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Diversifying Crops will Lighten Growing Climate Impact in India: Study

To reach this conclusion, the authors combined historical data on crop yields, temperature and rainfall

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diversifying crops, climate impact
"Expanding the area planted with these four alternative grains can reduce variations in Indian grain production caused by extreme climate, especially in the many places where their yields are comparable to rice. Wikimedia Commons

Diversifying the crops in India can be an effective way to adapt its food-production systems to the growing influence of extreme climate change, said US researchers including Indian-origin.

The team studied the effects of climate change on five major crops: finger millet, maize, pearl millet, sorghum and rice which make up the vast majority of grain production during the June-to-September monsoon season in India — with rice contributing three-quarters of the grain supply for the season.

Taken together, the five grains are essential for meeting India’s nutritional needs. In a paper published in Environmental Research Letters, Kyle Davis, environmental data scientist from the Data Science Institute at Columbia University found that the yields from grains such as millet, sorghum and maize are more resilient to extreme weather.

Their yields vary significantly less due to year-to-year changes in climate and generally experience smaller declines during droughts. But yields from rice, India’s main crop, experience larger declines during extreme weather conditions.

climate impact, diversifying crops
Their yields vary significantly less due to year-to-year changes in climate and generally experience smaller declines during droughts. Wikimedia Commons

“By relying more and more on a single crop — rice — India’s food supply is potentially vulnerable to the effects of varying climate,” said Davis, the lead author on the paper.

“Expanding the area planted with these four alternative grains can reduce variations in Indian grain production caused by extreme climate, especially in the many places where their yields are comparable to rice.

“Doing so will mean that the food supply for the country’s massive and growing population is less in jeopardy during times of drought or extreme weather,” he noted.

The co-authors on the paper are Ashwini Chhatre, Associate Professor at the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad; Narasimha D. Rao, Assistant Professor at Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies; Deepti Singh, Assistant Professor at Washington State University in Vancouver; and Ruth DeFries, University Professor of Ecology and Sustainable Development at Columbia University.

diversifying crops, climate impact
To reach this conclusion, the authors combined historical data on crop yields, temperature and rainfall. Wikimedia Commons

Temperatures and rainfall amounts in India vary from year-to-year and influence the amount of crops that farmers can produce.

With episodes of extreme climate such as droughts and storms becoming more frequent, it’s essential to find ways to protect India’s crop production from these shocks, according to Davis.

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To reach this conclusion, the authors combined historical data on crop yields, temperature and rainfall. Data on the yields of each crop came from state agricultural ministries across India and covered 46 years (1966-2011) and 593 of India’s 707 districts.

“This study adds to the evidence that increasing the production of alternative grains in India can offer benefits for improving nutrition, for saving water, and for reducing energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture,” said Davis. (IANS)

Next Story

Scientists: Nations Need Stronger Pledges to Curb Climate Change

Governments are moving in the right direction, but nowhere near enough, so hopefully they will be willing to take on much stronger commitments

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Scientists, Nations, Climate Change
A woman wearing a mask walks past buildings on a polluted day in Handan, Hebei province, China, Jan. 12, 2019. China is reportedly the world's top emitter of greenhouse gases. VOA

The vast majority of national commitments in the 2015 Paris Agreement are inadequate to prevent the worst effects of global warming, scientists said on Tuesday, naming the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitting countries as among those that must ratchet up their efforts.

“Governments are moving in the right direction, but nowhere near enough, so hopefully they will be willing to take on much stronger commitments” in next month’s United Nation’s climate summit in Spain, said Robert Watson, lead author of the report by the nonprofit Universal Ecological Fund.

The report ranked nearly 75%, or 136, of the pledges as insufficient, including ones by major carbon emitters China, the United States, and India. A dozen, by countries including Australia, Japan and Brazil, were judged only partially sufficient.

Countries at next month’s summit in Madrid will hash out some details of the international pact to curb warming. Chile withdrew as host following weeks of riots protesting inequality.

Scientists, Nations, Climate Change
A protestor holds a placard in front of the India Gate during a protest demanding government to take immediate steps to control air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 5, 2019. VOA

Of the 184 pledges countries made under the climate agreement, only 36 are ambitious enough to help reach the agreement’s goal of keeping global warming less than 1.5 Celsius (2.7 F) above pre-industrial levels, the report said.

Most of those 36 are by countries in the European Union.

Watson, a former chair of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said the report could be read two ways: “You can read ‘My God it’s hopeless’, or ‘My God this is a wake up call.'”

Watson estimated that even if all nations meet their existing pledges, the world would be headed for temperature rise of between 3 and 3.5 degrees Celsius, which could lead to more extreme weather, rising sea levels and the loss of plant and animal species.

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The report rated the European Union’s 28 member states as having sufficient pledges because they aim to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by at least 40% below the 1990 level by 2030.

It ranked the United States as insufficient because President Donald Trump reversed former President Barack Obama’s climate policies and yanked Washington out of the pact. The administration, which argues that Paris Agreement would cost U.S. taxpayers too much money, filed official paperwork on Monday to withdraw.

China, the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gases, and India, also came in as insufficient because their pledges focus on carbon intensity targets, which lower emissions per unit of gross domestic product, or GDP. Because those economies are growing and coal produces much of their electricity, total emissions have risen sharply even though carbon intensity levels in China and India have fallen. (VOA)