Climate Change & Agriculture

Organic agricultural a synonymous for biological agriculture, seems to be the feasible solution to the most debated topic “Climate change”. The climate of our world is undergoing a dramatic change. Global warming is increasing rapidly and there is widespread consensus that the current trend is caused by increased emissions of various greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, hydroflurocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulphur hexafluoride, methane and nitrous oxide. Greenhouse gases allow short-wave solar radiation to pass into the earth’s atmosphere. They absorb some of the long wave thermal radiation that is otherwise emitted back out to space, which results warming effect on our atmosphere. The emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere comes with industrialization, through deforestation, shifting cultivation and the expansion of intensive agriculture.

The present day agriculture is no more sustainable in most parts of the country, cannot forbid relying on chemical fertilizers and pesticides for the sake of susceptibility as defined by the west. The powerful message that distills from all thoughts and dialogues is the move towards Fukuoka’s natural farming and Vinoba Bhave’s Sarvodaya method of ‘Rishi Kheti’. The logic to these naturalists is aimed at reduced dependency on non-renewable resources, purchased inputs and population control to achieve higher efficiency of inputs and economic maximization of yield along with environmental safety.

Biological agriculture can be defined as a system that attempt to provide a balanced environment, in which the maintenance of soil fertility and the control of pests and diseases are achieved by the enhancement of natural processes and cycles, with moderate inputs of energy resources, while maintaining an optimum productivity. The chemical agricultural (conventional agriculture) techniques have resulted in great increase in productivity; however, it has greater negative impacts that include soil erosion or degradation, effects of pesticides, detention of soil health and environment, environmental pollution etc.

We have conducted a large number of experiments under four different agro-ecosystems (arid, semi-arid, sub-humid, and humid) in India to find out how much extent organic agriculture can help to mitigate climate change especially under soil environment. Studies have been conducted in four agro-ecosytems covering three states. The following selected areas were studied :

The concentration of CO2 and other green house gasses (GHGs) in the atmosphere is increasing as a result of land-use change beside fossil-fuel combustion and cement production. The increase in GHGs in the atmosphere is leading to climate change and global warming. There is a need to reducing GHGs emissions and to increasing carbon sinks. Currently, the biosphere is considered to be a carbon sink absorbing about 2.8 gigatonnes of C a year, which represents 30 pre cents of fossil-fuel emissions.

  • Arid agro-ecosystems (Western Rajasthan): Districts of Jaisalmer, Barmer, Bikaner, Jodhpur, Tinwari, Phalodi, Sanchor, Naguar, Osiyan, Lathi
  • Semi-arid agro-ecosystems (East – South Rajasthan): Districts of Alwar, Kota, Udaipur, Chittorgarh, Bundi, Jhalawar, Tonk, Dousa, Bharatpur, Swaimadhopur
  • Sub-humid agro-ecosystems (Vidarbha): Districts of Amrawati, Bhandara, Chandrapur, Gad Chiroli, Gondia, Nagpur, Akola, Wardha, Washim, Yavatmal
  • Humid agro-ecosystems (Uttarakhand): Districts of Dehradun, Narendranagar, Pauri, Roorkie, Almora, Nainital, Haridwar, Rhisikesh, Mosouri, Ranikhet

The process of soil carbon stock or flux of C into the soil forms part of the global carbon balance. Many of the factors affecting the flow of C into and out of the soil are affected by land management practices.

The soils of India under different Ecozones have lost a significant amount of C and, therefore, offer a great potential for rehabilitating these areas. Our result clearly showed that improvements in farming systems and use of organic material/compost could add C to soils. Results also clearly demonstrated that organic management of land definitely increase carbon stock and concurrently enhance plant productivity and prevent erosion and desertification especially under arid and semi-arid eco systems.

Enhancing carbon stock in different areas could have direct environmental, economic and soil benefits for local people. It could increase benefits for farmers as well as mitigate global warming, at least in the coming decades until alternative energy sources are developed.

Plant residues provide a renewable resource for incorporation into soil organic matter. Production of plant residues in ecosystems at steady-state will be balanced by the return of dead plant material to the soil. In agricultural systems, it was estimated only about 20% of production will an average be accumulated into the soil organic fraction. Furthermore, in some farming systems, all above ground production may be harvested, leaving only the root biomass. The actual quantities of residue returned to the soil will depend on the crop, the growing conditions and the agricultural practices. For example, for a soybean-wheat system in our sub-humid areas, the annual contribution of C from above ground biomass was about 22% for soybean and 32% for wheat. This resulted in 18% of the annual gross carbon input being incorporated into the soil organic carbon. The positive influence on microbial biomass, microbial and enzyme activities, carbon sequestration, water holding capacity, carbon stock and build up under organic farming than conventional agriculture would definitely boost to migate climate change under different ecozones of India. The following tables show some of the advantages of organic agriculture over chemical agriculture:

Increase in water holding capacity due to organic agriculture

Ecozones

% increase over chemical farming

Range

Mean

Arid

2-9

5.3

Semi-arid

3-16

7.2

Sub-humid

4-15

6.9

Humid

3-17

6.8

Increase in C build up due to organic agriculture

Ecozones

Additional increase (mg g-1)

Range

Mean

Arid

49-83

62.5

Semi-arid

57-98

71.9

Sub-humid

61-101

75.5

Humid

68-102

83.0

Changes in microbial biomass due to organic agriculture

Agro Ecosystems

% increase in microbial biomass due to organic agriculture

Range

Mean

Arid

2-33

15.8

Semi-arid

5-25

17.5

Sub-humid

7-28

16.9

Humid

8-30

17.6

Carbon sequestration by organic agriculture* as compared to chemical farming

Agro Ecosystems

% increase in C sequestration

Range

Mean

Arid

12-25

17.2

Semi-arid

8-19

13.5

Sub-humid

6-15

10.2

Humid

5-14

7.4

Improvement in microbial activity in organic versus chemical farming

Agro Ecosystems

Increase over chemical farming (%)

Range

Mean

Arid

4-59

21.5

Semi-arid

6-61

23.7

Sub-humid

8-62

25.9

Humid

9-63

26.5

 




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