How the Impacts of Climate Change Can be Mitigated for Agriculture?
Agriculture is at risk due to climate change especially in South Asia and Latin America.
Agriculture is the backbone of many underdeveloped nations and more than 70% of the people’s livelihood depends on this sector. In South Asian regions like India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and Pakistan, the rural community relies on crop production and animal rearing. However, this sector is at risk due to climate change. The countries in this region are most likely to be greatly affected by climate change because:
- It’s a large agro-ecological area.
- Agriculture is the main source of income
- Most of the areas are rain-fed, which makes them more vulnerable to extreme climate conditions
- The small size of agricultural land in use makes it difficult for farmers to adapt to climate change
The agriculture sector is most vulnerable to climate change. The continuous emission of gases from various industries (transportation, electricity, agriculture, commercial/residential, and forestry) has made the planet warmer.
Pie chart by Simon Rayner on Wikimedia Commons
The above-mentioned pie chart compiled by Simon Rayner/Earth Charts—represent all sources from which greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions occurred in 2016. Greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (NO2). The higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere enhances the reduction of carbon in the C3 photosynthetic pathway.
But on the other hand, higher temperatures enhance water evaporation from plants and speed up the mineralization in soil, affecting the water use efficiency (WUE) and nutrient use efficiency. The greenhouse gases cause two major degradations in agriculture: soil deterioration and drought stress. These two factors put food safety and security at risk in parallel to plant pathogen infections.
According to Hulme (1996), there are four ways by which climate change can affect crops physically. First is the fluctuations in temperature and precipitation. High temperatures increase the evapotranspiration and reduce photosynthetic efficiency. Additionally, high temperatures reduce the crop duration with alterations in their growth pattern or sometimes may affect the agro-ecological zone of the crop due to diverse agroclimatic effects.
Water resources are also in danger due to climate change. Water scarcity causes drought stress and ultimately puts food security at risk for rural populations that are completely dependent on this sector. Higher temperatures reduce the soil moisture content. Reductions in winter precipitation will put a burden on Rabi season water needs. The judicious way is to implement agricultural practices that mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Climate-Smart Agriculture Adaptations and Mitigations
Climate-smart mitigations and adaptations involve any practices that are adopted or followed to reduce the impacts of climate change and increase the resilience of the system. These are the smart adaptations or practices to cope with the effects of climate change.
- Soil is the most crucial factor in plant germination, growth, and development. It provides nutrients and water to plants. It is home to so many microbes that may colonize plants symbiotically or pathogenically. The extreme climate conditions like heavy rainfall and strong winds are destroying the soil structure, causing leaching of its nutrients and evaporation of moisture content. Therefore, an implementation of wise practices is of utmost importance to prevent the loss of soil water content and nutrients. The vegetation of cover crops can prevent the loss of water and nutrients under high temperatures and high wind conditions. Changing the tillage practice into zero tillage helps the plants to adapt to water stress.
- Crop diversification includes crop substitution and rotation. These two approaches are cost-effective and build resilience in the agricultural system. Crop rotations improve soil structure and its nutrients. The diversification in the cropping system improves agriculture. For example, the cultivation of short-duration crops and early/late maturing crop plants may escape the various diseases, pest outbreaks, or water drought.
- Changing crop patterns can mitigate or adapt to the severe conditions of climate. For example, in India, the farmers grow drought-resistant crops like sorghum in water-stressed areas to adapt to climate change.
- Similarly, the cropping of leguminous crops especially mungbean, red grams, and peanuts can help mitigate the impacts of climate change. These crops add nitrogen to the soil which is lost due to soil erosion.
- A shift in planting dates could also mitigate the effects of climate change by reducing the yield loss.
- Agroforestry is the cultivation of forest trees with crops on the same land. Agroforestry systems build resistance to climate change by preventing crops from flooding and higher temperatures.
Adaptations to climate change are essential for sustainable agriculture. These adaptations include more production of stress-tolerant varieties, micro-irrigation systems, efficient use of nutrients and water, and preservation of soil water content. The application of these practices can benefit the farmers in terms of crop yield and building resilience to climate change.