JORHAT, Aug 26 - Matthew Morrell, the Director-General of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Manila, Philippines, has voiced concern over the decline in agriculture workforce, increasing human population and climate change across the globe.
Addressing a group of scientists at Assam Agricultural University here, Morrell yesterday said the challenges to meet the world food requirement in 2040 were manifold and mammoth.
He said there would be a requirement of 25 per cent increase in production from the present scenario while there was the possibility of 50 per cent reduction in the number of people engaged in the agriculture sector by 2040.
Morrell is in Assam on a week-long visit to implement the World Bank-funded Assam Agribusiness and Rural Transformation Project.
IRRI provides technical guidance on improving rice production systems and management practices by promoting climate resilient technologies, encouraging their adoption on-field, and facilitating market linkages.
The internationally-acclaimed scientist also said that in keeping with changing times, there has also been a change in the research pattern of the leading rice research institutes of the world.
Innovation, catalysation and to cause a change in the lives of farmers were three areas on which IRRI research was now focused on, Morrel said.
On innovation, Morrell said discovering genes to help combat climate stress, new methods of growing rice, growing nutrition-fortified rice varieties were some of the innovations that the IRRI was working on.
The IRRI D-G mentioned the Golden rice, a transgenic variety, and fortified with vitamin A, produced by the IRRI which would be released in Bangladesh, the US, Australia after the regulatory process was over. �We cannot rest as so many children are suffering from malnutrition,� he said.
Morrell stressed that research should be so aimed that the benefits significantly impact farmers by making a clear difference to their lives. �If a farmer invests, he should know that there is a potential of good returns which will enable him to educate his children and fulfil his dreams and life�s ambition,� he said.
Morrell pointed out how farmers could be advantaged if they worked together in farming and forming enterprises.
Speaking on the occasion, AAU Vice-Chancellor Dr KM Bujarbaruah said that out of the net sown area of 20.11 million hectares in Assam, rice was sown on 24.5 lakh hectares and the amount of rice produced was 5.2 million tonnes which could be increased to 12 million tonnes.
�If rice production is increased from the 6 million tonnes to 10 million tonnes, then Assam could contribute to the national food basket or to the nearby states,� said Bujarbaruah.
Bujarbaruah also spoke about the ongoing research at AAU�s three rice research stations � North Lakhimpur, Karimganj and Titabar. He said that till now, AAU has produced 55 rice varieties and 60 per cent rice cultivated in Assam were of these varieties.