Rice and Climate Change: India and IRRI Collaboration

PramodAgrawal RT

Pramod Aggarwal
Regional Program Leader (South Asia)
CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security (CCAFS)

Global climate change—characterized by increasing temperatures, more variable rainfall, sea-level rise, and melting glaciers—is projected to significantly impact rice production in India and neighboring countries, and affect the food and livelihood security of millions. Besides bearing the brunt of the impact of climatic changes, flooded rice production, to some extent, adds to the problem through methane gas emissions. In the early 1980s, rice cultivation was blamed for its major contribution to global warming through its methane emissions.

India and IRRI share a long research collaboration studying the relationship between rice and the climate. IRRI worked with scientists from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research to set up automatic methane gas measuring facilities. This research was instrumental in producing revised estimations of methane gas emissions, leading to a downward evaluation of emissions from the agricultural sector.

The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security (CCAFS) is committed to studying the synergies and trade-offs between adaptation and mitigation in farming systems, including rice-based cropping systems, that can lead to long-term sustainable solutions. Its mission to scale out climate-smart agriculture will help build farmers’ resilience to climate change, increase food security and income, and lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions whenever possible.

As part of this endeavor, the Climate-Smart Village project, a community-based approach to sustainable agriculture, engages local partners and institutions to tackle climate change and climate variability. IRRI, along with other CGIAR centers, is a key partner with CCAFS in this project. Several Climate-Smart Villages have been set up in India.

IRRI and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center are working on GHG emission estimations under different management practices in research and in farmers’ fields in several Climate-Smart Villages in India and South Asia. These studies will lead to the development of more robust measurement, reporting, and verification systems for methane gas emissions in rice paddies that can be employed by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and other agencies.

Also, farmers in Climate-Smart Villages in eastern India have been introduced to drought-tolerant rice varieties such as Sahbhagi dhan and flood-tolerant varieties such as Swarna-Sub1, among many other adaptive practices. Water-saving and low- emission practices such as alternate wetting and drying and direct-seeded rice are an integral part of the climate-smart portfolio in these villages.

IRRI, together with several Indian national agencies, is also implementing an information and communications technology project in eastern India to provide climate-informed agro-advisory services for field-level crop and postharvest management in rice and wheat systems. The cloud-based mobile phone app aims to increase farmers’ adaptive capacity for increased food security and income.

We hope that the historic partnership between India and IRRI, which led to the Green Revolution in rice in the 1960s and 1970s, will provide new directions for ensuring food security in the face of climate change for the vast rice-dependent population in India.