Effects of Climate Change on Agriculture in India

A step by step guide for Effects of climate change on agriculture

The effect of climate change on agriculture will differ across the world. Determining how climate change will affect agriculture is complex; varieties of effects are probable to occur. Climate change will impact temperature changes as well as changes in rainfall patterns and the increase in CO2 levels probable to have important effects on global agriculture, particularly in the tropical regions. It is expected that crop productivity will change due to these changes in climate and due to weather events and changes in patterns of pests and diseases. The suitable land areas for cultivation of key staple crops can undergo geographic shifts in response to climate change.

Several ways of climate change on agriculture:

Agriculture and climate change are interrelated processes, both of which take place on a global scale. There are several ways of climate change effects in agriculture, they are including;

  • Changes in temperatures, rainfall, and climate extremes for example heatwaves;
  • Changes in pests and diseases;
  • Changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide and ground-level ozone concentrations;
  • Changes in the nutritional quality of some foods; and
  • Changes in sea level.

Climate changes in crop yield:

Warming temperatures, particularly higher spring temperatures, mean that crops can be planted earlier.

Crop yield may be influenced by the increased amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. Crop species differ in their response to CO2 levels:

  • Some examples of C3 plants such as wheat, canola, and soybeans, as well as many pasture kinds of grass and forage species (i.e. alfalfa, clover, fescue, Kentucky bluegrass), grow better when CO2 levels are higher.
  • Some examples of C4 plants such as corn, millet, and big bluestem are less responsive to higher CO2 levels.

However, C4 plants have a benefit with higher temperatures, metabolizing CO2 improved when temperatures are over 32°C. Field trials in Illinois have found there could be negligible growth effects on plant species at higher atmospheric CO2 levels. 

Climate changes in water resources:

Although overall growing period precipitation on the Prairies is probable to decrease, precipitation is anticipated to occur in intense events. Crops depend on the quantity and timing of precipitation, meaning that water stress through a critical growth phase may be detrimental to yield goals. Warmer temperatures and longer dry spells between rain events will likely raise drought severity and frequency. Water-stressed areas will expand to contain drier areas of the province where seasonal lack of water is already a concern.

Lack of water will place increased demands on obtainable water resources, affecting water quality and quantity on a seasonal basis. Mild winters and limited snowfall could decrease water availability. Water stress may affect water basin and lake levels, increasing the required for alternative irrigation sources when necessary. Water storage systems can become important for farmers.

Climate changes in insects, disease, and weeds:

The effects of climate change on insects and pathogens are somewhat uncertain; some changes can be favorable, while others may be negative:

  • Beneficial changes can include the introduction of new predatory insects and faster crop residue decomposition.
  • Negative changes might contain increased pests capable of surviving the milder Manitoba winters, improved insect and disease susceptibility or ineffective herbicides and pesticides on new pests.
  • Most evidence, however, indicates an overall increase in the number of outbreaks of a wider variety of insects and pathogens.

Climate changes in soil quality:

Effects of Climate Change in the Soil.
Effects of Climate Change in the Soil.

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Warmer air and soil temperatures increase soil microbial action that speeds up the natural breakdown of organic matter. Organic matter is a very important component of soil that is a natural plant fertilizer. The climate varies might impact the fertility of Manitoba soils by breaking down organic matter faster than the crops can use the available nutrients. However, a longer growing season with more vegetative mass-produced could offset the increased breakdown of organic matter.

The drought conditions and extreme weather events predicted are expected to raise the risk of soil erosion. Greater precipitation through rainfall events and an increased likelihood of flooding and heavy winds during the growing season will be some risks for soil erosion. It can be necessary to take steps to ensure adequate ground cover at key periods throughout the growing season. Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development (MAFRD) currently recommends that 60 percent of the soil surface be covered with crop residue to prevent erosion.

Impacts of climate change:

Impacts of Climate Change.
Impacts of Climate Change.

Hydrologic: The hydrologic cycle now contains more frequent and intense droughts and floods in many agricultural regions. These all events can damage and at times even destroy crops.

Heat: Over the next 30 to 50 years, average temperatures will likely increase by at least 1.0 °C. Anticipated regionally-dependent changes contain an increased number of heatwaves and warm nights, a decreasing amount of frost days, and a longer growing season in temperate zones.

CO2: Over the next 30 to 50 years, CO2 concentrations will increase to about 450 parts per million by volume. The CO2 response is expected to be higher on C3 species that are wheat, rice, and soybeans, which account for more than 95% of world’s species than on C4 species that are corn and sorghum. C3 weeds have responded well to elevated CO2 levels, symbolizing the potential for improved weed pressure and reduced crop yields.

Crop Biodiversity: The distribution of wild crop relatives, an increasingly main genetic resource for the breeding of crops, will be severely affected.

Economic Consequences: Price will rise for the main important agricultural crops are rice, wheat, maize, and soybeans. This, in turn, leads to higher feed and meat prices. As an effect, climate change will reduce the development of meat consumption slightly and cause an extra substantial fall in cereals consumption, leading to better food insecurity.

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Agricultural impacts and tradeoffs:

  • The net result of climate change on world agriculture is likely to be negative. While some regions and crops will benefit, most will not.
  • While increases in atmospheric CO2 are projected to stimulate growth and develop water use efficiency in some crop species, climate impacts, mainly heat waves, droughts, and flooding, will likely dampen yield potential.
  • Indirect climate impacts containing increased competition from weeds, growth of pathogens and insect pest ranges and seasons, and extra alterations in crop agroecosystems.
  • Agriculture production will be affected by increasing temperatures, changing rainfall patterns, and additional frequent and intense extreme weather events.

