At the recently concluded InterDrought-V conference, participants deliberated on the use of modern technologies to help smallholder farmers combat drought. “Harnessing modern tools is critical to help farmers overcome the devastating effects of drought,” said Mr Krishna Byre Gowda, Minister of Agriculture, Government of Karnataka. He stressed that, with agriculture in India being dependent on the ‘wager of monsoons’, he was heartened by the community of scientists collaborating on one of the most important issues affecting farmers.
In Karnataka, India, 160 of 176 blocks in the state are currently drought affected. Mr. Gowda looked forward to technologies and solutions to be developed by scientists to tackle the problems faced by farmers due to greater variability.
Every year, drought-related disasters affect vast regions that impact food production. InterDrought conferences serve as a platform for presenting and debating key issues and strategies relevant for improving tolerance to drought and other stresses in crops.
In his inaugural address, Dr Rob Bertram, Chief Scientist, Bureau of Food Security, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), said, “A combined approach including crop improvement, agronomic practices and irrigation needs to be used for mitigating drought stress in developing countries.”
“By using a holistic approach, organizations like ICRISAT need to work together and contribute to this important international food production constraint to feed the world. Prime Minister Modi has laid before us the challenge to double the income of farmers. It will be essential to enhance crop production and link farmers to markets,”
said Dr David Bergvinson, Director General, ICRISAT.
“Given the severity of drought, a central challenge for researchers and policy makers is to devise technologies that lend greater resilience to agricultural production under this stress. Therefore, participants from 56 countries have assembled here to address this important issue,” said Dr Rajeev Varshney, Conference Organization Chair and Research Program Director, ICRISAT.
“Farmers need to be placed at the centre of research and development activities related to drought so that they can have more produce and better incomes,” said Mr S Pattanayak, Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India.
“Drought research needs to be handled from different angles. We need breeding, physiology, biotechnology and agronomy to make crops resilient,” said Dr JS Sandhu, Deputy Director General (Crop Science), Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).
Dr Francois Tardieu, Research Director, INRA-Montpellier, and Chair, InterDrought-V, highlighted that this conference is in continuation of earlier InterDrought Conferences held in France (ID-I, 1995), Italy (ID-II, 2005), China (ID-III, 2009) and Australia (ID-IV, 2013), and invited all participants to the next conference in 2021.
He further added that from one year to the next, weather variability was identified as the critical risk to farming. This needs urgent solutions, and the conference served as an important call to action.
A Climate Smart Agriculture workshop, held during the conference co-chaired by Dr David Bergvinson and
Dr RS Paroda, former Director General, ICAR, has come up with a declaration on Climate Smart Agriculture. This will be circulated widely to funders and policy makers.
InterDrought-V conference was held in Hyderabad, India from 21-25 February, 2017. The conference had 23 invited presentations and 26 contributory presentations across eight sessions. In addition, 55 presentations were delivered in eight workshops. Young scientists from developing countries interacted with eminent scientists and policy makers during the event.