WHAT PROBLEMS ARE WE FACING IN AGRICULTURE AT PRESENT TIME?
Over the last few years, we have been witnessing a decrease in crop yields. Sometimes, this change is not quite significant but it is slowly eating up our agricultural sector. About 40 percent of India’s workforce is employed in the agricultural sector therefore it becomes highly significant to acknowledge these problems. So that in the coming years, our agricultural yield is more while cutting down on production costs.
In recent years, the agricultural sector of India has witnessed a decrease in crop yields. It could be attributed to various factors such as climate change, excessive use of fertilizers, overgrazing etc.
Below we’ll discuss these factors in detail.
- CLIMATE CHANGE
Climate change is the biggest concern of the present time. It essentially means a long-term change in weather patterns of a place. It mostly happens due to human actions like deforestation, burning of fossil fuels and air pollution from factories. It also results in the melting of glaciers hence raising sea levels. Climate change has adverse effects in growing crops also. One of the basic reasons for climatic change is the emission of Greenhouse gases which is described below.
Greenhouse Gas Emission
On the global and national scale, agriculture is both the victim and contributor to the rise of the emissions of greenhouse gases. On one hand, agricultural activities contribute nearly 30 % of the greenhouse gas emissions, while greenhouse gases like Nitrous Oxide (N2O), Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) adversely affect the climate and have a negative impact on the overall production of crops.
How Climate Change Affects Agriculture?
Beyond a certain range of temperature, warming tends to reduce yields. A higher temperature also interferes with the ability of plants to absorb and use moisture. Evaporation from the soil accelerates when temperature rises and transpiration in plants increases. Climate change could lower farm incomes by 15% to 18% and this percentage could reach as high as 20% to 25% in unirrigated areas.
- Excessive Use of Fertilizer
Fertilizers can be grouped into two broad categories: Organic and Chemical fertilizers. Fertilizers enhance the fertility of soil and also replace the natural elements used by the previous crop. In recent years, we have been experiencing a spike in the use of fertilizers.
This could be attributed to agricultural productivity, as fertilizers help in increasing crop yields. The overall fertilizer consumption has grown from 50.6 million tonnes to 61.6 million tonnes in 2020, whereas the sale of urea grew by 31.6 million tonnes in 2019 to 33.6 million tonnes in 2020.
How Excessive use of Fertilizers affect Agriculture?
The use of inorganic fertilizers contributes to almost 40% of agricultural greenhouse gases (GHG) production.
Contaminants in fertilizers affect soil quality and could lead to soil erosion and might also enter the food web through uptake by plants and ingestion of contaminated foods.
Chemical fertilizers mostly contain nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Phosphorus being insoluble in water, causes the hardening of soil if used in excess. Nitrogen on the other hand, is soluble in water and it could easily travel through soil into the groundwater levels. It could stay in the groundwater for many years, thus causing groundwater contamination.
- Improper Crop Rotation
What Crop rotation essentially means is planting a variety of crops in a single year on a piece of land. Though there are many advantages of crop rotation, there are a few disadvantages too. Crop rotation requires a great deal of planning and execution.
The absence of required skills among some Indian agriculturalists lead to disastrous consequences. For example, the same crop should not be planted after a crop which used the same nutrients as it could lead to depletion of nutrients in the soil over time.
In simple words, overgrazing refers to the practice of grazing a large number of livestock on a land that is unable to recover its vegetation. Due to this, vegetation from a land is continuously removed without giving it proper time to replenish itself.
Majority of Indian agriculturalists are living below the poverty line. In this case, the affordability of fodder required for their livestock becomes high leaving them with lesser options to feed their livestock. Hence, these agriculturalists rely mostly on the green pastures to feed their animals.
Anything is harmless in moderation, but once it reaches to the extreme levels there are serious implications of it. Overgrazing is a serious problem as it causes soil erosion, desertification and loss of essential nutrients of the soil. As we already know, the roots of the plants hold the topsoil and prevent soil erosion but when the animals eat up the vegetation, the roots of the plants can no longer protect the topsoil. The soil is now exposed to severe weather conditions which erodes the topsoil leaving the land unsuitable for agriculture. In some places, overgrazing has led to a complete desertification.
- Increase in Urbanization
Increase in urbanization has a long-term impact on the agricultural sector as it results in the declining ratio of food producers to food consumers. According to a study, in 1900 there were 6.7 rural dwellers to each urban dweller. In the present time, there is less than one and it has been suggested that by 2025, the ratio would become three urban dwellers to two rural dwellers.
This ratio would clearly impact food production as there will be more consumers than producers. This would pressurize the agricultural sector to ramp up its production, which would further compromise the food quality as well as increase the use of chemical fertilizers.
- Population Growth
Population growth has its disadvantages in not just food production, but in almost each and every area. According to a 2020 report, the world population is growing at the rate of around 1.05% per year, with the current population at 7.8 billion. The population of India stands at 1.3 billion and is expected to be 1.67 billion by 2050, becoming the most populous country.
Growing population demands a growth in food production but at this pace of population growth, it becomes very difficult for the agricultural sector to cope up with the growing demands. The agricultural sector will have to tackle a lot of challenges in terms of feeding a growing population.
Increasing population has led to an inadequate food supply. The reason being there are more mouths to feed and lesser hands to produce food. This is the reason the underdeveloped countries with a rapid population growth are generally not able to feed their growing population.
As the human population tends to grow, they require more farming area for cultivation of crops. The growth of population is relatively very high and has disturbed the land-man ratio. While carrying out agriculture in a smaller farm seems to be good on paper, it makes the adoption of modern technology in agriculture next to impossible.
With growing demands, the producers might try to inflate the prices or compromise on the quality of the crop. This would further lead to the fall in food standards.
Forests have been catering to almost every human need. Be it medicine, food, or fuel, humans have been using these resources for a very long time and gradually their demands as well as the human population both skyrocketed leading to a severe cutting down of trees and decrease in forest cover of the planet. This has several implications such as climate change, decrease in rainfall and migration of wildlife from its natural habitat to towns and cities. Between 2015 and 2020, the rate of deforestation was estimated at 10 million hectares per year. The area of primary forest worldwide has decreased by over 80 million hectares since 1990. (source: fao.org)
Though agriculture remains the main reason why forests are cleared, the effects of deforestation is seen in agriculture as well. The roots of trees hold the topsoil and the cutting down of trees lead to soil erosion on a large scale leaving the area barren or infertile. Also, the forests regulate climate at various scales in ways such as producing rainfall, and controlling the humidity and temperature of an area. Depletion of forest cover leads to increase in temperature and decrease in rainfall, which may not be suitable for agriculture. Hence, deforestation has a huge negative impact on agriculture.
There are a lot of factors which have been affecting the agricultural sector in the present time. If not taken the right steps at the right time, these would lead to some very serious disadvantages affecting the whole food production cycle. The good news is that the people and the government at present, is taking some measures to check these problems. This serves as a good start but until these measures are executed on a large scale, we would not see any significant changes.
For example, until people take climate change more seriously and the government comes up with huge penalties for breaking laws on climate change, things would continue to worsen. The government along with some NGOs should take steps to educate the farmers on the long-term negative impacts of using chemical fertilizers excessively. The chemical fertilizers should be replaced with environment friendly organic fertilizers like cow manure, peat, guano etc.
Deforestation should be dealt with strictly as it directly impacts the climate of a place. Newer stricter laws should be introduced and the offenders must be penalized with hefty fines or long jail terms. Adoption of such strict measures is the need of the hour for a thriving agricultural economy.