Climate change: Punjab’s corn, cotton yields will decline by 2050

Climate change is projected to reduce maize and cotton yields in Punjab by 13% and 11% respectively by 2050, according to a new study by agricultural economists and scientists at Punjab Agricultural University (PAU).

The study published in the Mausam journal of the India Meteorological Department earlier this month used rainfall and temperature data collected between 1986 and 2020 to project the impact of climate change on five major crops (rice, maize, cotton, wheat and potato) in the agrarian state.

A farmer gazes over a field of maize suffering from waterlogging. Source: Flickr

During the study period from 1986 to 2020, the average mean temperature during the rice growth period was 30.03 °C with a minimum of 25.22 °C and a maximum of 34.84 °C. Likewise, during the period of growth of cotton and corn, the average mean temperature was 28.72°C and 26.64°C, respectively.

One of the most intriguing findings of the study is that changes in minimum temperatures resulted in changes in mean temperatures across all growing seasons. This means that the minimum temperature has shown an increasing trend.

Climate change in Punjab

This study assessed the impacts of climate change on the productivity of major rabi and kharif crops in Punjab. Data was collected for 35 years (1986-2020) using 5 crops in Punjab to estimate the impact of climate change using temperature and rainfall. The results indicate that productivity decreases with increasing mean temperature in most crops.

The price for organic cotton in the market is higher compared to normal cotton. Source: Flickr/India Water Portal

The researchers collected climate data from five meteorological observatories of the Punjab Agricultural University i.e. Ludhiana, Patiala, Faridkot, Bathinda and SBS Nagar.

The researchers, agricultural economist Sunny Kumar, scientist Baljinder Kaur Sidana and PhD Smily Thakur, said long-term changes in climate variables show that rising temperatures are driving most of the changes, rather than the change in the rain pattern.

“One of the most intriguing findings is that changes in minimum temperature have resulted in changes in mean temperature throughout all growing seasons. It means that the minimum temperature has shown an upward trend,” the report says.

Decline of crops due to climate change

Climate impacts on crops will vary widely in the kharif and rabi seasons. Among kharif crops, maize yields are more responsive to temperature and rainfall than rice and cotton. By 2050, maize yields would decline by 13 per cent, followed by cotton (about 11 per cent) and rice (about 1 per cent),” the report read.

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Decrease in the productivity of wheat and rice by 10 per cent and 3 per cent. Source: Flickr

Negative impacts will be cumulative by 2080. Yield losses would increase from 13% to 24% for corn, 11% to 24% for cotton, and 1% to 2% for rice.

“The yield response of wheat and potato would be about the same by 2050. By 2080, with a significant change in climate, wheat and potato yields will each be about 1% higher”, the report said.

“Our results indicate that productivity decreases with the increasing average temperature in most crops. The adverse impact of climate change on agricultural production indicates a threat to the food security of the farming community,” the researchers said.

Effects of climate change on agriculture over past decade

In India, many state studies have provided empirical evidence on the effects of climate change on agriculture over the past decade. In Punjab, the study (Hundal and Kaur, 2007) concluded that a minimum temperature increase of 1.0°C to 3.0°C above normal has led to a decrease in the productivity of wheat and rice by 10 per cent and 3 per cent, respectively.

Climate-smart agriculture

The adverse impact of climate change on agricultural production indicates a threat to the food security of the farming community. The study findings suggest focusing on climate-smart agriculture to find effective solutions to climate risks.

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