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Agri varsity plans to tackle climate change

Jorhat, Feb. 28: The Assam Agricultural University (AAU) has drawn up research plans to tackle impact of climate change in agriculture and allied production amid tell-tale signs that 11 of the past 15 years have been the warmest in the world.

AAU vice-chancellor K.M. Bujarbaruah today highlighted the experiments and research undertaken by scientists of the university to mitigate the impact of climate change in agricultural production, livestock and fisheries while delivering the National Science Day lecture on Negating the Impact of Climate Change in Agriculture, at the Northeast Institute of Science and Technology here.

Painting a grim scenario, he said the Maplecroft climate change vulnerability index had stated that among all the countries, India was second just behind Bangladesh in vulnerability. This was because of the diversity in climate with the Himalayan region at one end and a coastal belt of about 5,700m at the other. “This is a daunting challenge for agriculture,” he said.

Bujarbaruah said the National Initiative on Climate Resilient Agriculture (NICRA), a network project of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) launched in February, 2011, had undertaken a project at Nalbari, Dhemaji and Biswanath in Assam, in collaboration with the AAU, to enhance crop resilience through research and technology demonstration.

“At the university we have begun bio-prospecting to find out heat tolerance in rice plants. Out of the 5,000-odd species, we are scanning 3,500 rice germplasm,” he said.

Delineating the multi-pronged strategy in which climate change could be tackled, he said the research was linked to natural resource management where soil nutrients and soil health were being studied in a scientific manner along with water conservation, scientific application of fertilisers, smart farming for small farmers, roof top cultivation, gene identification in animals for heat and cold temperature tolerance, among others.

Bujarbaruah said so far in plants they had been working on the stem. “Now we are concentrating on the root system by trying to elongate it so that they can access water deep down,” he said.

Water has already become scarce, going down from 2,100 cubic metres to 1,400 cubic metres in land area and in rice production from 85 per cent to 65 per cent.

“In this scenario, water management and scaling has become imperative,” the vice-chancellor said.

Regarding making the soil more fertile, Bujarbaruah said as the soil here is highly acidic, it is not good for all crops. He said they are working on microbes which thrive in such soil to isolate a gene which makes them counter such acidity and then find out whether they can be introgressed (the transfer of genetic information from one species to another) into plants.

The vice-chancellor hinted that one such gene had been identified.

NEIST scientist R.C. Boruah, who chaired the meet, said National Science Day was held by the institute each year to enthuse scientists to think out-of-the-box and come up with innovative ideas.


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