THRISSUR: It seems that the climate change is hitting closer home than previously expected. The agriculture production and gestation period of some of the annual crops has seen a significant dip due to the effects of climate change such as increased temperature and change in the established rainfall pattern in Kerala.
According to farmers, the change in the climate is causing early banana and paddy harvest in parts of central Kerala, raising concerns of a significant production drop. The most-sought-after seasonal banana, Changalikodan Banana, throughout much of central Kerala, is being harvested early due to the change in weather conditions, said Sasi Ottupara, a farmer based in Thrissur, adding that the erratic climate change has also caused for an earlier-than-normal ripening of the fruit.
Apparently, local farmers were not taken by surprise by this year's early harvest. In fact, they knew as early as April when the extreme warm weather caused the crops to prematurely bloom, he said. Dr K M Sunil of the Academy Climate Change Education and Research, Kerala Agriculture University (KAU), who conducted a study on the impact of the climate change in paddy, said the crop duration of paddy has also been reduced by around 20-30 days in some varieties in Kerala.
As a result of this early harvest, the yield of the paddy has also come down by two to three quintal per acre in central and southern Kerala.
The climate change also delayed the flowering of mango trees in Kerala last year. Following this, the yield was substantially low in the just-concluded mango season and the fruit had low content of carbohydrates than the required level, he said. The changes in temperature and rainfall also proved detrimental to temperature-sensitive crops like cardamom, coffee, tea and black pepper cultivated in the high ranges in the state, said G S L H V Prasada Rao, Consultant Professor of KVASU's Centre for Animal Adaptation to Environment and Climate Change Studies.
The change in rainfall pattern this year badly affected the black pepper yield in Wayanad areas, where spike shedding in black pepper plantations is widely being reported, which would eventually result in severe production loss, he said. The 0.5 hike in normal temperature and erratic rainfall pattern is also expected to affect the animal husbandry sector as it may enhance the spread of vector-borne diseases and macro parasites, leading to the emergence of new livestock diseases, warned experts. One of the immediate reasons for this is attributed to the change in rainfall pattern in the state as it is never evenly distributed across the state during the monsoon, said Rao. Last year, heavy rains led to the south-west monsoon ending with above-average state rainfall. This year though the rainfall deficit was rectified by the latest spell of rain in August, the poor rains in June and surplus rain in July-end and August-first affected the normal life cycle of thermo-sensitive crops in the state, he said.
He added that it is high time to form a climate-tailored agricultural management policy with focus on integrated pest management and advanced weather forecasting.