AGRICULTURE THAT sustainably increases productivity, resilience (adaptation), reduces/removes GHGs (mitigation), and enhances achievement of national food security of Pakistan and development goals. Climate-smart crop production contributes to food security, climate change adaptation and mitigation by addressing different current and projected climate change impacts (e.g. variability, unpredictability). Crop production, encompassing the series of processes involved in the growing of crops – from land preparation through planting to the produce reaching the farm gate, is not operated in isolation but rather constitutes an integral part of a farming system, which in turn is a constituent of the broader agro-ecosystem and landscape.
Crop production is aimed at providing food security, contribute to sustainable diets, raw materials for industries and generally, to improve and sustain the livelihoods. The linkages between crop production to the wider overarching agricultural production systems and its value in socio-economic contexts are therefore obvious and these aspects are largely covered in other modules. Against the backdrop of social, economic, institutional and other enabling environments, we must focus on the technical aspects of crop production within the context of evolving climate change and variations. In particular, the concepts of the sustainability of crop production systems and to explore how crop production can adapt to and contribute to the mitigation of the effects of climate change.
The successes and failures of crops have always been subject to prevailing environmental factors and hence the mechanisms for managing the stresses imposed by these factors have remained subjects of extensive studies in varied disciplines. It is noteworthy that currently, crop production is increasingly vulnerable to risks associated with largely new and evolving climatic changes. Variations in environmental conditions that are posing significant challenges to farmers, over and beyond those that are experienced “normally”. The frequency, variability and intensity of these events are increasing. According to IPCC, the planet is facing more extreme weather events, such as heavy precipitation events, coastal high water, geographic shifts in storm and drought patterns, and warmer temperatures. For example their impact on the current tillage-based agriculture with no soil cover, low soil carbon and severe plough pan, a dominant approach to production intensification. Conversely, climate change will have a significant impact on crop production but alternative adaptation approaches and practices can address this by helping to reduce the net GHG emissions while maintaining or improving yields as published in AgMIP Annual Report in 2014.
Cold periods becoming warmer and shorter (warmer and more frequent hot days and nights over most land areas) and increased yields in colder environments; decreased yields in warmer environments; increased outbreaks of new insect pests and pathogens. Heavy precipitation events increasing in frequency over most areas are very likely. Drought-affected area increases land degradation and soil erosion; lower yields from crop damage and failure; loss of arable land intense tropical cyclone activity increases damage to crops.
Crop production has always been impacted by environmental stresses and has looked for ways to manage these. Climate change adaptation requires more than simply maintaining the current level of performance from the agricultural sector, but rather developing a set of responses that allow the sector to improve performance under the changing conditions climate change implies. Because agricultural production remains the main source of income for most rural communities, adaptation of the agricultural sector to the adverse effects of climate change will be imperative to protect and improve the livelihoods of the poor and to ensure food security.
Examples of ways are local adaptation to the stress through plant breeding, pest management strategies, and seed delivery systems, to name a few. Today, however, crop production is increasingly vulnerable to risks associated with climate change. This is because climate change is causing variations in environmental conditions that are posing significant challenges to farmers, over and beyond those that are experienced “normally”. Some examples of changes in climatic conditions that influence crop systems include rain quantity and distribution (and consequent water availability), extreme events such as floods and droughts, high temperatures and shifting.
The Earth’s average surface temperature has risen by 0.76 °C since 1850. The rate of climate change will possibly exceed the natural rate of adaptation of natural systems including crops, and this creates high concern for food availability. In essence, what this means is that crops that were usually planted in one area may not be able to grow there any longer. But that is not all! It is not just the crop itself that may be impacted, it is also the ecosystem services that ensure crop growth (e.g. pollination, soil biodiversity) and for these reasons it is necessary to address crop production at the farming systems level. However, with the proper technical, institutional, socio-economic and policy infrastructure in place, there is a huge potential for crop management practices adapt to, and contribute to, the mitigation of climate change.
Farming practices that rely on natural biological processes and biodiversity to increase the production of agro-ecosystems are “climate-smart”. Sustainable crop production intensification can be achieved through good farming practices, which are based on improving efficiencies and managing biological processes. SCPI is based on agricultural production systems and management practices that include maintaining healthy soil to enhance soil related ecosystem services and crop nutrition, cultivating a wider range of species and varieties in associations, rotations and sequences, using well adapted, high-yielding varieties and good quality seeds, integrated management of pests, diseases and weeds, efficient water management.
Managing agro-ecosystems for producing food and fodder and managing agro-ecosystems to adapt to and mitigate climate change have the same underlying principles, and can work together to achieve the same goal; feeding the population, into the future. Both crop production and climate change adaptation and mitigation require a resilient ecosystem and this can be ensured through approaches and practices that are based on the sustainable management of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Climate-smart agriculture in crop production is a sustainable crop production system that inherently in its nature addresses climate change. Sustainable agricultural systems also contribute to the delivery and maintenance of a range of valued public goods, such as clean water, carbon sequestration, flood protection, groundwater recharge, and landscape amenity value. By definition, sustainable agricultural systems are less vulnerable to shocks and stresses. Sustainable crop production systems are climate-smart and provide options for adapting to, and mitigating, climate change.