Sun. Dec 15th, 2019

Climate Change eats output of top food crops in J&K

Bilal Bashir Bhat

Wheat, maize and rice crops grown in about 250, 000 hectares 210,000 hectares and 110,000 hectares area respectively are the major cereal crops of Jammu division. Basmati rice and rajmash (pulses) are valuable cash crops of the region. The Food crops production is directly dependent on climate change and weather. Food is one of society’s key sensitivities to climate. A year of not enough or too much rainfall, a hot spell or cold snap at the wrong time, or extremes, like flooding and storms, can have a significant effect on local crop yields and livestock production. Agriculture and its allied sectors is the mainstay of the state economy providing livelihood opportunity to 70% of the state’s population and contributing to around 27% to the states income. In India, agricultural risks are provoked by variety of factors, like climatic variability/change, extreme weather events, crop management practices and soil fertility status etc. which ultimately leads to uncertainties in yields and prices of the grain. Since the industrial revolution, the mean surface temperature of the earth has increased and temperatures are likely to increase more, with serious impacts on biodiversity composition, tourism, agriculture, horticulture water regime, food security and livelihoods.Data from the meteorology department in Srinagar suggests that in 2016 Srinagar received just 3.6 mm rainfall, which is four times less than 2007. The instances of extreme weather are increasing in the valley. Irrigated rice, wheat and mustard productions in J&K may be reduced by 6%, 4% and 4%, respectively. The deficit in food production in Kashmir region has reached 40 %, while the deficit is 30% in vegetable production and 69 % in oilseed production, putting food security at a greater risk. In the context of Jammu and Kashmir, which nestles in the fragile Himalayan ecosystem, there are alarming fluctuations in climate, natural as well as human induced, due to large scale deforestation, vehicular pollution, urbanization all leading to the warming trends. The water stress, habitat loss, leading to change in insect population dynamics, proliferation of unwanted weeds, owing to climate change are new challenges for the state. Jammu and Kashmir have surpassed the world in average temperature rise recorded in the last 100 years as against the global increase of 0.8 to 0.9, the state has recorded 1.2-degree Celsius rise in temperature. Seasonal air temperatures also show a rise in all seasons. which, according to experts, is a cause of concern. The annual rainfall in the Himalayan region is likely to vary between 1268±225.2 and 1604±175.2 mm in 2030s. Kashmir Valley based environmentalists/agriculturalists believe that abnormal rise in temperatures in particular can prove drastic for some of our native plants increasing their sterility and hence lowering the overall production. Changes in climatic conditions are causing expansion of the normal range of pests leading to occurrence of more diseases in crops and ultimately resulting in the decreasing production of the main food crops. For the last few years with the climate change, there is dismal production of paddy every year, and farmers of many areas of valley are adopting horticulture. As a matter of fact, Kashmir which used to produce sufficient agriculture produce like rice or wheat is now meagrely producing these cereals and if the change of climate continues at the same pace, Kashmir will very soon be importing every bit of the food, which the people of Kashmir will consume from the neighbouring States.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) 2016 states that climate change is increasingly affecting nearly 80 per cent of the world’s poor who depend on agriculture for their livelihood. The Jammu and Kashmir State Action Plan on Climate Change, a report prepared by the Climate Change Cell of the State government, has also warned that Kashmir is “heading for peculiar climatic scenario with net temperature going up.
Climate change has disproportionately affected the production of the top crops in J&K. According to Directorate of Economics and Statistics government of Jammu and Kashmir Annual publication 2013-14 Theoutput of rice, maize, wheat, Barley, Pulses, Oilseeds have already started to dip in half.The deficit in production in Kashmir Division is mainly due to geographical and climatic conditions as most of the area is mono cropped.From the Table it shows that maize is the first ranking crop in the state, occupying about one-third of the total cropped area. Rice with 28.58 per cent of the gross cropped area is the second most important staple crop, followed by wheat to which over 26 per cent of the total cropped area is devoted. Jammu region is home to high quality ‘Basmati’, ‘Rajmash’, Black Caraway (‘zeera’) etc., Kashmir region is rich in high quality Saffron, ‘Zeera’, fresh and dry temperate fruits and commercial floriculture. Ladakh region is endowed with high quality apricots and sea buckthorn berry etc. Enormous potential exists for bio-diversification due to varied agro-climatic and soil conditions.Food-grain production in the State has more than trebled, since the year 1950-51, when the production was 4.53 lakh MTs. Despite such significant strides, the state still imports about 40% and 20% of its requirements of food grains and vegetables, respectively.Saffron production in the state has historical background and J&K is the only state in India to produce Saffron for commercial purposes. Saffron production has decreased during the past two decades due to the global climatic changes.
Table no 2: Details of Production and Yield of main food crops in J&K

