Agriculture sector is facing a global challenges in 2015

Agriculture has to produce more raw materials to satisfy the increasing and diversifying demands of a growing world population, which is expected to grow by more than a third (around 2.3 billion people) between 2009 and 2050; these figures are often repeated, and for good reason – the challenge they present to global food production is enormous. Projections show that feeding a world population of 9.1 billion people in 2050 will require raising overall food production by some 70% between 2005 and 2050.

Our demands on agriculture don’t stop at production, the sector must also contribute to economic prosperity and the social well being of rural areas, and help preserve natural resources such as land, water and biodiversity – in the face of pressures from urban expansion, industrialization and a changing climate. There is also a pressing need to protect and restore the quality of existing farmland.

Highly productive and resource efficient agriculture mitigates the problems associated with all of these challenges, because it enables us to have more of everything – more crops, and more biodiversity and natural habitats.

Agriculture is a major contributor to land use change, which often implies the destruction of natural habitats – the single most important driver of biodiversity loss. By protecting crops from pests and disease, farmers can optimize yields on the existing agricultural land base, make efficient use of resources (inc. fuel, time, and capital) and prevent the loss of natural habitat that occurs when agricultural land expands to compensate for crop losses.

Without crop protection, losses for certain crops can exceed 80% of potential yield, and low input farming – as typified by organic agriculture – is estimated as averaging up to 34% lower yields than productive agriculture within the EU.

If we wish to maintain and improve yields and make efficient use of natural resources, the use of plant protection products must continue; there are currently no viable alternatives to pesticide use in either conventional or organic farming. Efficient production technologies are imperative to allow us to close yield gaps; however, society must use these technologies in an appropriate way to ensure that agriculture plays a central role in delivering sustainable solutions.

Pesticides are formulated to protect crops by discouraging, confusing, altering the behaviour, or killing target pests, diseases and pathogens. When we consider biodiversity protection, this raises questions about the impact on non-target species that may be unintentionally exposed to pesticides.

Modern pesticides are characterized by their high efficacy and targeted modes of action; the biologically active characteristics of pesticides that pose risk to non-target species are acknowledged and accommodated in European pesticide regulations. Pesticides are one of the most regulated product classes on the European market, and the real drivers of the large scale loss of biodiversity (including land use change) are not subject to regulation as rigorous as that applied to pesticides.

Science, research and development have given us sophisticated crop protection solutions. While their use is certainly not without risk, a sensible, risk-based approach to EU legislation ensures farmers have access to products that when used correctly have no unacceptable effects on their health or the environment. This same stringent legislation allows European consumers a high degree of confidence in the safety, availability and affordability of their food.

Our industry is committed to providing sustainable crop protection solutions; we believe that for agriculture to be sustainable, it must be efficient, productive and contribute to a resilient natural environment. We are acutely aware of society’s demand that crops be produced with minimal environmental impact – and we know that this can only be achieved if farmers have access to appropriate tools and knowledge of best management practices.

As society embraces the challenge of sustainable agriculture, there is growing consensus on the need to combine high agricultural productivity with well-considered environmental protection; however, Europe’s full potential will only be realised with ambitious science-based policy and political support for innovation. The combined challenges of agricultural production and biodiversity protection require that we exploit proven technologies whilst continuing to invest in the research and development of solutions for tomorrow.

Strong public support for biodiversity protection, a knowledgeable and passionate community of famers, and the engaged expertise of industry can be combined to make the rural environmental more biodiversity friendly and more productive.

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Modi wants to take tech from ‘lab to farmland’

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday urged scientists to take technology to farms for raising crop productivity at a time when the government is being attacked for surging prices of some essential commodities.

Pitching for greater use of research for boosting the agriculture sector, Modi gave the slogan “lab to land”, saying that farmers should be able to enhance production to increase their income and feed the country as well as the world.

“We have to prove two points. One is our farmers are capable of feeding the whole country and world, and second, agriculture is capable of filling the pockets of our farmers,” said Modi while addressing the 86th foundation day of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research.

He called upon all agriculture universities and colleges in the country – the heads of many of which participated in the function – to immediately prepare a data bank of progressive farmers in their adjoining areas and also digitize their research papers and thesis.

