Farmers now get an alert on their mobile phones of sudden climate variations that can harm their crops.
This is one of the innovative projects taken up by the central government to help farmers adapt to climate change in the country’s 100 most vulnerable districts, climate-wise.
Dr B Venkateswarlu, director of Hyderabad based Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture said the Rs 350 crore project has been launched with an aim to educate farmers about the adverse impact of climate change on agriculture.
In this project, sensors have been installed in farms which record the varying temperature. As soon as the temperature falls below a certain level, which can be harmful for crops, an automatic SMS is sent to the farmer.
“It provides two to three hours to the farmers to deal with the situation,” he said. One such option is to light a fire to increase the ground temperature so that damage to the crop can be minimized. There have been huge losses to wheat crops in Punjab and Haryana during winter months because of the frost.
The new SMS alert system has been tested in Indian Council for Agricultural Research farms and is now being implemented in fields in the Indo-Gangetic plane, which is most prone to crop damage from cold wave.
Venkateshwarlu at a Centre for Science and Environment workshop said that climate change can cause a fall in wheat production by 10-15 % and cereal production by 10-40 % depending on the increase in temperature.
Research has also shown that rabi crop is more vulnerable to climate variation as compared to the kharif crop, especially in northern India. In addition, an increase in temperature would result in a fall in per cow milk production and fish production, especially in the Bay of Bengal.
The Indian Institute for Tropical Meteorology, which has a centre for climate change, has found that monsoon rainfall has reduced in states such as Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Kerala whereas it has increased in Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Jammu amd Kashmir.
Impact of climate change on monsoon in the Indian context is now well documented.
Central India witnessed up to 30 % less rainfall during the monsoon. On the other hand, climate change has caused heavy downpour in districts in Andhra Pradesh and Bihar, which were traditionally drought-prone. “As many as 14 districts in Bihar faced drought whereas 15 others were flooded with excessive rain,” he said.
To reduce impact of climate change on agriculture, the agriculture ministry has embarked upon the project where farmers are advised on climate resilient crops and ways to minimize the impact of climate change. This SMS alert is one component of the project.