Climate change becomes a challenge for crop production in the North East

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Dimapur, March 24: North East India faces many challenges owing to the effects of climate change, according to AK Singh, Managing Director for the National Horticulture Board, Ministry of Agriculture.

The challenges also include pressures to feed a growing demand from both the domestic and international market, without affecting the environment.

In a statement to the media, Singh stated that the North East has an “important role to play in unlocking the sector’s huge potential.” “Growers produce enormous variety of horticultural crops, the majority of which have to be harvested, processed (albeit small quantity) and delivered in time to meet the exacting standards of processors, retailers and consumers,” he added.

Horticultural science in the region, he added, needs to respond to many of these challenges through research and innovation that can seek to gain more efficient methods of crop production, refined post-harvest storage and handling methods, higher value varieties, demonstration of health and related benefits and phasing out of obsolete ways of knowledge dissemination.

Climate change, Singh informed has resulted in northward shifts in climatic zones and the consequent changes in crop growing belts would become a reality in future. As a result, he stated that plant species with a narrow genetic base and those adapted to grow in specialized environments would be the most affected. Mutually beneficial interactions between plants and pollinators are at risk. He cited recent reports on ‘honeybee colony collapse disorder,’ which reveal that climate change could adversely affect pollinator services in many entomophillous fruits.

Rising air temperature can also induce more frequent occurrence of extreme drought, flooding or heat waves than in the past, news agency The Morung Express reported.

This will be compounded, he said, with reduced water availability, alterations in composition of gaseous constituents and physiological abnormalities in plants. Monsoon weakening, Singh added, have already been observed across Asia and Africa, with the availability of rain water set to become scarcer and irregular.

Water stress, along with the changes in Carbon Dioxide and Ozone levels will also affect fruit crops production around the globe.

Alteration in crop cycle, as observed in mango, several vegetable & floriculture and grape has already caused economic concerns, he stated.

He called for “alliance of knowledge and investments” in the region, along with the rest of the country, with identification and filling of the knowledge gap that impedes decision making/ adoption of climate smart horticulture. Intensifying research in climate smart horticulture, drawing on indigenous knowledge and expertise where possible may help achieve sustainability.

He also called for training young scientists in climate change research, demonstration of proven and resilient technologies on farmers’ orchard and awareness training for stakeholders, which will constitute the key for future horticulture.

Singh further urged for multidisciplinary research, involving horticulture, plant physiology, plant breeding, plant pathology and entomology. “The most effective way to address climate change is to adopt a sustainable development pathway, besides using renewable energy, forest and water conservation, reforestation etc.”

Awareness and educational programmes for the growers, combined with modification of present horticultural practices and greater use of naturally ventilated green house technology, he observed, would be the way ahead.

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