“We should target to digitize and compile all the research being done and already completed in agriculture universities,” Modi said.

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Climate change alters land map of India

The adverse effects of climate change are being felt on more than a fourth of India’s landmass over the last four decades. While some parts of the country have turned arid, others have witnessed more rainfall.

A study by the Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA) at Hyderabad has revealed that about 27% of the country’s geographical area has been directly impacted by climate change, a result of increase in mean surface temperatures coupled with changes in rainfall pattern between 1971 and 2005.

 The study said the changes in weather have implications on agriculture, water availability, drought preparedness, and could be a possible trigger for climate-change driven disease.

Scientists working on climate-resilient agriculture said the impact of climate change on crops in states is a reality. “Demarcation of climate zones helps in adaptation methods such as identifying new technologies and carrying out research to bring out new seed varieties. But, the analysis must be studied further and should take a longer time period into account,” said a senior agriculture scientist, requesting anonymity, as he is not authorised to talk to the media.

An 11-member team from CRIDA used temperature and rainfall data from 144 weather stations and 6,000 rain gauge stations to compute the moisture index (MI), which is a fundamental variable on the basis of which climate was classified across India.

Their analysis found substantial increase in arid areas in Gujarat and a decrease of arid regions in Haryana. While Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh have witnessed a shift from medium rainfall (dry sub-humid) to semi-arid, states of Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra have changed from being high rainfall (moist sub-humid) to dry sub-humid.

Areas that have seen maximum decrease in rainfall are Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh, where 28 districts have changed from high rainfall (moist sub-humid) to medium rainfall (dry sub-humid). Meanwhile, Ladakh district in Jammu and Kashmir, which was earlier classified as a dry and cold region, is now an area with medium rainfall.

“While we cannot say that India is moving towards aridity, extremities are certainly increasing. Therefore, it was pertinent to revisit climatic classifications that will aid better planning and help in allocating funds to various government mega projects,” said B Venkateswarlu, director, CRIDA.

The changes in the climate zones listed in the present study as compared to the previous one are stark. The maximum shift from high rainfall (moist sub-humid) to medium rainfall (dry sub-humid), comprising 7.23% of the geographical area, was observed in Orissa (12 districts), Chhattisgarh (7 districts), Jharkhand (4 districts) and Madhya Pradesh (5 districts).

The earlier humid districts of Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh are now moist sub-humid. It’s become per humid (continuous rain and therefore the wettest) in Mizoram and Tripura from being just humid. While Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra has seen a marginal reduction in its semi-arid zone, about half of the districts with high rainfall in eastern India (other than West Bengal, which has shifted to being humid) received medium rainfall.

The study states that some regions, which now receive more rainfall, may no longer need that much irrigation, while regions that are showing declining rainfall, like Orissa and Chhattisgarh, may need more irrigation.

Stating that climate classification must be revisited every 30 years, Venkateswarlu said: “Many districts such as dry regions of Punjab and Haryana that once needed large funds are well irrigated and may not need that kind of allocation anymore. On the other hand, areas such as Orissa and Jharkhand are turning arid and hence may now be eligible for funds for water-shed programmes.”

The first climatic classification for Indian districts was given in 1988 based on temperature and monsoon data in the 1960s. “Back then, there were fewer weather observatories, rain gauges and even districts as compared to today. The last 30-40 years have seen changes in temperature and rainfall, as well as irrigation across the country,” added Venkateswarlu.

According to climate studies, the rate of warming in India has increased after 1970s, with mean annual surface air temperature of 0.21 degrees Celsius every decade as against 0.51 degrees Celsius every 100 years during the past century.

Scientists attribute global warming to an increase in carbon emissions from man-made factors such as vehicular emissions and biomass burning. A rise in temperature affects evapotranspiration, thereby increasing aridity. Evapotranspiration means the loss of water from the soil, both naturally and through vegetation.

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Budget 2013: Agriculture gets 22% more fund, Rs 1,000 cr for East India

Finance Minister P Chidambaram today in his Budget speech of 2013-14 gave a 22 percent hike at Rs 27,049 crore in budgetary allocation to the agriculture sector in the country. Out of the outlay, got Rs 3,415 crore has been earmarked for agriculture research.

