Agriculture is extremely vulnerable to climate change and vice-versa. Climate changes as higher temperatures, changes in precipitation, soil moisture and sea levels contributes to global warming through ‘greenhouse gas’ (GHG) as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitric oxide (NO) emissions into the atmosphere. Various agricultural practices are contributing to climate change as well as will be affected by the climate change. Although there will be gains in some crops in some regions of the world, the overall impacts of climate change on agriculture are expected to be negative, threatening global food security. With an average global yield loss of upto 50% by 2050, the agriculture sector is at risk amidst global climate change (1), (2). In some of the tropical countries, agriculture is very important for economic development, poverty alleviation, employment and food security (3). How should we then overcome the setbacks and achieve breakthroughs in this area?
Thus, comes the need of an effective new agricultural practices and technologies, that can bestow to climate change mitigation and adaptation. These improvement should be in an order that will largely help the farmers to use them profitably, without any detrimental effects on the environment. However, without sound and appropriate governmental and institutional policies and regulations, the innovative technologies could not be put into practice.
The forms or methods for improving crop protection which in turn can prevent global warming issues are as follows:
A. The Crop Systems and Global Change Lab (CSGCL), Baltimore, http://www.ars.usda.gov/research/projects_programs.htm?modecode=12-45-25-00 applies systems theory to the solution of complex agricultural problems and to the development of computer-aided farm decision support systems and assessment tools for environmental study and analysis. It carries out research to improve the growth, yield and quality of crops in the face of climatic changes, through increased understanding of mechanisms controlling response and adaptation to CO2, light, water, temperature, and soil chemistry.
B. Introducing crop varieties/traits that confer tolerance to drought and heat, tolerance to salinity, and early maturation, through advances in breeding programs/biotechnology, in order to shorten the growing season and reduce farmers’ exposure to risk of extreme weather events. Attempts are in the direction to evolve varieties which respond positively in growth and yield to high CO2 and varieties with high fertilizer and radiation use efficiency. Plants are also being created that will use nitrogen more efficiently, reducing the need for added fertilizer and thereby lessening greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
C. Improvements in technologies related to conservation of natural resources: in situ moisture conservation, rainwater harvesting and recycling, efficient use of irrigation water, conservation agriculture, energy efficiency in crop production and irrigation and use of poor quality water. The suggested strategies are: characterization of biophysical and socioeconomic resources utilizing Geographic Information System (GIS) and remote sensing; integrated watershed development; developing strategies for improving rainwater use efficiency through rainwater harvesting, storage, and reuse; contingency crop planning to minimize loss of production during drought/flood years. (4), (5) Build up soil organic matter and prevent erosion by applying techniques such as conservation tillage, nutrient management and the use of reclamation varieties. Initiatives are undertaken in countries to develop ‘climate smart’ agricultural methods.
D. The government should concentrate on integrating national development policies into a sustainable development in agriculture that would lead to technology advances/adaptation. These strategic policies would not only improve the welfare of rural populations now, but they will also do a great deal to mitigate the future impacts of climate change.
By considering these options, what else according to you, are the advanced technologies adopted in the agricultural sector that would lead to crop improvement amid global climate change and inverse? What initiative(s) the government are taking and should need to take in order to have a global food security?
1. IPCC 2007 IPCC Summary for policy makers. Climate Change 2007. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp.18.
2. Mendelsohn R. 2009. The impact of climate change on agriculture in developing countries Journal of Natural Resources Policy Research 1: 5–19.
3. Wheeler D. 2011. Quantifying vulnerability to climate change: Implications for adaptation assistance. Washington, D.C.:Center for Global Development. 49p.
4. Kapoor A. 2006. Mitigating natural disasters through preparedness measures. Proceedings of the International Conference on Adaptation to Climate Variability and Change, 5-7 January 2006, New Delhi, organized by Institute for Social and Environmental Transition and Winrock International India. 184 pp.
5. Venkateswarlu B, Shanker AK. 2009. Climate change and agriculture: adaptation and mitigation strategies Indian Journal of Agronomy 54 (2): 226-230.