Rising temperatures hinder Indian wheat production: Study

Geographers at the University of Southampton have found a link between increasing average temperatures in India and a reduction in wheat production.

Zee Media Bureau

Southampton: Global temperatures continue to rise and climate change is significantly affecting human and natural systems. A link between increasing average temperatures in India and a reduction in wheat production has been found by geographers at the University of Southampton.

The Researchers named Dr John Duncan, Dr Jadu Dash and Professor Pete Atkinson have shown that recent warmer temperatures in the India`s major wheat belt are having a negative effect on crop yield. The rise in nighttime temperatures causes the most impact.

Dr Jadu Dash said: "Our findings highlight the vulnerability of India`s wheat production system to temperature rise, which is predicted to continue in the coming decades as a consequence of climate change. We are sounding an early warning to the problem, which could have serious implications in the future and so needs further investigation."
The researchers used satellite images taken at weekly intervals from 2002 to 2007 of the wheat growing seasons to measure `vegetation greenness` of the crop which acts as an indicator of crop yield. The satellite imagery, of the north west Indo-Gangetic plains, was taken at a resolution of 500m squared - high enough to capture variations in local agricultural practices. The data was then compared with climate and temperature information for the area to examine the affect on growth and development of the crop.

In some areas of the Indian wheat belt, growers have been bringing forward their growing season in order to align the most sensitive point of the crop growth cycle with a cooler period.

However, the researchers have also shown that in the long-term this will not be an effective way of combating the problem, because of the high level of average temperature rise predicted for the future.

Dr Dash said: "Our study shows that, over the longer period, farmers are going to have to think seriously about changing their wheat to more heat tolerant varieties in order to prevent temperature-induced yield losses."

"Currently in India, 213 million people are food insecure and over 100 million are reliant on the national food welfare system, which uses huge quantities of wheat. This underlines how crucial it is to consider what types of wheat need to be grown in the coming decades to secure production," Dash added.
"We hope that soon, we will be able to examine agricultural practices in even greater detail - with the launch of the European Space Agency`s Sentinel satellites which will provide regular data at even higher spatial resolution," Dash further added.

With Agency Inputs