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India's Agriculture Under Climate Change Cloud

By Outlook Planet Desk December 05, 2023

India faces a dual threat as rising temperatures are poised to reduce crop yields and push up short-term food price inflation to 11.51 percent

India's Agriculture Under Climate Change Cloud
The study exposes a 6 percent decline in summer monsoon rainfall since the 1950s, with the central region, where 60 percent of agriculture relies on rainfed crops, experiencing a more alarming 10 percent reduction. Shutterstock
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India's agricultural landscape is under severe threat, driven by the disruption of summer-monsoon cycles triggered by climate change, according to a recent analysis by Climate Trends. The report, titled 'Impacts of Climate Change on Agriculture in India,' paints a grim picture as rising temperatures and erratic rainfall patterns wreak havoc on the nation's vital farming sector.

The study exposes a 6 percent decline in summer monsoon rainfall since the 1950s, with the central region, where 60 percent of agriculture relies on rainfed crops, experiencing a more alarming 10 percent reduction. The consequences of weakened monsoons include intensified rainfall, floods, direct impacts on crop production, food price inflation, and export shocks.

The findings underline the critical need for India to urgently address and mitigate the repercussions of climate change on its agricultural sector.Climate-induced losses are tangible, with major rice-producing states witnessing a potential 14.4 percent increase in the average annual kharif rice harvest between 1985 and 1998 if measures were implemented to limit greenhouse gases and pollution.

Moreover, rising temperatures from 1981 to 2001 are estimated to have slashed wheat yields by 5.2 percent in key states. Greenhouse gases and pollution are implicated in significant 36 percent and 20 percent reductions in wheat and rice yields, respectively, from 1980 to 2010 in crucial states.

The Himalayan region, grappling with doubled ice loss since 2000, has seen apple cultivation shift to higher elevations to cope with rising temperatures. Agriculture, inherently vulnerable to even slight weather variations, faces exacerbations from extreme weather events heightened by global warming. The consequences are not only economic; they also pose severe social challenges.

Anticipated temperature increases threaten the productivity of staple rainfed and irrigated cash crops such as jowar, bajra, pulses, sugarcane, onion, and maize. Adding to the complexity, the interplay of rising temperatures and El Nino weather patterns may usher in warm winters, significantly impacting the quality and yield of wheat production.

Farmers nationwide are sounding the alarm, attributing poor crop yields to changing weather patterns.

In Kullu, apple growers blame altered snowfall, temperatures, and rainfall, while Uttarakhand faces erratic weather, declining yields, and migration due to climate change. Farmers in the Kangchenjunga Biosphere Reserve grapple with increasing temperatures, unpredictable rain, stronger winds, shifting crop flowering times, and a surge in pests and diseases.

Extreme weather events are wreaking havoc on Haryana, with anticipated crop shortfalls, while unprecedented floods have dealt a severe blow to Punjab. East India faces the spectre of below-normal or unevenly distributed rainfall impacting rice yields. The challenge extends to irrigation concerns as some regions grapple with unexpected monsoon breaks, necessitating adaptive measures that will also impact groundwater usage and recharge.

As climate change tightens its grip on India's agriculture, urgent action is imperative to safeguard the nation's food security and the livelihoods of millions dependent on farming. The clock is ticking, and the consequences of inaction could be dire.

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