Gargi Parsai

IARI expects 10-40 per cent loss in production by 2080-2100

Losses in wheat output can be reduced by “timely planting”

Changes can have significant effect on quality of fruits, vegetables

NEW DELHI: Even as production of wheat shows a steady decline and that of coarse cereals and pulses seems to have stagnated, predictions of a fall in farm production has got the Centre worried.

An Agriculture Ministry paper quoted global studies indicating the probability of a 10-40 per cent loss in crop production by 2080-2100 due to rise in temperatures.

Recent studies at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) indicated the possibility of a loss of 4-5 million tonnes in wheat production for every one degree centigrade rise in temperature (estimated for 2010-2030 period).

Kharif crops

Losses for other crops, especially kharif crops, were expected to be smaller, the study said. Greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, are said to be responsible for global warming.

The IARI study showed that losses in wheat output could be reduced from 4-5 million tonnes to 1-2 million tonnes if a large percentage of farmers shifted to “timely planting” and better adapted varieties.

The study said increasing climatic variability associated with global warming would result in seasonal/annual fluctuations in food production. Droughts, floods, tropical cyclones, heavy precipitation and heat waves were known to negatively impact farm production and the livelihoods of farmers. “The projected increase in such events will result in greater instability in food production and threaten the livelihood of farmers.”

Increasing glacier melt in the Himalayas would affect the availability of irrigation, especially in the Indo-Gangetic plains, which might have consequences for food production.

Fertilizer requirement

The rising temperatures were likely to lead to an increase in fertilizer requirement for meeting future food production demands and, in turn, to higher emissions of greenhouse gases, the study said. In the short-term, global warming was likely to favour production in temperate regions — largely northern Europe and North America — and negatively impact tropical crop production in South Asia and Africa. “This will have consequences on international food prices and trade.”

Small changes in temperature and rainfall could have a significant effect on the quality of fruits, vegetables, tea, coffee, and aromatic and medicinal plants, with a resultant impact on prices and trade. Global warming could aggravate the heat stress in dairy animals, adversely affecting their productive and reproductive performance, and reduce the area where high-yielding cattle could be economically reared.

Fish breeding

Increasing sea and river water temperatures were likely to affect fish breeding, migration and harvests. Coral reefs in Indian seas were predicted to decline from 2040.

The study advocated investment in research capacity, enhanced capability for weather forecasts and applications in agriculture, and development of contingency plans for temperature and rainfall-related risks. It also called for new land use systems, including development of heat and drought-tolerant crop varieties.