Cropping pattern adjustments may only offer limited benefits as an adaptation to climate change in India

Efd researcher Digvijay S.Negi with co-authors have used secondary data to study whether cropping patterns would be altered as a response to climate change in India. They found limited influence on cropping patterns due to long-term temperature changes. These findings imply that regions may not switch to crops that are better suited to adapt to changing climate.

The suitability of a plot of land for growing a crop depends on, among other factors, the climate of that location. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that the suitability of a plot of land for cultivating a crop may change depending on the changing climate.

However, the researchers were surprised to find that “regions do not change their cropping patters due to the rising temperatures.” This implies that rising temperature may not induce significant shifts in cropping patterns across India. The authors use different models to estimate crop yields and land allocation. Using simulations generated by these models they report that excess temperature impacts crop yields negatively, and the impact is higher in the projected future climate scenarios.

Under the greenhouse gas Representative Concentration Pathway[1] RCP4.5, the yields of different crops are lowered by 1.8 to 6.6% in the medium-term (2041–2060) and 7.2 to 23.6% in the long term (2061–2080).

This finding is in line with the previous studies which have looked at the impact of rising temperature on crop yields in India. The authors however report that this difference in the crop yield response to temperature has not caused any significant change in land use.

Under the RCP4.5 emission scenario, the area shares of different crops decline by 0.1 to 0.4 percentage points in the medium term and 0.4 to 1.3 percentage points in the long term.

The authors say “these findings indicate limited prospects for adaptation to climate change through adjustments in cropping patterns”.

Therefore, from these findings, what are the takeaway points for policy makers while developing strategies?

Given the fixed supply of agricultural land, the dominance of risk-averse smallholder farmers, and the underdeveloped market for formal crop insurance, the key implication of the results is that any future adaptation strategies should be built around innovations in crop breeding for stress-tolerance, higher yield, and improved resource-use efficiency including optimal use of land and water resources; and farmers’ traditional risk-mitigating practices.

Read the article         

Authors: Pratap S.Birthal, Jaweriah Hazrana, Digvijay S.Negi, and Subhash C.Bhan



[1] RCP4.5 is a scenario of long-term, global emissions of GHGs, short-lived species, and land-use-land- cover. The four RCPs range from very high (RCP8.5) through to very low (RCP2.6) future concentrations. The numerical values of the RCPs (2.6, 4.5, 6.0 and 8.5) refer to the concentrations in 2100.

Story | 31 August 2021