Monday, February 7, 2011

India's crops affected by erratic climate

India's crops affected by erratic climate

Published: Feb. 1, 2011 at 4:16 PM

NEW DELHI, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- A number of India's key crops are experiencing the effects of climate change, experts say. H Pathak, an investigator with the Indian Agricultural Research Institute's Climate Change Challenge Program, said global warming isn't limited to a rise in average temperatures.

"It's a little more complicated than that. There is for example also a rise in carbon dioxide and a change in rainfall patterns, which could affect India very severely because much of our agriculture is still rain-fed," Pathak told The Times of India.

India would be the hardest hit by climate change in terms of food production, said a study, ''The Food Gap -- The Impacts of Climate Change on Food Production: A 2020 Perspective'' released last month by the Universal Ecological Fund. The report predicts that crop yield in India would decrease by as much as 30 percent by the end of the decade.

While some regions of India are getting too much rain, other regions aren't getting enough, affecting crops ranging from coffee and tea to grapes and rice.

In the south, erratic rain patterns are causing the coffee crop to fruit twice and sometimes three times, resulting in inferior beans. The Coffee Board of India has instituted an insurance program to help coffee growers in Karnataka deal with the declining yields.
In the Kuttanad region of Kerala in the southwest, considered the state's Rice Bowl, heavy rains delayed the normal sowing season, which begins in October, until December, which triggered an onslaught of pests.

Changing weather patterns are also affecting the cultivation cycles of the western state of Maharashtra's 444,790 acres of grapes.

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Anumakonda Jagadeesh comments:

Yes.India’s crops are affected by change in climate.

Here is World Bank Report on India:

Big impact of climate change on India's farm yields

May 20, 2009: The report, one of the first of its kind in South Asia, finds that climate change will have a serious impact on India where about 1/3 of the land is already drought or flood prone. Looking at two drought prone regions in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, and one flood prone region in Orissa, the report finds that climate change can have the following serious impacts:
  • In Andhra Pradesh, dryland farmers may see their incomes plunge by 20%.
  • In Maharashtra, sugarcane yields may fall dramatically by 25-30%.
  • In Orissa, flooding will rise dramatically leading to a drop in rice yields by as much as 12% in some districts.
Other climate hotspots in India – such as the fragile Himalayas, the biodiverse Western Ghats, the vast coastal areas, and the prolific agricultural lands of the Gangetic plains will need to be looked at in subsequent studies.


Dry regions - Andhra Pradesh

In the arid regions of Andhra Pradesh, the yields of all the major crops – rice, groundnut, and jowar – are expected to decline, although groundnut is expected to fare better than others. Under a modest to harsh climate change scenario - a substantial rise in temperatures (2.3 C – 3.4 C) and a modest but erratic increase in rainfall (4% to 8%) - small farmer incomes could decline by as much as 20%. Agriculture as it is practiced today will no longer be able to sustain large populations on small rain-fed farms.

Dry regions - Maharashtra

The drought-prone belt in Maharashtra offers a striking contrast. Climate projections indicate a significant though variable increase in rainfall (20% to 30%) along with higher temperatures (2.4 C to 3.8 C). As a result, yields of several dryland crops will rise, including millets such as jowar and bajra, boosting the incomes of small rain-fed farmers by about 8-10%. Yields of sugarcane, however, which is generously subsidized and widely grown on irrigated farms in arid regions, are expected to decline considerably - by nearly 30 %. Encouraging a shift from sugarcane to less water-intensive crops will shield farmers from the impacts of climate change and help conserve fast-depleting groundwater.

Flood prone regions - Orissa

Over the past fifty years, India’s flood affected areas have more than doubled, from about 5% to about 12%, despite generous and rising government spending on flood protection programs. In Orissa, climate projections suggest that there will be a further dramatic rise in flooding, especially in the already flood-prone coastal regions.


Action is needed now to avoid higher costs in future. Given India’s immense geographic diversity, exact policies and interventions will need to be tailored to local conditions. Fortunately, many of India’s initiatives are moving in the right direction. The actions and policies proposed below will also promote development here and now:

Drought-prone areas

Better water management

Regulating the unrestrained competition for groundwater and aggressive pursuit of water conservation will be needed.

Promoting climate-resilient agricultural practices and cropping patterns

While much research is being conducted for rice, horticulture, and other crops, farmers will need greater support with knowledge and policy assistance to make the transition to sustainable dryland farming on a large scale. They could also diversify into agro-forestry which is more resilient, as well as livestock production.

Using smart subsidies to encourage a shift to more environmentally suited crops

Current subsidies and incentives implicitly encourage farmers to cultivate water-intensive crops - such as sugarcane - in dry regions. Smart subsidies can encourage a shift to dryland crops that are more suited to local conditions and less environmentally degrading.

Diversifying incomes

Drought leads to farmer indebtedness. Coupling debt relief with micro-credit to start new businesses, or insurance to cover initial business risks, can encourage a change of occupation, limiting exposure to climate related risks. Imparting education and skills, building roads and developing markets are critical to building climate resilience in the long term.

Flood prone areas

Making agriculture flood-resilient and adapting livelihoods

Continued research into more rainfall tolerant and shorter duration crops could increase flood resilience. Numerous pilots are helping to promote flood-based livelihoods in Orissa: aquaculture holds considerable potential if the supply chain and marketing are improved.

Promoting land use planning and zoning

Given rapid population growth and the increasing scarcity of land, more careful land use planning and flood zoning is a must. This needs to be undertaken together with water management, and requires better coordination between the various departments of government.

Strengthening systems to detect and forecast floods

Effectiveness can be enhanced if flood management systems combine data collection, telemetry, flood forecasting, and flood warning into one flood management and information system for a river basin. Greater knowledge about changing water flows and rainfall patterns will help in the design and location of vital irrigation as well as flood protection infrastructure.

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