The rise in temperatures due to climate change has started impacting crop productivity in India. This has been driven home strongly this year as the hottest March in 122 years shriveled up the wheat harvest in the country’s breadbasket of Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh, forcing attention on reduced yields and nutritional security.
The excessive March heat this year has lowered the harvest by at least 15-20 percent, according to farmers in Khirongi village, 37 km from district headquarters Mainpuri in Uttar Pradesh. “We saw continuous heatwaves just when the crop was ripening. The grains could not become full-bodied due to the extremely hot and dry weather,” said Satyendra Yadav, holding out the just-harvested wheat grains for inspection.
“If this trend of falling yields continues, the country will have to formulate policies that ensure that nutritional security is not compromised. This can possibly be done by promoting other crops with higher nutritional value. Given the malnutrition status in India, we would have to cultivate rice and wheat in large quantities for at least another decade. There’s no getting away from that,” Shweta Saini, senior consultant at the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations, said.
Since the climate emergency will increasingly impact grain productivity, it is high time long-term strategies to reduce the country’s dependence on the three breadbasket states for most of its cereals are evolved, experts said.