If farmers maintain current practices, rice production will decrease substantially by 2050 in India. But, various management strategies can mitigate the effects of climate change, say researchers, including one of Indian-origin.
Traditional rice farming involves flooding the fields with water. Rice transplants need about six inches of standing water. If fields aren’t level, it requires even more water to cover the crops. However, if farmers use direct-seeded rice instead of transplants, they can increase production while using significantly less water, the study indicated.
“As the weather changes, it affects temperature, rainfall, and carbon dioxide concentration. These are essential ingredients for crop growth, especially for rice. It’s a complicated system, and the effects are difficult to evaluate and manage,” said researcher Prasanta Kalita, Professor at University of Illinois in the US.
“Our modelling results show the crop growth stage is shrinking. The time for total maturity from the day you plant to the day you harvest is getting shorter. The crops are maturing faster, and as a result, you don’t get the full potential of the yield,” Kalita added.
Climate change is likely to affect future water availability, and rice farmers must implement new management practices to sustain production and increase yield, the researcher said.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates the world population will grow by two billion people by 2050, and food demand will increase by 60 per cent.
For the study, published in the journal Water, the researchers conducted the study at the Borlaug Institute for South Asia’s research farm in Bihar, India. Farmers in the region grow rice during the monsoon season, when heavy rainfall sustains the crop.
The researchers collected data on rice yield and climate conditions, then used computer simulations to model future scenarios based on four global climate models.
The purpose of the study was to estimate rice yield and water demand by 2050, and evaluate how farmers can adapt to the effects of climate change.