Climate change, a term that signifies changes in the usual weather patterns of a place, has its repercussions everywhere. One of the sectors that are affected by climate change the most, is agriculture. Since agriculture relies on various natural features like temperature, rainfall, and carbon dioxide to grow, it is easily affected when any of these things face a change in their pattern of quality, and any effect that climate change has on agriculture directly affects our food.
HOW DOES CLIMATE CHANGE AFFECT CROP YIELD?
An increase in temperature has a very adverse effect on crop growth. It reduces pollination, causes crop dehydration, pests and weeds grow faster in warm temperatures, affects blood cells and plant growth, affects the rate of photosynthesis, and causes a decrease in water use efficacy. Recently India witnessed its worst locust swarms in 2019-2020; it has been linked to climate change as it occurred because of unseasonal rainfall.
Melting Of Snow:
Melting of Snow causes the sea level to rise which in turn causes fertile land of coastal areas to become barren. It also results in coastal erosion and drying. Further, it replenishes groundwater and causes it to become saline.
Extreme And Unusual Weather Conditions:
Extreme weather conditions like floods, droughts, and cyclones have adverse consequences on crop yield. Drought and extreme solar radiation cause dehydration in crops and cause the soil to become dryer. Flash Floods due to erratic rainfall erode the soil by washing away the fertile topsoil. Events like extreme frost in spring and hailstorms may also cause crop failure.
Both increase and decrease in rainfall mean harm to the crop. Decreased precipitation results in droughts which causes crops to fail, depletes ground and surface water and leads to the dehydration of crops. An increase in precipitation on the other hand causes flash floods which in turn results in soil erosion and washing away of fertile soil. Untimely rainfall also disturbs the crop cycle, making it difficult for farmers to figure out the most effective time for crop growth.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
Discussed below are some sustainable methods which can be used by farmers to combat the negative effects of climate change on agriculture:
Efficient Use of Water:
Methods like drip irrigation, rainwater harvesting, storing water, and irrigation scheduling are some of the ways in which water can be used efficiently without much wastage. Drip irrigation is a method in which pipes and valves are used to provide water to crops. These pipes are present alongside the plants on the ground. This reduces the amount of water lost by evaporation and it is much more efficient than aerial spraying of water.
Cover crops are plants grown to protect the soil against erosion, weeds, and pests and improve soil health and fertility, and better water efficacy. Some of the crops that can be grown as cover crops are turnips, mustard, legumes, etc.
Instead of letting livestock graze at one specific place continuously, they are moved along the pasture to graze. This method ensures that the soil quality in pastures remains unaffected and that soil is protected against erosion and direct solar radiation.
Compost is an organic fertilizer made by using decaying organic waste. Composting, along with being completely natural, improves plant health, helps plants grow, improves soil health, prevents erosion, reduces waste, helps combat pests and diseases, and improves water retention in the soil
Dry farming is a method in which the crops grown require minimum irrigation and use the moisture in the soil to grow. This helps reduce water loss through precipitation and labor costs. These crops are also very environment friendly and are not affected by unprecedented changes in rainfall patterns.
Minimum tillage is a system of conservation in which soil disturbance is kept to a minimum. It ensures that soil is not disturbed, and it has a lot of advantages like it reduces soil erosion, helps increase organic matter in the soil, improves soil fertility, reduces costs, reduces the amount of water loss due to evaporation, helps crops mature faster.
Along with these sustainable approaches to combat losses to agriculture from climate change, we must look at the bigger problem and realize that as time passes, the repercussions of climate change are only going to get worse. At this point, we need to do our bit collectively towards protecting the earth from climate change. It’s about time that we ask ourselves, what would we choose: healthy planet earth or extinction?