Talking on 'Agricultural Extension-the Way Forward' at the 'International Conference on Natural Rubber Extension and Development' here, Dr Swaminathan said climate change factors like increase in temperature, changes in precipitation and floods arising from melting of snow and retreat of glaciers were adversely affecting the agriculture sector. He said grassroot climate managers were needed at the panchayat level to make people aware of the ill effects of climate change.
''One woman and one male member of every panchayat should be trained to cope with the strategies relating to climate change and this would help in creating an awareness among the farmers on the environmental changes and its consequences,'' Dr Swaminathan added.
The climate change was also leaching out soil nutrients, reducing fresh water availability, adversely impacting coastal agriculture due to seawater intrusion and leading to outbreak of pests and diseases, he noted.
Stressing the importance of genetic studies in agriculture, Dr Swaminathan said the current research in molecular genetics was directed towards sampling effect of mapped molecular markers, relationships between agro-morphological variation and molecular diversity and strategies for building a core collection.
He said the income of the farmers would be increased though co-operative farming and service co-operatives, group farming by SHGs, small holders' estates, contract farming, farmers' companies and State farms.
Reiterating the great potential India had for natural rubber, Dr Swaminathan said ''the country could produce natural rubber at a globally competitive rate and quality, provided its production was adequately supported by R &D and extension.'' He said the demand for rubber was ever increasing through natural rubber (NR) and synthetic rubber (SR), but NR was technically acceptable and environment-friendly.
Praising the Rubber Board for the good work done to protect the interests of rubber farmers, Mr Swaminathan said the Board should be a perfect platform for the farmers, policymakers and buyers to come together.