India’s Crop Productivity and Labor Efficiency at Stake Due to Climate Change, Warn IIT-Delhi Researchers

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New Delhi: India is likely to get severely impacted by the effects of the global warming on the crop production and human resources, the researchers at IIT-Delhi have warned.

In a 2018 study, conducted in the tropical regions for about eight months, the researchers observed the ‘crop productivity and labour efficiency’, and looked at the grid-wise quantification of climate changes across India to help policymakers adopt region-wise strategies.

It is an attempt to quantify the impact of global warming on the crop production and human resources. There is a drastic reduction in the length of pleasant comfortable days (thermal comfort), especially over the northeast and southern India (warm-humid) regions, the study says.

“The reason behind this change is the encroaching of summer season into winter season, in some regions. On the other hand, the length of pleasant comfortable days is increasing in the northwest (semi-arid regions), mainly due to the reduction in winter days,” the IIT researchers observe in their report.

There is intensification of hot extremes and waning of cold extremes, with higher probability over central India and Northeast. The report points out: “Northeast being more humid, the joint intensification of day and night temperatures, could prove to be a threatening scenario to the human life and livestock.”

The report added that both day-time and night-time temperatures have evidently increased all over India, and the intensification of day-time temperature is more prominent in the latter part of the year (October to November).

“The drastic and joint increase in the day and night temperatures will be a major threat to crop cultivation in India. The largest wheat production states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh will be severely affected due to the increase in night time temperature, particularly in winter,” the researchers say.

The research has observed that though the cropping season in India is increasing, it cannot be directly correlated to the increase in crop production since the extreme temperature is also inevitably increasing rapidly.

In Western Ghats and nearby coastal regions (including the Kerala coast) with natural landscapes and pleasant climate, the comfortable days are reportedly declining rapidly. The intensity of decline is highest over the Kerala coast. Similar changes are also observed in east-coast, central India, northeast and foot-hills of Himalayas, with less intensity.

Besides, the gross diminishing of pleasant days over the country explains the increased usage of power production, with the continuous usage of air-conditioners during intense summers and room-heaters, radiators during severe winters.

This study was conducted by PhD scholar Vinnarasi Rajendran and professor Dhanya CT, Department of Civil Engineering, IIT-Delhi.

“The study indicates a possible increase in the yield of major crops, by adopting an early sowing date. The findings are crucial, especially under the recent reporting of the increased rate of warming, and these factors, if unchecked, will adversely affect the economy of the country,” says Dhanya.

Rajendran agress, “Changing the work schedule of labourers, especially those exposed to heat, will boost human productivity; while adopting dynamic cropping pattern and shifting the sow dates will reduce the damage to the crop productivity.”

The changes in climate, temperatures would demand adaptations in cropping pattern, and the government would have to send advisories to the farmers on changes in cropping pattern. The researchers are keen to have another level of research to call upon the government to send out advisories to the farmers on adaptations in cropping pattern.