Climate Change: Its impact on agriculture

Climate Change: Its impact on agriculture
Photo by Raphael Rychetsky / Unsplash

By Bhupesh Upadhyay

This abstract is based on the research paper entitled, Impact of Climate Change on Agriculture and Its Mitigation Strategies: A Review” by Gurdeep Singh Malhi, Manpreet Kaur and Prashant Kaushik.

Climate plays a vital role in agricultural activities. Weather parameters like temperature, precipitation, humidity, wind speed, and solar radiation affect crop production. Significant variability in rainfall causes flash floods and affect farming. At the same time, an increase in temperature may lead to high water requirements by crops and if there is less rainfall, it may cause drought.

The concentration of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O) has increased by 150%, 40% and 20%, respectively, since 1750. Temperatures in the northern and southern hemispheres have risen by 1.31°C and 0.91°​C, respectively, since 1850, with a global average of 1.11°C. Global warming will pose a serious threat to world food security. However, if it is limited to 1.5°C, 76% developing countries’ vulnerability will be reduced compared to the same regions at 2 °C. Climate change is known to be negatively affecting agricultural production. The global production of maize and wheat is projected to reduce by 3.8% and 5.5%, respectively. The changing patterns of climatic variables pose challenges in not only increasing crop production level but even maintaining the current yield levels. The effects of climate change on crop production varies according to the area and irrigation application. Wheat, rice and maize production is expected to decline as temperate and tropical regions experience a 2°C warming. Climate change has greater effects in tropical regions as tropical crops stay closer to their high-optimum temperature and therefore experience high-temperature stress at elevated temperatures.

In India, the temperature is predicted to rise between 2.33°C and 4.78°C, along with a doubling of CO2 levels and prolonged heat waves that could negatively affect the agricultural sector. In sub-Saharan Africa, average crop yields are expected to decline between 6% and 24% due to climate change. Climate change has the potential to increase pest populations and their migration, which can negatively affect agricultural yields and even viability, as the pest population is primarily dependent on abiotic factors such as humidity and temperature.

Farmers’ perception of climate change’s threat and severity have the most important motivational factor in voluntary mitigation. However, the adaptation depends on the availability of related information. Small and marginal farmers are more susceptible to losses because they are not able to cope with climate change due to less awareness. Minimum soil disturbance, crop rotation, and soil cover are the underlying principles of conservation agriculture that pave the way for sustainable agriculture practices. In south Asia, farmers are adopting zero tillage for growing wheat primarily because of a 15–16% reduction in cultivation cost. Also, zero tillage leads to higher yields with lesser variability in wheat and maize. Drip irrigation is one of the irrigation techniques promoted to reduce groundwater overflow and tremors caused by climate change. It has the potential to be resilient to climate change and reduces the demand of groundwater for irrigation. Climate-smart agriculture technology was studied in Punjab, Pakistan, and higher productivity of cotton with higher returns and higher resource-use efficiency was observed. Laser land leveling (LLL), weather-advisory services, and crop insurance are the most preferred CSA technologies of the eastern Indo-Gangetic plains (IGP), while farmers in western IGP prefer direct seeding, LLL, zero tillage, crop insurance, and irrigation scheduling.