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Vulnerability of Indian wheat against rising temperature and aerosols

Sonkar, Geetika, Mall, R.K., Banerjee, Tirthankar, Singh, Nidhi, Kumar, T.V. Lakshmi, Chand, Ramesh
Environmental pollution 2019 v.254 pp. 112946
aerosols, climate, filling period, grain yield, growing season, hills, solar radiation, temperature, wheat, India
Potential impacts of change in climate on Indian agriculture may be significantly adverse, if not disastrous. There are projections of potential loss in wheat yield due to the rise in daily minimum (Tmin) and maximum (Tmax) temperature, but only few researchers have considered the extent of such loss on a spatial scale. We therefore, systematically studied the effect of change in Tmax, Tmean (daily average temperature) and Tmin, solar radiation (Srad) and precipitation (RAIN) during wheat growing seasons (from 1986 to 2015) on wheat crop yield over five wheat growing zones across India, taking into account the effect modification by aerosol loading (in terms of aerosol optical depth, 2001–2015). We note that for the entire India, 1 °C rise in Tmean resulted a 7% decrease in wheat yield which varied disproportionately across the crop growing zones by a range of −9% (peninsular zone, PZ) to 4% (northern hills zone, NHZ). The effect of Tmean on wheat yield was identical to the marginal effect of Tmax and Tmin, while 1% increase in Srad enhance wheat yield by 4% for all India with small geographical variations (2–5%), except for the northern hill region (−4%). Rise in 1 °C Tmean exclusively during grain filling duration was noted positive for all the wheat growing regions (0–2%) except over central plain zone (−3%). When estimates of weather variables on wheat yield was combined with the estimated impact of aerosols on weather, the most significant impact was noted over the NHZ (−23%), which otherwise varied from −7% to −4%. Overall, the study brings out the conclusive evidence of negative impact of rising temperature on wheat yield across India, which we found spatially inconsistent and highly uncertain when integrated with the compounding effect of aerosols loading.