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Climate change and agriculture

Parveen Kumar and Anil Kumar
Climate change is now largely being recognized as an important threat for the agricultural sector worldwide. Due to the increase in concentration of Green House Gases in the atmosphere the global temperature has been rising. The temperature has increased by 0.760 C in the period 1906-2005 (Pathak et al, 2012). The effects of Global warming may result in reduction in  yields of crops like wheat, Paddy, maize and important fruit crops. Even the livestock, fisheries, insects pests will have to bear the brunt of the rising temperature. In the short/medium term (up to 2025), rural poor communities will be more strongly affected by the impact of extreme events than the impacts of changing means (Corbera et al., 2006). Most of the countries including India are facing the problems of rising temperature, melting of glaciers, rising of sea-level leading to inundation of the coastal areas, changes in precipitation patterns leading to increased risk of recurrent droughts and devastating floods, threats to biodiversity, an expansion of pest and a number of potential challenges for public health (IPCC, 2007).
Climate change is not an instantaneous phenomenon. It is the result of decades of excessive use of chemicals coupled with our faulty agricultural practices. The indiscriminate use of chemicals during green revolution period no doubt increased our production but it also brought with it various health hazards, the pollution of air, water and land. Such was the intensity of the hazard that huge tracts of land turned unfertile due to salinity, water bodies became polluted and risk of deadly disease increased manifold. All of us knew the cancer train which runs from Punjab to Ganganagar in Rajasthan carrying patients suffering from cancer. Now, agriculture represents a unique case which contributes to climate change as well as gets affected by it.  There are various agricultural practices which contribute to green house gases in the atmosphere furthering the process of Climate change. The use of chemical fertilizers that release huge amount of gases, submerged paddy cultivation, the Jhum cultivation practiced in north east also emit green house gases which increase the temperature of the earth thereby leading to climate change. Agriculture resilience is about equipping farmers to absorb and recover from shocks and stresses to their agricultural production and livelihoods. It is the ability of the peoples, communities, governments and systems to withstand the impacts of negative events and to continue and grow despite them.
Development should be sustainable i. e it should meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future. For sustainable development we need to have technology that offsets the negative effects of the undesired technologies. Building resilience in agriculture is critical because we are already ‘so close to the edge’. The plants and animals that are present on the planet earth have little or no resistance to even the minor changes in growing conditions. We need technologies that are able to withstand or recover from the stresses and shocks.
Climate Resilient Agricultural Technologies:
a) Agronomic practices for conservation farming: It does not requires big efforts at the farmer level but simple modification of agronomic practices can go a long way in minimizing the negative effects of the green house gases in the atmosphere. Some simple agronomic practices are
* Avoiding Tillage : Conservation farming which is a system of minimum or no till agriculture with crop rotations reduces water requirements by up to 30 per cent
Sowing across the slope: Sowing across the slope reduces the erosion of soil and subsequent removal of nutrients from the soil thereby maintaining the fertility of the soil.
* Line sowing: Sowing in lines using seed cum fertidrill or maize planter reduces the seed rate per hectare, maintains optimum plant to plant distance and reduces the chance of lodging during maturity.
* Use recommended dose of fertilizers: Farmer due to their ignorance often do not use recommended dose of fertilizers. They often indulge in overdose of chemical fertilizers which seriously affects the quality of soil as well as human health in the long run.
* Reducing evaporation and conserving moisture: In the rainfed areas Kharif crops are prone to moisture stress in the later stages. Under such a scenario simple practices like 2 per cent spray of urea, defoliating leaves of maize plants and spreading them on ground to reduce evaporation and transpiration losses help a lot. The leaves can also be used for fodder purposes.
* Bunding: Bunding is also done for control of soil erosion and maintaining soil moisture. Bunding is of various types like Block bunding, compartmental bunding and contour bunding. The gully or nallah control is also very essential to check the further extension of destruction of cultivated lands. The sloping sides can be planted with grass and trees.
* Mulching: Mulching is simple and one beneficial practice for conserving soil moisture. It is protective layer of the material spread on the top of soil. Soil can be covered by straw, peat, dust, plastic sheets or by maintaining a vegetative cover. Mulching offers several advantages such as:
* Conserves soil moisture
* Prevents growth of unwanted plants
* Maintains an even soil temperature
* Reduces compaction after heavy rains
* Use of local resources: The use of local resources like the cow dung, the litter and the urine and other waste materials can be used successfully for preparing compost which can be used as substitute for chemical fertilizers thereby reducing the farmers cost of cultivation besides providing fertility of the soil and maintaining the soil health.
b) Rain water harvesting: Keeping in mind the scarcity of water in the rainfed area, it is very important to have suitable water harvesting structures. For this purpose, water can be harvested in pond like structures. The water from these ponds can be used for life saving irrigation to rainfed crops like maize wheat and other fodder crops. Roof top harvesting can also be practised. Rain water can be collected in the roof tops.
c) Drip Irrigation technology: It is a water saving technology that enables slow and regular application of water directly to the roots of the plants through a network of economically designed plastic pipes and low discharge emitters. It maximizes crop productivity through increase in crop yields and also the area for cultivation and protects the environment through conserving soil water and fertilizer resources thus increasing the farmer’s income.
(The authors are from Advanced Center for Rainfed           Agriculture, SKUAST-Jammu)


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