Agriculture: Climate Change - Policies must prioritise water-food-energy triad : The Tribune India

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Agriculture: Climate Change - Policies must prioritise water-food-energy triad

The development and implementation of climate-smart farm practices, including conservation tillage, improved cultivars and plant breeding technologies, innovative irrigation & water management methods such as micro-irrigation, and integrated nutrient management practices can help in minimising the impact of climate change on agriculture and vice versa. We need incentive-based policies and technological innovations for the sake of water and food security of an ever-growing population.

Agriculture: Climate Change - Policies must prioritise water-food-energy triad

CLIMATE change is one of the key challenges agriculture is facing, especially in the northwest plains comprising Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh. ISTOCK



Surinder Kukal and Ramesh Kanwar

CLIMATE change is one of the key challenges agriculture is facing, especially in the northwest plains comprising Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh. The major reasons for higher annual temperatures, coupled with highly irregular and intense rainstorms, are industrialisation, deforestation, increased use of fossil fuels and population growth. The decreased wheat productivity due to abnormally high February-March temperatures in 2022 and untimely rain in 2023 are the most recent examples of climate chaos in the region. The increasing water scarcity presents its own challenges, including competing demands for use in farming, industrial and domestic sectors. Groundwater is the primary source of irrigation and drinking water for more than 80% of Punjab's population. The impact of climate change on the quantity and quality of groundwater is huge. Irregular rainfall distribution in recent years, with frequent dry spells even in otherwise normal rainfall years, has put additional burden on groundwater in the state. The prolonged dry spells during the monsoon have shown an increasing trend during the past decade, thereby leading to increased extraction of groundwater to meet the irrigation demand.

We need incentive-based policies and technological innovations to mitigate the impact of climate change on water and food security of an ever-growing population. We must take action now to develop, strengthen and sustain resilience in water and food production and distribution systems to meet the future demand of water for irrigation.

Climate change is posing a serious threat to the agricultural production system in Punjab. Lower minimum temperatures, relative humidity, rainfall and number of rainy days during the reproductive growth period of the wheat crop during February and March have been found favourable for higher grain yield. The minimum and maximum temperatures in Punjab are increasing. The seasonal minimum temperature variability and year-to-year variations put Punjab in the high-risk zone for heat stress in crop production. Rising temperatures could reduce wheat yields by 10-28% because of heat stress. The situation is similarly worrisome in Haryana.

Here are some policy measures for climate-resilient agriculture:

  • The development and implementation of climate-smart agricultural practices, including conservation tillage, improved cultivars and plant breeding technologies, innovative irrigation and water management methods such as micro-irrigation, and integrated nutrient management practices can help in minimising the impact of climate change on agriculture and vice versa.
  • On-farm management systems (timely planting of crops, reduced dependence on groundwater for irrigation, integrated nutrient and pest management, minimum tillage and crop rotation for carbon sequestration and improved soil health) and resource conservation technologies should be part of future farming systems.
  • Research organisations must spearhead projects on the effects of climate change on water harvesting, runoff management and groundwater recharge. They should prepare a block-level water budget for Punjab and recommend incentive-based policies for water use and water conservation.
  • Greater research on efficient animal and crop production systems in response to climate change is required so that the farmers can be educated about the use of climate-smart farming practices in an environment-friendly manner and keeping their farms economically viable to meet future food needs of the country. Research must focus on optimising the input use in agriculture, especially energy, water and nutrients, and developing incentive-based adaptive policies to sustain natural resources. For this purpose, we need to frame crop-specific integrated pest, nutrient and water management modules.
  • Research also needs to move towards measuring greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture and recommending farm practices that minimise GHG emissions, improve soil health and increase productivity. Elevated CO2 emissions from agriculture and increasing temperatures should become focus areas of research.
  • A policy shift towards shunning populist schemes such as free electricity to the agricultural sector needs to be discussed among various stakeholders. Such freebies could be replaced with productive incentives in the form of crop insurance, water conservation, produce storage facilities, etc.
  • Farming needs to be protected from climate-related risks. The government-funded crop insurance programme needs to be implemented to cover risks to farmers from climate-related extreme weather changes such as wet and dry cycles, and extreme temperature and rainfall variations during growing seasons. The cost of crop insurance can also be funded from the tax farmers are already paying in grain markets.

Climate change can imperil food and water security. Researchers and policy-makers need to work together to develop innovative technologies, best management systems and adaptable policies to mitigate the effects of climate change and also sustain water resources.

Kukal is Member, Punjab Water Regulation & Development Authority; Kanwar is Distinguished Professor, Water Resources Engg, Iowa State University, US

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#Agriculture #climate change #Environment


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