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National Initiative on Climate Resilient Agriculture (NICRA)

Background  

Climate change has become an important area of concern for India to ensure food and nutritional security for growing population.  The impacts of climate change are global, but countries like India are more vulnerable in view of the high population depending on agriculture.   In India, significant negative impacts have been implied with medium-term (2010-2039) climate change, predicted to reduce yields by 4.5 to 9 percent, depending on the magnitude and distribution of warming.   Since agriculture makes up roughly 16 percent of India’s GDP, a 4.5 to 9% negative impact on production implies a cost of climate change to be roughly up to 1.5 percent of GDP per year.    The Government of India has accorded high priority on research and development to cope with climate change in agriculture sector.    The Prime Minister’s National Action Plan on climate change has identified Agriculture as one of the eight national missions.   


Objectives 

With this background, the ICAR has launched a major Project entitled, National Initiative on Climate Resilient Agriculture (NICRA) during 2010-11 with an outlay of Rs.350 crores for the XI Plan with the following objectives. 

  • To enhance the resilience of      Indian agriculture covering crops, livestock  and fisheries to climatic variability      and climate change through development and application of improved      production and risk management technologies
  • To demonstrate site specific      technology packages on farmers’ fields for adapting to current climate      risks
  • To enhance the capacity building      of scientists and other stakeholders in climate resilient agricultural      research and its application.

 

Project Components

Both short term and long terms outputs are expected from the project in terms of new  and improved varieties of crops, livestock breeds, management practices that help in adaptation and mitigation and inputs for policy making to mainstream climate resilient agriculture in the developmental planning.  The overall expected outcome is enhanced resilience of agricultural production to climate variability in vulnerable regions.  The project is comprised of four components.

1)      Strategic research on adaptation and mitigation

2)      Technology demonstration on farmers’ fields to cope with current climate variability

3)      Sponsored and competitive research grants to fill critical research gaps

4)      Capacity building of different stake holders 


Strategic Research 

The strategic research has been planned at leading research institutes of ICAR in a network mode covering crops, horticulture, livestock, natural resource management and fisheries sectors.  To begin with, the project is focusing on crops like wheat, rice, maize, pigeonpea, groundnut, tomato, mango and banana; cattle, buffalo and small ruminants among livestock and both marine and freshwater fish species of economic importance.  The major research themes are:

  • Vulnerability assessment of major production zones
  • Linking weather based agro-advisories to contingency planning
  • Assessing the impacts and evolving varieties tolerant to key climatic stresses (drought, heat, frost, flooding, etc.) in major food and horticulture crops
  • Continuous monitoring of greenhouse gases in open field conditions in major production systems
  • Evolving adaptation and mitigation strategies through enhancing water and nutrient use efficiency and conservation agriculture
  • Studying changes in pest dynamics, pest/pathogen-crop relationships and emergence of new pests and pathogens under changing climate
  • Adaptation strategies in livestock through nutritional and environmental manipulations
  • Harnessing the beneficial effects of temperature in inland and marine fisheries through better understanding of the spawning behaviour. 

The research was initiated during 2011-12 in all the above themes.  The major emphasis during the year was on building state of art research infrastructure like high throughput phenotyping platforms, free air temperature elevation systems in open fields, environmental growth chambers with CO2and temperature controls and special caloric metric system to study livestock response to heat stress. These are some of the unique facilities being set up for the first time in Asia.    In all the target crops like rice, wheat, maize, pigeonpea, tomato and mango, core sets of genetic resources were assembled and field phenotyped at different institutions with a view to identify sources of tolerance to climatic stresses and related genes and traits.  For the first time, all the germplasm of wheat with NBPGR has been multiplied for field phenotyping and currently under evaluation.   Country wide studies have been initiated to understand the

impact of temperature on flowering behaviour in mango.  A nationwide pest surveillance and monitoring system has been put in place for all the target crops for major pests and diseases wherein real time incidence is being monitored along with weather parameters to build pest warning models.  Methods for measurement of green house gas emissions in the marine ecosystem have been standardized.  Carbon sequestration potential through agro forestry systems across the country is being quantified.  Monitoring of experiments on conservation agriculture in different production systems is initiated to assess the adaptation and mitigation potential of CA practices.  The vulnerability of all the rural districts in the country (about 540) is being quantified in terms of exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity in order to prepare a vulnerability atlas. 


Technology Demonstration

The technology demonstration component deals with demonstrating proven technologies for adaptation of crop and livestock production systems to climate variability.

This component is implemented in selected vulnerable districts of the country through location specific interventions by Krishi Vigyan Kendras in a participatory mode. The project is implemented in 100 districts (see map) involving over one lakh farm families across the country.  These districts are selected based on the following criteria besides the strength of the KVKs: 

  • Drought proneness based on 30 years rainfall      data (Source : IMD)
  • Cyclone      proneness based on frequency as recorded by IMD/State Disaster Management      agencies.
  • Flood proneness based on IMD data and NDMA maps.
  • Vulnerability to heat wave and cold wave based on IMD grid data on      temperatures.
  • Actual incidence of floods and droughts as recorded by AICRPAM centers

The interventions in the village panchayats are finalized following a participatory approach through the Village Climate Risk Management Committee (VCRMC), after the PRA to assess the climate related problems in the village and baseline survey.  The program was launched formally in all the villages by involving the state line department functionaries and leaders of the panchayats to ensure local ownership of the project from the beginning and convergence of related schemes currently in operation in the panchayat.  In each village, the interventions are made in the following four modules: 


Module I: Natural resources:  This module consists of interventions related to in-situ moisture conservation, water harvesting, supplemental irrigation, improved drainage in flood prone areas, conservation tillage where appropriate, artificial ground water recharge and water saving irrigation methods. 


