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Heatwave Alert: Now is the Optimal Time to Go for Smart Agri Practices!

Mr Rajesh Aggarwal, Managing Director of Insecticides India Limited shares critical insights on the burning issue.

Mrini Devnani
With heatwave impacting Indian agriculture, now is the time to re-think, innovate and adapt (This image has been created with MidJourney)
With heatwave impacting Indian agriculture, now is the time to re-think, innovate and adapt (This image has been created with MidJourney)

As per the India Meteorological Department (IMD), severe heatwave conditions are predicted in several northern states, including Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and the national capital region of Delhi. The forecast indicates that these scorching temperatures are expected to persist over the coming days.

Consequently, the heatwave will significantly impact agricultural activities across the country too. High temperatures and prolonged heat strains are already causing adverse effects on crops, soil moisture, and overall agricultural productivity. Such long-term exposure will result in causing heat stress on crops, reduced photosynthesis, wilting, and even crop failure.

Heatwaves accelerate the evaporation of soil moisture, exacerbating drought conditions and affecting crop growth. Moreover, farmers, at present, are facing challenges in crop management, irrigation, and livestock care due to the scorching temperatures.

Sharing his view on the subject, Mr Rajesh Aggarwal, Managing Director of Insecticides India Limited says, “Increased vulnerability is expected for vegetable output due to high temperatures. Temperature plays an important role in horticulture crops as well. A sudden increase may impact the bulb and the fruit during the bulb initiation and development process, especially in tomatoes and onions.”

Considering this, to safeguard crops from the adverse effects of heatwaves and other climate-related challenges, farmers can implement a range of proactive measures. “Some of these include: selecting appropriate crop varieties. Opting for heat-tolerant and drought-resistant ones can enhance resilience to extreme weather conditions. These are specifically bred to withstand high temperatures and limited water availability, thereby minimizing yield losses during heat waves. Moreover, implementing efficient irrigation techniques is crucial for ensuring adequate soil moisture levels. Drip irrigation and sprinkler systems can help optimize water usage by delivering water directly to the roots of plants, curtailing evaporation and maximizing absorption. Besides, implementing mulching practices can also be beneficial,” he says.

Integrated pest management (IPM) strategies must also be employed to mitigate the risk of pest and disease outbreaks exacerbated by heatwaves. Practicing crop rotation and diversification can help manage the impacts of climate variability. Alongside, rotating crops help break pest and disease cycles, improve soil health, and reduce reliance on a single crop that may be susceptible to specific weather conditions. Investing in soil conservation practices such as conservation tillage and cover cropping can further enhance resilience to heat waves. These practices improve soil structure, increase water infiltration, and reduce erosion, thereby promoting healthy crop growth even during extreme weather events, according to the expert.

Lastly, staying informed about weather forecasts and climate patterns is crucial for timely decision-making. Farmers can also utilize weather forecasting tools and advisory services to anticipate and alleviate the impacts of heat waves on their crops.

But that’s not all! In the coming future, there will be many big changes in adopting climate-smart agriculture. While advancements in precision agriculture, remote sensing, and data analytics will enable farmers to make more informed decisions, integrating these technologies into farming practices requires serious guidance and training. “Nonetheless, it can augment resource use, reduce environmental impact, and enhance productivity, making agriculture more climate-resilient. The promotion of agroecological approaches is also another option. Agroecology emphasizes the integration of ecological principles into agricultural systems to enhance biodiversity, soil health, and ecosystem services. So, practices such as agroforestry, intercropping, and conservation agriculture can improve soil fertility, water retention, and pest regulation, thereby enhancing the resilience of farming systems to climate variability.”

Shortly, there will be a growing emphasis on climate-smart crops and livestock breeding. Breeding programs may prioritize developing varieties and breeds that are resilient to heat, drought, pests, and diseases, while also maintaining high nutritional value and productivity. “This will involve utilizing genetic diversity and advanced breeding techniques, such as genomics and marker-assisted selection, to accelerate the development of climate-resilient crop varieties and livestock breeds,” says Mr Aggarwal.

The success of climate-smart agricultural practices relies on the ability to enhance the resilience of food production, processing, storage, and distribution systems to climate-related risks and shocks. Thus, strengthening market access for smallholder farmers and promoting value-added processing and marketing initiatives can improve livelihoods and enhance the adaptive capacity of agricultural communities.

“Policy and institutional support will also be crucial for scaling it up. Governments, international organizations, and development agencies will need to invest in research, extension services, infrastructure, and capacity building to support the adoption of climate-smart practices by farmers. In addition, financial incentives, insurance schemes, and risk management strategies will be essential for incentivizing and rewarding climate-smart investments in agriculture,” Mr Aggarwal opines.

For those farmers looking to incorporate technology for resilience and crop sustainability, the expert advocates for precision agriculture techniques. “This involves the precise application of inputs such as water, fertilizers, and insecticides based on real-time data and analysis of field conditions. Technologies such as Global Positioning System (GPS), Geographic Information System (GIS), and remote sensing enable farmers to map variability in soil properties, moisture levels, and crop health within their fields.”

Through this, farmers can tailor their management practices to optimize resource use, reduce input costs, and minimize environmental impact. Another way of technology adoption is the use of climate-smart farming tools and decision support systems. “These tools can provide farmers with weather forecasts, pest and disease predictions, and agronomic recommendations customized to their specific location and farming practices. By leveraging such information, farmers can make timely decisions regarding sowing, irrigation, pest control, and harvesting, thereby reducing risks, and maximizing yields in a changing climate.”

Lastly, the integration of sensor technologies and Internet of Things (IoT) devices into farming operations can enhance the monitoring and management of crops and livestock. Soil moisture sensors, weather stations, and drone-based imaging systems allow farmers to monitor field conditions in real-time and detect potential issues such as water stress, nutrient deficiencies, or pest infestations early on. This enables proactive intervention and more precise management of crop inputs, leading to improved crop health and productivity.

“Adopting digital farming platforms and farm management software can streamline record-keeping, planning, and decision-making processes for farmers. These can equip farmers to track input usage, monitor crop performance, analyze profitability, and access market information, facilitating more efficient and informed farm management practices,” says Mr Aggarwal.

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