Battling Climate Change - Enhancing Crop Protection is the Need of the Hour

Battling Climate Change - Enhancing Crop Protection is the Need of the Hour

Rajavelu NK, CEO – Crop Protection Business, Godrej Agrovet Limited, 0

Raj holds an MBA from Northwood University and boasts over 25 years of diverse leadership experience, excelling in strategic planning, business development, and P&L management. A seasoned leader, he champions profitable business growth and adeptly manages multi-location teams, leveraging expertise in sales, marketing, and project management.

Farmers in India have always been at the mercy of the elements.

Over 60 percent of India's cultivated land is rain fed. The over dependence on monsoon due to lack of irrigation, temperature swings or even disrupted seasonal patterns, has typically tended the country’s agricultural output to be vulnerable to nature’s whims.

Climate change has made it all the more so.

Erratic Weather Equates to Price Fluctuations
Extreme weather events like droughts and floods, heat stress, cold snaps and unpredictable patterns of unseasonal rainfall, are exacerbating the difficulties faced by farmers and having an exponentially adverse impact on productivity year on year.

For instance, excessive rainfall in Himachal Pradesh earlier this year impacted the orchards in the apple-growing belt of Shimla and Kullu. With an estimated losses for horticulture pegged at INR 144 crore during this monsoon season, the changes in weather this year have not been seen before.

By using the right dosage of herbicides, fungicides and insecticides depending upon the crop at the right time, can minimize the danger to crops.

On the other side, drought in Maharashtra did drive up the average wholesale onion price by nearly 20 percent from July to August this year, thereby making government impose an export duty to stabilize onion prices.

Pest Attacks: A Looming Threat to India’s Food Security
As if weather-induced disruptions weren’t enough for farmers to deal with, warming temperatures are also driving an increase in pest attacks. Crops, already in a weakened state from combating weather-related stresses, simply don’t have the resistance to withstand them.

A CropLife India and Yes Bank report published this year estimated that India loses Rs. 2 lakh crore worth of crop yields to pests every year.

Chilli farmers in Andhra Pradesh, too, suffered losses of
over Rs. 3,000 crore in 2021 after their crop was decimated by western flower black thrips.

To put it simply, India’s farmlands are caught in a perfect storm — they face their greatest productivity challenge at a time when, under pressure to feed a population that is 1.4-billion strong and growing, they need to be at their productive best.

Climate Change and Crop Protection – Now is the Time
Historically, most of this drop in yields is on account of disrupted rainfall. But, today, it underscores the productivity problem faced by the agriculture sector that is only being exacerbated by pest attacks.

There’s little that can be done about climate change. It’s real and is only going to worsen. This is the harsh reality that we need to live with. Hence, any mitigation measures will ultimately be subject to the vagaries of the weather. Additionally, lack of availability of skill labor for agriculture is another big issue for the sector.

That said, mitigating crop losses to pests lies more in our control. And against this backdrop, crop protection can be the solution.

Combining strategies, tools and products protects crop against biotic stress like pests, weeds, diseases and viruses, which can be fatal to plants. Crop protection involves practices that guard against pest attacks.

By using the right dosage of herbicides, fungicides and insecticides depending upon the crop at the right time, can minimize the danger to crops.

However, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) can be another critical solution in today’s world.

IPM – Effective and Environment Sensitive Approach

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is among the most effective defense against pests. It combines chemical and non-chemical approaches to pest management and is a sustainable solution and adopts an ecosystem-based approach that is specific to specific crops.

According to government data, it has already shown results. Rice yields from fields where IPM was practiced increased by as much as 40 percent. For cotton, IPM drove an increase of over 26 percent.

But, of course the growing resistance of pests to pesticides and the need for sustainability became more urgent. To that end, the crop protection industry is stepping up by actively developing new products and technologies that are more effective, sustainable, and environmentally friendly.

Used in conjunction with the IPM approach, the products being developed today have the potential to drive a much-needed crop-protection revolution.

They can drive higher yields, improve the quality of the crop, slash losses and boost farm incomes. On a more macro level, they can guarantee our food security on a sustained basis without it having to come at the cost of the environment or human health.

That is why, raising awareness about the current cutting-edge, safe and sustainable crop protection products and practices are key. We need to spur the adoption of comprehensive crop protection solutions across our farmlands.

It’s the key to keeping us and the world fed.