Climate Resilient Agriculture- Our agricultural systems have been developed according to the climate prevalent in the region. Human civilization has thrived on these agricultural systems. In recent centuries human activities such as burning fossil fuels and cutting down forests have caused global temperatures to rise, a process still happening. This has triggered frequent rains, severe droughts, and changes in weather patterns which are all together referred to as Climate Change.
Scientists around the world are fearing this will have grave consequences ranging from a rise in sea levels to a reduction in agricultural yields. Its impact on agriculture is already being witnessed in India in the form of crop losses due to heat waves, untimely rains, and distortion of weather patterns. There’s a burning need to practice climate-resilient agriculture to counter these problems.
Although this is happening all over the world, We need to be especially concerned as 46.5% of our population is still engaged in Agriculture, and it also has a significant 18% contribution to our GDP.
Climate Resilient Agriculture
Climate resilient agriculture is a broad term encompassing many strategies and technologies to prepare our agricultural systems to sustain production in the face of climate change.
It includes steps such as water management, growing tolerant varieties, and increasing soil fertility among others to make our agri-systems climate ‘resilient’.
These strategies not only prepare us for climate change but also decrease the stress on natural resources as sustainable methods are taken up to practice agriculture.
Why do we need Climate Resilient Agriculture?
Climate change is already impacting agriculture in India. Last year, India witnessed a severe heat wave in March which coincided with the maturing of Wheat crops. It caused states such as Punjab to lose 10-15% of their harvest. This year also untimely rains during March destroyed around 10% of the Wheat crop. Events like these pose a threat to our hard-earned food security.
Climate Resilient Agriculture provides us two-fold benefits – first, it sustains agricultural yields against the vagaries of climate change, second it promotes sustainable methods to practice agriculture.
There’s also another aspect to this. Agriculture contributes around 20% of Greenhouse Gas emissions. Practicing climate-resilient agriculture will not only protect our crops from Climate change, but it will also reduce the damage being done to the climate due to the emission of Greenhouse gasses from farms.
Mitigation Strategies under Climate Resilient Agriculture
1-Heat-tolerant crops and varieties
Heat-tolerant varieties provide protection against rising temperatures and sudden heat stresses. These varieties can withstand anomalies in temperature while also providing handsome yields. Indian Council of Agricultural Research is diligently working to provide farmers with heat-tolerant varieties.
Wheat varieties such as HI 1634 or ‘Pusa Ahilya’ and HD-3385 can sustain yields under heat stresses. Other varieties such as HD-3410 and HD-3385 tackle this problem differently. They are suitable for early sowing, this shifts the majority of the phenological stages to earlier months thus saving the crop from high temperatures in March-April.
Apart from this farmers can also grow Millets such as Bajra and Sorghum which are naturally hardy crops being able to tolerate aberrant weather conditions.
Water is the most important resource for agriculture which will also be the most affected by Climate Change. As Droughts and Floods will become more frequent, they will take a heavy toll on uniform water distribution.
Water availability is already coming under huge stress in some states of India. The most prominent example being Punjab, where unchecked extraction of groundwater has caused the water table to go down. Historically Punjab didn’t grow water-intensive crops such as Rice, but the green revolution ushered in during the 60s completely changed the agri landscape of Punjab. This has developed into an unsustainable form of farming where the stress on natural resources is sky-high. The situation is similar in adjacent Uttar Pradesh where Sugarcane, another water-thirsty crop is extensively cultivated.
The dominant cropping system in India is the Rice-Wheat cropping system. Government can incentivize farmers to shift away from water-intensive crops and adopt the cultivation of millets such as Pearl millet, Foxtail millet, and Kodo millet. These crops can grow well without sufficient resources.
They also add diversity to the food basket of our country.
Farmers can also use techniques such as rainwater harvesting, drip irrigation, and water-efficient irrigation systems to conserve water and reduce water waste. By conserving water, farmers can also improve soil moisture and crop yields.
3-Adopting Indian Livestock breeds
Commercialization of livestock management has resulted in farmers replacing Indigenous breeds with foreign breeds which provide an immediate increase in production. But they come along with their set of Disadvantages. Exotic breeds, be it of Cattle, Goat, Sheep, or Poultry are not suited to the local environment and thus need extra resources for their upkeep. This not only increases stress on already deficient resources but also reduces the genetic variability of our livestock thus preparing the ground for a potential pandemic.
Government should take up Genetic improvement of desi breeds and provide them to farmers at incentivized rates. This will save the extra resources being used up currently to manage exotic breeds, and as a result, will reduce the stress on natural resources too.
Conservation agriculture is an approach that involves minimum soil disturbance, crop rotation, and soil cover with crops or mulch. This approach helps to conserve soil moisture, reduce soil erosion, and enhance soil fertility. Conservation agriculture practices can also help reduce greenhouse emissions by promoting the use of organic matter in the soil. Krishi Vigyan Kendras spread across the length and breadth of our country can help farmers take up conservation agriculture by disseminating essential knowledge and providing crucial resources.
In conclusion, climate-resilient agriculture is a critical approach that can help farmers adapt to the effects of climate change while ensuring food security and livelihoods. By implementing sustainable practices and technologies such as crop diversification, conservation agriculture, water conservation, use of improved seed varieties, livestock management, and sustainable land management, farmers can build resilience to climate change and mitigate its effects.
Governments, policymakers, and international oranizations can also support climate-resilient agriculture through policies, incentives, and technical support, ensuring that the agriculture sector can continue to provide food and livelihoods for the growing global population.
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