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'Now, global warming may spoil India's wheat party'

As per a study, the country's wheat production may fall by about half a ton per hectare in 10 years if suitable steps are not taken to tackle climate change.
PTI | By HT Correspondent, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 06, 2008 03:07 PM IST

Amid record wheat output estimate, here comes the dampener the country's wheat production may fall by about half a ton per hectare in 10 years if suitable steps are not taken to tackle climate change, says a study.

According to a current estimate, the average wheat production in the country stands at 2.6-2.7 ton per hectare.

Agronomic impact of climate change is key to mitigate the grave risk of wheat production falling by 0.45 ton per hectare in case the winter temperature rises by a minimum of 0.5 degree celsius, according to the 'Wheat Report 2008: Future Tense', brought out jointly by Assocham and AgriWatch.

This change in climate would force farmers to shift crop patterns, the report says. A favourable temperature during February and March is crucial to a good harvest of wheat. In can be noted that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has released a national action plan on June 30 to deal with climate change. The plan seeks to promote use of alternative sources of energy, with special emphasis on solar energy.

Talking about the outlook for the next 10 years, the report says wheat demand in the country is expected to cross 110 million tonnes by 2010, which is currently estimated at 73-75 million tonnes.

While the current level of production is sufficient to meet the present demand, maintaining an over 3 per cent compound average growth rate (CAGR) in production is crucial to meet the demand in the next 10 years, it points out. However, meeting the demand by raising output is an uphill task, the report stated.

Punjab, which contributes almost 60 per cent to the total wheat procurement of the government, is facing acute problem of soil salinity/fatigue, excessive pesticide residues and depleted water supply. Haryana, too, is facing similar problems, it adds.

Moreover, rise in crude oil prices and diversion of foodgrain and oilseeds for ethanol/bio-diesel production are bound to supplement rising prices. That apart, steep increases in agricultural inputs like fertilisers, energy may push up production costs.

The scope for increase in production is grim in view of acreage constraints and weather changes. Pressure on available supplies will continue to rise on bulging population and food security concerns, the study points out.

The study calls for more focus on research efforts to achieve higher yields and adaptability to changing weather. Breakthrough in high yielding seeds, new irrigation techniques and depleted soil management are the key, it says.
The report points out that the country's wheat production has been almost stagnant since 2000, except this year when preliminary estimates point towards a record crop at 76.78 million tons.

Thus, India needs to develop in advance crop varieties tolerant to high temperature and water stress for sustaining high grain production levels, the report added.

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