Water saver: Millet scores over rice

By Times Of India on 22 Mar 2018 | read
PANAJI: Cultivation of climate smart crops with shorter durations can enable sustainable water amidst climate-change induced droughts and interstate disputes from imprudent use of this precious natural resource.
Presenting a paper on water resource management at a two-day national conference on ‘changing environment: challenges, solutions and strategies’ organised by Dhempe College of Arts and Science, Miramar, M G Chandrakanth, director, Institute of Social and Economic Change (ISEC), Bangalore said that a major portion (more than 80%) of water is utilised for crop irrigation in India.

India as one of the large rice producers uses massive volumes of water for irrigation. But with water from one acre of rice, at least four acres of millets can be cultivated, he said.

Chandrakanth, who compiled the paper jointly with Kiran Kumar R Patil, assistant professor, University of Agricultural and Horticultural Sciences (UAHS), Shimoga said that millets being climate smart crops, can be harvested within 70 to 90 days, as compared to 105 days for all other food grains.

Millets, a low water crop, are fetching a better price for its dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals and protein compared with rice and wheat, and urban population prone to diabetes and health problems are increasingly consuming it. Considering that the drinking water needs, which are much less than agriculture, are the citizens fundamental right, Chandrakanth called for promotion of such crops and removal of market imperfections to boost farmers profits.

Irrigation water cost has been treated as virtually free, he said. “Farmers need to be educated on choice of right crops, pumping right volume of water through sound water budgeting, not maximizing output per acre, but maximizing net returns per rupee of the water cost,” he said. The conference featured four plenary sessions, 25 oral presentations and 12 poster presentations as speakers from academic and research bodies such as NEERI, CSIR-NIO, NCAOR, National Institute of Hydrology and Goa University, spoke.

Shalini Dhyani, scientist, National Environment Engineering Research Institute, Nagpur, spoke on the need to integrate government initiatives to curb harmful effects of climate change with people’s cooperation.