the state,” Patil said.

Similarly there is ‘mani jowar’ — a sorghum cultivar — grown in Akkalkuwa and Dhadgaon talukas of Nandurbar district that sustain proper growth even in the face of uneven rain distribution. ‘Kukad makkai’, a maize cultivar offers the option of early harvesting within 90-95 days, Patil added. There is also rice cultivars such as ‘javavchi gundi’ that can withstand heavy to medium rainfall and yet offer good yield.

‘Karanda’ (discorea bulbifera) and ‘kanger’ (discorea esculanta) along with other tubers and root crops grown in the tribal belts of Konkan and Vidarbha are also hardy varieties that are good source of nutirition. He also listed finger millet cultivars like ‘dhaval peri’, ‘dasar bendri’, ‘mutki’ and little millet cultivars like ‘ghosi’, ‘dudhmogra’, as being resilient to stress conditions, making them conducive being grown on slopes and even at high altitudes such as the hilly terrain of Satpura, Patil highlighted. Then again, there is the barnyard millet which can be stored long, given its husk being resistant to pests.

Patil reiterated that there are a number of crops that need to be identified and conserved. “Traditional wisdom associated with these cultivars need to be properly documented and scientifically validated for scaling up their production in the region. Such strong and diverse traits, coupled with unique characteristics of these cultivars, can provide panacea to the crisis created by climate change,” he noted.

Dilip Zende, joint director of the agriculture department (Pune division), said that researchers and scientists have been given the mandate to identify such crop varieties. “Climate change causing huge crop loss demands knowing species that can withstand tough weather conditions,” he underscored. He cited the example of wheat production, where a single degree change in Celsius can impact the yield in a big way. “Promoting alternate varieties of crops which stand strong would help to ensure production of surplus grains remains unaffected,” he told Mirror. He stressed on the need for scientific study to recognise the crops’ ability to weather tough climatic conditions, soil and other parameters. He added that scientific study to know the bearing capacity in tough weather conditions and the soil along with other parameters needs to be known. “The germplasm created from these varieties can be ingrained through hybridization technique, while enhancing the resilience of existing crops,” Zende added.

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