These will have direct effects on crop growth and they are required for water, as well as soil fertility, water supply for irrigation, and prevalence of pests and diseases. In terms of livestock, climate change will affect the quality and amount of feed supply and water.

Possible positive effects and possible negative effects of climate change:

Climate change is affecting agriculture, with effects unevenly distributed across the world. Future climate change will likely negatively affect crop production in low latitude countries, though effects in northern latitudes may be positive or negative. Climate change will possibly increase the risk of food insecurity for some vulnerable groups, such as the poor. Animal agriculture is responsible for CO2 greenhouse gas production and a percentage of the world’s methane, and future land infertility, and the displacement of local species.

Possible negative effects climate change:

The possible negative effects climate change can influence agricultural production adversely due to resulting:

  • Geographical shifts and yield changes in the agricultural sector,
  • Reduction in the quantity of water obtainable for irrigation and
  • Loss of land during the sea-level rise and associated insects and pests remains incomplete; and salinization.

The yields of different crops and geographic limits can be altered by changes in soil moisture, temperature, precipitation, cloud cover, as well as increases in CO2 concentrations. The lowest rainfall and high temperature can reduce soil moisture in many areas, particularly in some tropical and mid-continental regions, reducing the obtainable water for irrigation and impairing crop growth in non-irrigated areas of the many regions.

The changes in soil properties such as the loss of soil organic matter, leaching of soil nutrients, salinization and erosion are a likely consequence of climate change for soils in some climatic zones.

The risk of losses due to weeds, insects, and diseases is probable to increase. The range of several insects will vary and new combinations of diseases and pests can appear as natural ecosystems respond to shifts in temperature and precipitation profiles. The effect of climate on pests and diseases can add to the effect of other factors such as the overuse of pesticides and the loss of biodiversity, which already contribute to plant pest and disease outbreaks.

In addition to changes in the frequency of extreme climatic events, changes in rainfall and temperature could be damaging and costly to agriculture.

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Positive effects of climate change on agriculture:

The possible positive effects of climate change can influence agricultural production. Some of the possible positive effects:

Some changes in soil moisture, increases in temperature and shifts in patterns of plant diseases and pests can lead to decreases in agriculture productivity. However, CO2 fertilization can lead to some increases in agricultural productivity.

Atmospheric CO2 levels are expected to have a positive effect on plants, increasing their growth rate and cutting transpiration rates. Crop plants may be able to use water more efficiently under higher CO2 levels.

Classifications of plants are C3, C4 or CAM, depending on the photosynthetic pathways they employ.

C3 plants such as potato, rice, soybean, wheat, and vegetables, with most trees, are likely to benefit from extra CO2. The results of many experiments have confirmed that elevated CO2 concentrations normally have a beneficial effect on most crops. Factors known to change the response include the availability of plant nutrients, the crop species, temperature, precipitation, and other environmental factors.

C4 plants are mainly tropical origin and contain grasses and agriculturally important crops such as maize, millet, sorghum, and sugarcane. C4 plants are expected to advantage less from increasing of CO2. CAM plants are a variant of some C4 plants and these plants are not likely to be affected.

The increasing temperature may bring beneficial effects in some areas of the world. An important result of an increase in temperature, particularly where agricultural production is currently limited due to low average temperatures, would be the extension of the growing season obtainable for plants and the reduction of the growing period required by these agricultural crops for maturation.

This would benefit not high altitude farming, where increases in yields and the variety of crops in agriculture grown can be achieved, but high latitude regions, where the poleward shift of the thermal limits of agriculture would raise the productive potential. However, soils and other factors cannot enable much of this potential to be realized. Higher rainfall in some areas might enable higher production and provide more water for irrigation.

Climate change impact on crop production:

Let us discuss climate change impact on crop production;

Crop production is very highly sensitive to climate. It is affected by long-term trends in average rainfall and temperature changes; interannual climate variability, shocks during specific phenological stages, and extreme weather events. Some crops are more tolerant than others to definite types of stresses, and at each phenological stage, different types of stresses affect each crop species in different ways.

As climate changes, crop production strategies should change too. There will always be several uncertainties associated with modeling the complex relationships between agricultural yields and future climate scenarios.

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Agriculture and climate change in India:

The agricultural sector represents 35% of India’s Gross National Product (GNP) and as such plays an important role in the country’s development. Foodgrain production quadrupled during the post-independence era; this development is projected to continue.

The impact of climate change on agriculture in India could affect problems with food security and may threaten the livelihood activities. Climate change can affect crop yields both positively and negatively, as well as the types of crops that can be developed in certain areas, by impacting agricultural inputs such as water for irrigation, the quantity of solar radiation that affects plant growth, as well as the prevalence of pests.

The Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) examined the vulnerability of agricultural production to climate change, with the purpose of determining differences in climate change impacts on agriculture by region and by crop.

Policy implications for climate change:

The policy implications for climate change impacts in agriculture are multi-disciplinary and contain possible adaptations to;

Food security policy: Food security policy to account for changing crop yields (increasing in some areas and decreasing in others) with shifting boundaries for crops, and the impact that this can have on food supply.

Trade policy: Trade policy changes in certain crops can affect imports or exports; depending on the crop (this is particularly relevant for cash crops such as chilies).

Livelihoods: With agriculture contributing significantly to Gross National Product (GNP), it is critical that policy addresses issues of loss of livelihood with changes in crops, as well as the need to shift some regions to new crops, and the associated skills training necessary.

Water policy: Because impacts differ significantly according to whether crops are rain-fed or irrigated, water policy will need to consider the implications for water demand of agricultural change due to climate change.

Adaptive measures: Policy-makers will need to consider adaptive measures to cope with changing agricultural patterns. Measures can contain the introduction of the use of alternative crops, changes to cropping patterns, and promotion of water conservation and irrigation techniques.

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