Module II: Crop Production:  This module consists of introducing drought/temperature/flood tolerant varieties, advancement of planting dates of rabi crops in areas with terminal heat stress, water saving paddy cultivation methods (SRI, aerobic, direct seeding), frost management in horticulture through trash burning, community nurseries for delayed monsoon, custom hiring centres for timely planting, location specific intercropping systems with high sustainable yield index.

 

Module III: Livestock and Fisheries:  Use of community lands for fodder production during droughts/floods, improved fodder/feed storage methods, preventive vaccination, improved shelters for reducing heat stress in livestock , management of fish ponds/tanks during water scarcity and excess water, etc. 


Module IV: Institutional Interventions:  This module consist of institutional interventions either by strengthening the existing ones or initiating new ones relating to seed bank, fodder bank, commodity groups, custom hiring centre, collective marketing, introduction of weather index based insurance and climate literacy through a village level weather station.

The unique features of this project are setting up of custom hiring centers in all the 100 villages and formation of Village Climate Risk Management Committees. For each intervention, it is planned to work out the carbon, water and energy foot prints.

Early Outcome

The project has made significant initial impact and was well received in most of the districts.  Technologies such as on-farm water harvesting in ponds, supplemental irrigation, introduction of early maturing drought tolerant varieties, paddy varieties tolerant to sub-mergence in flood prone districts, improved drainage in water logged areas, recharging techniques for tube wells, site specific nutrient management and management of sodic soils, mulching, use of zero till drills were enthusiastically implemented by the farmers in NICRA villages across the country.  In Belgaum district village level agro-advisory system was piloted successfully.  The intervention which found tremendous support across the country was the custom hiring centres.  One hundred such centres are opened across the country and this intervention posed several research problems which were not anticipated like lack of tractors in some tribal villages and the difficulty in using tractor drawn implements.  In the first year itself, between Rs. 5000 to 50,000 revenue has been generated in many villages and the VCRMCs as an Institutional mechanism is able to manage these centres.       

Overall, the project has generated high enthusiasm among farmers and raised hopes that by combining technology solutions with community mobilization, we can help small and marginal farmers to cope with current climate variability, to some extent. 


Sponsored and competitive grants 

Under this component, critical researchable issues like impact on plant pollinators, fisheries in esturian habitats, hail storm management, hill and mountain eco-system, small ruminants and socio economic aspects of climate change etc. are provided research grants.    

Capacity building 

Since climate change is an emerging area of science, capacity building of young scientists on simulation modeling, high through put phenotyping, greenhouse gasses measurement, etc. is being taken up through training programs organized in India and sponsoring scientists abroad.  Simultaneously, more than 100 training programs have been organized across the country covering 50000 farmers to create awareness on climate change and variability. 

XII plan activities in NICRA

State of the art infrastructure is being built at the major research institutes of the ICAR to take up long term basic and strategic research on the impact of climate change on crops and livestock, modeling future climate impacts on agriculture, water resources and development of location specific adaptation and mitigation options.  To address critical gaps in the initiative, specific additional projects have been sanctioned within the scheme under sponsored/competitive mode from institutions within and outside NARS.  These projects are addressing critical areas like arid zone, hill and mountain eco system, climate impact on pollinators, hail-storm management and socio-economic impacts of climate change including adaptation financing. 

In the limited time of one year, efforts are being made to build state of the art of infrastructure, set up the best equipments for basic research, initiate large scale screening of crop/horticulture germplasm for heat, drought and flooding stresses, characterize livestock breeds in relation to climatic stresses and study the impact of climate variability on spawing in marine and freshwater fisheries.

Considering that the climate variability impact the food production in future it is important that we continue to address this critical area in XII Five Year Plan with significant emphasis.  Hence, the scheme is being formulated to build up on the initiative taken during XI Five Year Plan, by strengthening the theme areas, viz., phenotyping/breeding programs in crops, horticulture and livestock, simulation modeling to understand the impacts at regional level and national level,  address crops and regions which could not be covered in the XI Plan and expand the technology demonstration to more vulnerable districts.


Approach of the Scheme

The unique features of the Scheme to be implemented in XII Five Year Plan are:

  • Strengthening the existing net-work research on adaptation and mitigation (food crops, horticulture, livestock and fishery) with more infrastructure and capacity building
  • Setting up of high through put phenotyping platforms and temperature, CO2, ozone gradient facilities at identified locations/ institutions including North East  region.
  • Strengthening research on  climate sensitive crops like cotton, maize, sugarcane, onion, etc. which are critical for India’s farm GDP/exports but not covered in the XI Plan 
  • Projected impacts on water availability at the river basin level and participatory action research at large number of sites on evolving coping strategies through water saving technologies
  • Evolving a national level pest and disease monitoring system to assess the changing pest/disease dynamics under changed climate (both in crops and livestock)
  • Strengthening crop simulation and climate scenario down-scaling modeling capabilities at major  Institutes and a dedicated unit at IARI, New Delhi
  • Piloting the operationalization of the district/block level agromet advisory services through KVKs/district line departments and contingency plans during droughts and floods 
  • Expanding the technology demonstration and dissemination to 130 vulnerable districts of the country.

 



 

 


   
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