“I propose to allocate Rs 27,049 crore to the Ministry of Agriculture, an increase of 22 percent over the revised estimates of the current year. Of this, agricultural research will be provided Rs 3,415 crore,” Chidambaram said in his Budget speech.

“The average annual growth rate of agriculture and allied sector during the 11th Plan was 3.6 percent as against 2.5 percent and 2.4 percent, respectively, in the 9th and 10th Plans. In 2012-13, total foodgrain production will be over 250 million tonnes…. Agricultural exports from April to December, 2012 have crossed Rs 138,403 crore,” the minister said.

The agricultural credit was enhanced to Rs 700,000 crore.

Focusing on the ongoing Green Revolution in eastern India, Chidambaram said the Centre would continue to support the programme.

“Bringing the green revolution to eastern India has been a remarkable success. Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal have increased their contribution to rice production. I propose to continue to support the eastern Indian states with an allocation of Rs 1,000 crore in 2013-14,” the minister said.

He also said that the original Green Revolution states are facing problems due to over-exploitation of water resources.

Linking high investment in agriculture to food security, the finance minister also increased budgetary allocations for Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana and National Food Security Mission.

“The Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana is intended to mobilise higher investment in agriculture and the National Food Security Mission is intended to bridge yield gaps. I propose to provide Rs 9,954 crore and Rs 2,250 crore, respectively, for these two programmes,” Chidambaram said.

Given the drought situation prevailing in certain parts of the country, the finance minister also laid importance on watershed management.

“Small and marginal farmers are vulnerable everywhere, and especially so in drought prone and ecologically-stressed regions. Watershed management is crucial to improve productivity of land and water use. I propose to increase the allocation for the integrated watershed programme from Rs 3,050 crore in 2012-13 to Rs 5,387 crore,” he said.

Budgetary allocations were also made to a pilot programme on Nutri-Farms for introducing new crop varieties.

“I propose to provide a sum of upto Rs 200 crore to start the pilots. Ministry of Agriculture will formulate a scheme and I hope that agri businesses and farmers will come together to start a sufficient number of pilots in the districts most affected by malnutrition,” the minister said.

Coconut cultivation in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Kerala also got a boost from the Budget.

“A pilot scheme to replant and rejuvenate coconut gardens that was implemented in some districts of Kerala and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands will be extended to the entire state of Kerala, and I propose to provide an additional sum of Rs 75 crore in 2013-14,” Chidambaram said.

Seeking to monetise the livestock as a avenue of revenue and employment, the Budget also had provisions to attract investments to this agriculture sub-sector.

“The National Livestock Mission will be launched in 2013-14 to attract investment and to enhance productivity taking into account local agro-climatic conditions. I propose to provide Rs 307 crore for the Mission. There will be a sub-Mission for increasing the availability of feed and fodder,” the minister said.

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G20 Nations Turn to Agricultural Research for Food Security

The G20 group of major economies has for the first time put international agricultural research on its agenda, in an effort to take a long-term view on the fight for food security.

The group’s first meeting on the topic has endorsed the key role of agricultural research not only in preventing global food crises, but also in making an effective contribution to economic growth.

The meeting, which took place in Montpellier, France last week, was hosted by the French presidency of the G20–the group of finance ministers and central bank governors from 20 major economies. It involved representatives of international development organisations including the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN and the World Bank.

“It is the first time the G20 has actively put international agricultural research on its agenda,” said Mark Holderness, executive secretary of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR), and one of the conference rapporteurs. “That is a big step in itself–the G20 countries have recognised that [agricultural research has] a wider economic relevance.”

According to the meeting’s draft summary document, research systems in the G20 countries that help increase agricultural productivity can contribute decisively to the improvement of food security in the developing world through improved coherence and coordination, stronger and equal partnerships and better knowledge sharing.

The G20 countries have been described as a powerhouse of both agricultural innovation and production, with around 70 percent of scientific publications on agriculture, and around 60 percent of agricultural exports,” said a paper for the conference prepared by Brazil, Canada, France and Japan, together with international organisations including the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), the World Bank and the FAO.

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