In 60 years, climate change took seven years of agri-productivity growth

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News: Recently, Ariel Ortiz-Bobea who is an economist discussed his research findings about climate change and its impact on agricultural productivity with Times Evoke.

This article discusses the rich plant diversity in India, its significance and impact of climate change on Agri-productivity.

What is the significance of plants in India?

One, India has rich plant diversity and has two of the world’s biodiversity hotspots in the Western Ghats and the eastern Himalayas. Then there is Eastern Ghats, the central Indian forests, the western Himalayas, deserts, wetlands and mangrove forests. Each region has its own kinds of plants, and it holds 11% of the world’s flora.

Two, plants have special place in Indian culture. For example, in Biligiri Rangaswamy Tiger Reserve (Karnataka), the Soliga tribe has a ‘dodda sampige mara’, a huge champak tree. It is believed that this tree is 2,000 years old. On the request of locals, a highway was adjusted to prevent the damage to the tree. Villagers have also built a small temple within the tree.

How climate change is impacting economy and agriculture?

First, each plant has its own environmental range or the temperature, humidity and soil within which it grows. Climate change is making the higher parts warmer. New plant varieties can be grown there but many traditional crops can no longer be grown.

Second, forests are growing drier with more frequent forest fires. It is increasing opportunities for invasive plant species like thorny lantana which makes the forest dry and crowd out productive plants. This has implication on food chain as well.

For example, animals have to come out of forest in search of food. In Bannerghata National Park, many farmers have started growing non-food crops like eucalyptus as animals seek food crops to eat. But such nonfood crops are water-hungry, increase soil pollution and do not supply food to animals as well.

 Third, increased warming lowers the agricultural productivity and to produce the same outputs, more inputs are required. The impact is more on countries lying near the equator than temperate regions, which also.

Fourth, agriculture is more sensitive to high temperatures and this increase the slowdown effect. That is why there is need of more investment to build resilience.

Fifth, climate change has serious implication on global food production and their prices. Hence it also impacts food security and employment.

For instance, climate change will reduce food supply and hence food prices will rise. Farmers will try to grow more but increasing inputs to grow more means more fertilizers, more soil pollution and deforestation.

What is the way forward?

First, there is need to protect plant from dangers. For instance, slum inhabitants in Bengaluru live in tin shacks but plant saplings in old paint buckets.

Second, there has to be more investments in research to find a sustainable way to boost agriculture by increasing efficiency.

Third, the problem of climate change requires systemic change. India should take steps to increase water use efficiency and rethink the current water pricing, which encourage more use of water than needed.

Source: This post is based on the article “In 60 years, climate change took seven years of agri-productivity growth” and “India has fabulous plant diversity — we venerate life-giving plants” published in Times of India on 5th Feb 2022.

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