Rising temperature, erratic rain will impact rice harvest

Written by Sandip Das | Updated: Aug 13 2013, 09:28am hrs
With the key rice-growing areas in the country receiving erratic rainfall in the last two decades, scientists have been working on techniques to minimise the adverse impact on foodgrain production. Trilochan Mohapatra, director, Central Rice Research Institute

(CRRI), a premier institute under the ministry of agriculture, talks to FE's Sandip Das on the issues concerning climate change and its impact rice production.

What has been the impact of climate change on rice cultivation in India in last 20 years

Temperature, rainfall and soil moisture have a significant impact on rice production. Change in climate is evident from the uneven distribution of rainfall, higher frequency of occurrence of extreme events, rise in atmospheric temperature. These changes are affecting rice in certain years. For example, the 2009 summer monsoon was the weakest since 1972 that reduced kharif rice production by 13 million tonnes to about 71 million tonnes.

Similarly, in 2002, rainfall was only 81% of the long period average. Deficit rainfall was most severe in the months of June, July and August, coinciding with the crucial vegetative and growth stages of rice. The production of rice has shown an upward trend during the period 2005-06 to 2008-09 and it reached a record level of 99.18 million tonnes in 2008-09. However, rice production declined to 89.09 million tonnes in 2009-10 due to long spells of drought.

Is the rainfall pattern change in the country impacting rice cultivation

As per the National Plan on Climate Change report, a trend of increasing monsoon season rainfall has been found along the west coast, northern Andhra Pradesh, and north-western India (+10% to +12% of the normal over the last 100 years) while a trend of decreasing monsoon seasonal rainfall has been observed over eastern Madhya Pradesh, north-eastern India, and some parts of Gujarat and Kerala (-6% to -8% of the normal over the last 100 years) and parts of south India. Although rice production has been showing a steady upward trend, poor monsoon rainfall is the main reason for low yields in some years. Rainfall unpredictability and increasing temperature due to the impact of climate change are likely to add to the volatility of rice harvests in India and other parts of Asia.

What are new varieties, techniques developed by CRRI that would help rice farmers deal with climate change

Under the National Initiative on Climate Resilient Agriculture (NICRA) programme, various ICAR institutes and state agricultural universities are engaged in developing climate resilient varieties and production technologies to address the possible negative impact of climate change on future rice production and thereby increasing the production and profitability of rice. CRRI, along with other national and international research institutes, have developed climate resilient rice varieties tolerant to submergence (Swarna Sub-1), drought (Sahabaghidhan), salinity (Luna Barial, Luna Sankhi) and high temperatures (Naveen).

What should be the strategy India needs to adopt to sustain the growth in rice production in the next two decades

Augmenting production by improved crop management, cultivation of climate tolerant varieties, improved seed sector and technology dissemination mechanisms, the lack of which are some of the key reasons for yield gaps. The watershed management programme can yield multiple benefits. Such strategies could be very useful in future climatic stress conditions. Conservation agriculture is one of the most important strategies for combating climate change adverse impacts.

Increasing the income from agricultural enterprises by suitable actions such as accelerated development of location-specific fertilizer practices, improved fertilizer supply and distribution system, improved water and fertilizer use.

Improved risk management through an early warning system and policies that encourage crop insurance can provide protection to the farmers. An early warning system for pest and disease incidence will be highly helpful.

Your take on the prospects of current kharif crop

So far, the country as a whole received good rains due to favourable monsoon. There are reports from different states that the rice area is expected to increase in the current kharif.