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Rice Production in India and Its Relationship to Drought Severity

Paper Reviewed
Birthal, P.S., Negi, D.S., Khan, M.T. and Agarwal, S. 2015. Is Indian agriculture becoming resilient to droughts? Evidence from rice production systems. Food Policy 56: 1-12.

Noting that drought is one of the major constraints to sustainable rice production in rain-fed farming systems of India, Birthal et al. (2015) examined the frequency, severity and spread of droughts throughout India over the past three and a half decades, while assessing their combined impact on the country's rice production. And what did they thereby learn?

The four Indian researchers report that approximately one-third of the rice-cultivated area of India is affected by mostly-moderate droughts; but they say that the frequency of these droughts has increased in recent years. Nevertheless, they further report that there has been a concomitant decline in losses in rice yield. So what's been happening here?

Birthal et al. write that "the weakening effect of droughts is attributed to improvements in farmers' adaptive capacity due to expansion of irrigation facilities and increased availability of improved varieties for the rain-fed production systems." Clearly, these developments could indeed play major roles in the ongoing increase in Indian rice production. But something else may also be contributing to this welcome trend; and that something is likely to be the historic and still-ongoing increase in the atmosphere's CO2 concentration.

In support of this suggestion, we note that in the plant growth database of our website we have tabulated the mean results of 235 different experimental assessments of the impacts of 300 and 600 ppm increases in the air's CO2 content on rice biomass production, which results reveal mean crop yield increases of 37.5% and 141%, respectively.

And so we have another example of the welcome fact that the ingenuity of man, together with the worldwide plant-growth-increasing consequences of fossil fuel combustion, provide humanity with the ability to adequately feed our growing numbers, as time marches ever forward.

Posted 17 February 2016