The relative importance of climatic and non-climatic factors in explaining spatio-temporal variability in Indian agriculture

Authors: Pinki Mondal*, University of Delaware, Meha Jain, University of Michigan, Deepti Singh, Washington State University, Gillian Galford, University of Vermont, Ruth DeFries, Columbia University
Topics: Coupled Human and Natural Systems, Remote Sensing, Geographic Information Science and Systems
Keywords: smallholders, agriculture, climate, remote sensing, GIS, India
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Hoover, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


India is predicted to be one of the most vulnerable regions in terms of agricultural sensitivity to future climate variability and changes. Indian smallholder farmers who own less than 2 ha of farmland represent 78% of the total Indian farmers and produce 41% of the country’s food crops. These smallholder farmers are among some of the most vulnerable communities to climatic and economic changes due to limited access to technology, infrastructure, markets, and institutional or financial support in the case of adverse climatic events. Baseline information on agricultural sensitivity to weather variability will provide useful information for regional-level, and eventually state- and national-level, strategies and policies that promote adaptation to projected climate changes.
This study takes an integrated approach to understanding agriculture-climate dynamics across agro-ecological zones in India using satellite time-series data (2000-01 – 2015-16) for cropped area and climate parameters, and census data for socio-economic factors. We developed multi-level regression models with MODIS-derived annual winter cropped area as the response variable, and a set of temperature and precipitation indices along with socio-economic indicators as predictor variables. We find that winter daytime temperature is the most significant factor affecting winter crops, irrespective of crop type, and is negatively associated with winter crops despite the differences in biophysical and socio-economic conditions across India. With pronounced winter warming projected in the coming decades, effective adaptation by smallholder farmers would require additional strategies, such as access to fine-scale temperature forecasts ahead of the planting season and heat-tolerant winter crop varieties.

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