S. No
Kind of Crop Production (000qtls) Yield (qtls/ha)
2013-14 2014-15 2013-14 2014-15
1. Rice 5567.38 4548 20.51 17.11
2. Maize 5305.3 2735 17.76 8.86
3. Wheat 6018.81 5819.5 20.16 20.00
4. Barley 71.6 71.6 5.67 5.67
5. Pulses 84.1 84.1 5.37 3.17
6. Oilseeds 583.36 583.8 8.95 8.85
Total 17689.25 13842 18.22 14.26

Source: Directorate of Economics and Statistics government of Jammu and Kashmir Annual publication2013-14
From the above tablesand graphs, it states that Production for Rice, maize, wheat, pulses, fodder, oilseeds, potato and barley decreased unequally which are the main crops of the State. There is a real danger of loss of food security of more than 4 million people dwelling in vulnerable karewa areas and enclaves like Uri, Gurez, Karnah, Drass, Leh and Kishtwar and Doda areas in case of failure of fruits and food grains.It is concluded from the foregoing facts that the future climate and its impact could well trigger bloody wars fought over access to basic necessities like drinking water and food grains.Looking at the present situation in Jammu and Kashmir the figures in terms of production, area and yield rate are not satisfactory as the gap between deficit and requirement is increasing at an increasing rate which has gone up to 81% against the current population growth.The major causes of the decline of the top food grains in J&K are: Land use Changes, Climate change, Reduced availability of water for irrigation affected by erratic rainfall, Loss of Soil Moisture, Degraded Soil Health, Extreme drought events and shifts in the rainfall regime resulting into failure of crop germination and fruit set. Climate refugees would face hostility from local residents and this could lead to conflict. Large scale migration and competition for food resources could become a serious security challenge. Climate change has made it clear that its change is happening largely because of human activity.
As per UNEP report
some parts of the State are moderate to highly vulnerable.
As per INCCA assessment the number of rainy days in the
Himalayan region in 2030s may increase by 5-10 days on an
average, with an increase by more than 15 days in the eastern
part of the Jammu and Kashmir region. The intensity of rain
fall is likely to increase by 1-2 mm/day. This is likely to
impact some of the horticultural crops.

Certain measures are required to be taken to overcome this problem which include creation of laws; desilting, growing of pulses, millets and adoption of agroforestry.
ADAPTIVE MEASURES:
• Improvement in Agriculture Weather forecasting and awareness among farmers.
• Use of best practices for water conservation like sprinkle irrigation etc.
• Adoption of Organic farming and reintroduction of non-polluting traditional methods
• Introduction of drought and pest resistant crops.
• Cultivation of wild edible plants/fruits.
• Shifting of dependence on artificial fertilizers towards organic fertilizers like green manure, bio-manure, vermi-compost, compost etc.
• Increased evaporation from the soil and accelerated transpiration in the plants themselves will cause moisture stress; as a result, there will be a need to develop crop varieties with greater drought tolerance.
The changing climate will create havoc in future if the same trend continues.With increasing water crisis, population explosion and climate change, the import of grains is going to be an uphill task in future and will further widen the already stressed fiscal deficit. Dozens of colonies are coming up on agricultural land in different parts of the state. The law enforcement agencies, climate change groups need to curb the menace before the problem assumes horrendous proportions.

(The author is a freelancer. Views are his own, bhatbilalb32@gmail.com)

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