April 20, 2024

Lukmaan IAS

A Blog for IAS Examination

LESSON FROM WHEAT FIELDS

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THE CONTEXT: India’s wheat stocks in government godowns are at a 7-year low as of March 1, 2024. While a bumper harvest is expected in the Indo-Gangetic plains, the crop in central India may have been impacted by warmer temperatures in November-December. This highlights the increasing susceptibility of wheat and agriculture to climate change, which manifests as both the early onset of summer and delayed winter.

ISSUES:

  • Susceptibility of wheat and agriculture to climate change: Unseasonal weather events like temperature spikes and heavy rains during the final grain formation and filling stage can lead to yield losses. Warm temperatures during sowing and initial vegetative growth can result in fewer tillers and premature flowering. Climate change affects wheat production by manifesting in both the early onset of summer and the delayed onset of winter.
  • Potential impact on wheat production and food security: Wheat stocks in government godowns are at a 7-year low as of March 1. While a bumper harvest seems likely in the Indo-Gangetic plains, the wheat crop in central India may have been affected by warm temperatures during November-December. The extent to which lower yields in central India are offset by better production in the Indo-Gangetic plains will determine the overall wheat production for the year.
  • Need for investment in climate-resilient agriculture: The focus should shift to “Green Revolution 2.0” with a focus on input use efficiency and breeding of drought-resistant and heat-tolerant crop varieties. This would require screening germplasm and identifying genes responsible for desirable traits.
  • Potential for wheat imports: Global wheat prices are currently at their lowest in four years, making imports feasible. To enable wheat imports, the government should consider removing the 40% customs duty.

THE WAY FORWARD:

  • Breeding for Climate-Resilient Wheat Varieties: Developing Heat-Tolerant Wheat Varieties in India has been an extensive exercise. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has been actively working on developing heat-tolerant wheat varieties through conventional breeding and biotechnology approaches. One such example is the development of the wheat variety ‘HD 3086’, which can withstand temperatures up to 35°C during the grain-filling stage without significant yield loss. According to ICAR data, ‘HD 3086’ has shown a 10-15% higher yield under heat stress conditions than other popular wheat varieties.
  • Improving Agronomic Practices for Climate Resilience: Israeli farmers have adopted precision farming techniques, such as sensor-based irrigation and variable-rate fertilizer application, to optimize water and nutrient use for wheat production. Studies have shown that precision farming can increase wheat yields by 10-15% while reducing water and fertilizer inputs by 20-30% compared to traditional farming practices.
  • Optimizing Wheat Imports and Stocks Management: Egypt, one of the world’s largest wheat importers, has implemented a comprehensive strategy to ensure food security through wheat imports and strategic stock management. The government maintains a strategic wheat reserve equivalent to 4-6 months of domestic consumption, which helps to stabilize prices and ensure availability during times of supply disruptions. China, the world’s largest wheat producer and consumer, has a well-established system of wheat reserves and buffer stock management. The government maintains a strategic wheat reserve of around 30-40 million tonnes, which is used to stabilize domestic prices and ensure food security.
  • Investing in Research and Development for Climate-Smart Agriculture: The International Wheat Improvement Network (IWIN) is a global collaborative research initiative led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and partners in over 100 countries. The network focuses on developing and testing new wheat varieties adapted to diverse agro-climatic conditions, including heat, drought, and disease resistance. Through this collaborative approach, IWIN has released several climate-resilient wheat varieties widely adopted by farmers in different regions.
  • Leveraging Indigenous and Traditional Knowledge: A study prioritized major adaptation strategies used by native communities in India, including changes in cropping patterns, use of drought-tolerant crops, and traditional water harvesting techniques. Integrating indigenous knowledge with modern scientific approaches can enhance the effectiveness of climate change adaptation in agriculture.
  • Improving Access to Climate Information and Early Warning Systems: The Indian government has developed agriculture contingency plans to help farmers manage weather aberrations and extreme climatic events. These plans provide timely information on weather forecasts, crop advisories, and emergency response measures to enable proactive adaptation.

THE CONCLUSION:

In the short term, India can offset lower yields in central India with better production in the Indo-Gangetic plains and by enabling wheat imports by removing customs duty, as global prices are currently low. However, in the medium to long term, India must invest in breeding for climate change, focusing on input use efficiency and developing drought-resistant and heat-tolerant varieties through screening germplasm and identifying desirable genes in plants.

UPSC PAST YEAR QUESTIONS:

Q.1 How is science interwoven deeply with our lives? What are the striking changes in agriculture triggered by science-based technologies? 2020

Q.2 What are the primary reasons for the cropping system’s declining rice and wheat yield? How is crop diversification helpful in stabilizing the crop yield in the system? 2017

MAINS PRACTICE QUESTION:

Q.1 Discuss the key climate change adaptation strategies being implemented in the Indian agricultural sector. Analyze the effectiveness of these strategies using relevant case studies and data.

SOURCE:

https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/viksit-bharat-must-also-be-inclusive-bharat-9243988/

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