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Impact of Climate Change on the Productivity of Rice and Wheat Crops in Punjab

Sunny Kumar ( is a Research Fellow and Baljinder Kaur Sidana ( is an Assistant Economist at the Department of Economics and Sociology, Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana.

The seasonal trends in climate variables and their impact on rice and wheat yields in Punjab are assessed using daily data of temperature and rainfall by district from 1986 to 2015. A significant rise in mean temperature is observed in both the rice- and wheat-growing periods. Rainfall during the rice-growing period has decreased 7% annually over the past 30 years. Significant climate change will lower the rice yield by 8.10% by 2080 and wheat by 6.51%. To mitigate the effects of climate change, it is necessary to adopt climate-resilient crop choices and irrigation practices and technologies.

This paper is based on a research study Sunny Kumar conducted as a doctoral candidate for the dissertation entitled “Impact of Climate Change on Production Efficiency of Rice and Wheat Crops in Punjab Agriculture.” The study was conducted under the guidance of Baljinder Kaur Sidana. The authors are grateful to Md Tajuddin Khan for help during the analysis and to Pratap Singh Birthal for invaluable and constructive comments and suggestions.

Punjab is one of the most fertile regions in India. The early success of the green revolution in Punjab in India motivated the Government of India to grow paddy and wheat in the state and buy it at a guaran­teed price for the national food procurement and distribution system. The state serves as the food bowl of the country; it accounts for 12% of the national foodgrain production and contributes about 40%–45% of wheat and 25%–30% to the central pool. The state has about 28.94 lakh hectares (ha) under rice cultivation; almost the entire area is irrigated. The average productivity of rice in the state is about 3,838 kilogram per hectare (PAU 2017).

The climate of Punjab is semi-arid and tropical. The weather is uncomfortable during summer, or the pre-monsoon season, which lasts from April to June, and the rainy season begins in the last quarter of June and lasts until the first quarter of September (GoP 2007). But the climate has been changing; climate change is the most persistent threat to worldwide stability in this century (Adger et al 2011). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) defines climate change as “the changes in the state of climate that can be identified [by using statistical tests, for example] by changes in the mean and the variability of its properties, and that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer.” Natural factors and anthropogenic interventions are the main causes for the change in climate, and these pose a significant threat to agrarian societies in tropical regions. According to an IPCC (2013) report, the atmosphere is already 1°C warmer, and Aggarwal (2009) finds that a 1°C increase in mean temperature would diminish the yields of wheat, soyabean, mustard, groundnut, and potato by 3%–7%. If the temperature rises by 2.5°C–4.9°C, as it is expected to by 2099, the damage to these crops will increase 10%–40%. By 2099, the annual temperature is expected to rise 2°C and annual rainfall to 7% (Sanghi et al 1998; Kumar and Parikh 2001; Sanghi and Mendelsohn 2008). For every 1°C rise in temperature, the requirement for water is estimated to increase by 10%, and affect the productivity of several crops and the efficiency of water use (Venkateswarlu and Shanker 2012).

Punjab has been experiencing greater variability in the climate in recent times. Trends and projections suggest that climate change is negatively affecting rice and wheat yield, water level, and energy use and, consequently, national food security and individual livelihood security. Rice–wheat crop rotation has exhausted the state’s natural resources. Small changes in the climate can cause large water resource problems in many areas, especially in semi-arid regions such as north-west Punjab. Crop yield is affected by the increase in minimum temperature, fluctuations in rainfall, and relative humidity, and by the decline in average precipitation. The rise in temperature reduced the wheat yield from 4.7 tonnes per ha in 1999–2000 to 4.1 tonnes per ha in 2005–06, especially during the months of January to March, the critical period of growth (Sidhu et al 2011). Several studies project that increased temperature and decline in rainfall may reduce net recharge and affect groundwater levels (Lal et al 1998; Singh and Kumar 2009; Sidhu et al 2011). However, few studies report the effect of climate change on crop yields in Punjab, particularly the impact of climate change on the production efficiency of rice and wheat crops in the region. This paper examines the impact of climate change on the production efficiency of the rice and wheat crops in Punjab.

Materials and Methods

Based on homogeneity, rainfall pattern, distribution, soil texture, cropping pattern, and the quality and quantity of underground water, Punjab is divided into five agroclimatic zones: sub-mountain undulating region (Zone 1), undulating plain region (Zone 2), central plain region (Zone 3), western plain region (Zone 4), and western region (Zone 5) (see Annexure 1, p 44).

Zones 1 and 2 each cover about 9% of the state’s area. These two zones are together popularly known as the kandi belt, and these receive an average annual rainfall of 1,100 millimetre (mm), with their meteorological station located at Ballowal Saunkhri in the SBS Nagar district. Agroclimatic Zone 3, the central plain region, covers about 36% of the state’s area. It receives an average annual rainfall of 550 mm. It has meteorological stations at Ludhiana, Amritsar, Patiala, and Jalandhar. Agroclimatic Zones 4 and 5 each cover almost 20% area of the state and receive an average annual rainfall of 300 mm to 400 mm. Their agromet field units are located at Bathinda, Abohar, and Faridkot. All the zones receives 75% of their rainfall during the monsoon season (June to September) and the remaining 25% during the rest of the year.

The state’s cropping pattern is dominated by rice in the kharif season (about 70% of the state’s area) and wheat in the rabi season (about 85% of the state’s area). This article ascertains the impact of climate change on the yield of rice and wheat in Punjab. The daily data of temperature and rainfall was converted into monthly data covering 1 June to 30 September, the rice-growing period, and 1 November to 31 March, the wheat-growing period. Information on yield and net irrigated area has been obtained from various issues of the Statistical Abstract of Punjab. The paddy yield was converted into rice yield by a conversion factor of two-thirds (GoI 2016).

The grid data available from the India Meteorological Department are simulated; weather data available from meteorological stations reflect actual observations. A researcher needs to decide which to use. This study collected data from 1986 to 2015 on monthly temperature (minimum and maximum both) and on rainfall from five weather stations of Punjab: Bathinda, Faridkot, Ludhiana, SBS Nagar, and Patiala.

Many studies use the traditional production function approach to estimate the impact of climate change on agriculture, but this approach fails to allow for economic substitution as conditions change and overestimates the damage from climate change because it does not consider the infinite variety of substitutions, adaptations, and old and new activities as climate change. The Ricardian approach used by researchers in climate impact studies produces reliable estimates by using net revenues or farmland values per hectare. Yet, the possibility remains that unobserved soil quality, farmer ability, or even government institutions are correlated with the error term, which would bias the estimated coefficients and therefore the imputed impact of climate change.

A panel data of 150 observations (30 years’ data of five districts) is constructed and used to assess the impact of climate change on rice and wheat yields. The panel data approach captures the effects of time-invariant variables (soil characteristics, elevation) and farmers’ autonomous adaptations (changes in planting dates of variety, input use) in response to year-to-year fluctuations in weather variables.

The fixed effect panel model for climate impacts is specified as:

ln yit = Di + Tt + βXit + γZit + €it ... (1)

where i represents district and t represents time.

The dependent variable y is the crop yield, and D represents the district’s fixed effects. It is hypothesised that district fixed effects absorb all the unnoticed district specific time-invariant factors that influence crop yield and also decrease error due to excluded variables in the model. Time fixed effects are represented by T in the model that control the variation in crop yield, which might be originated due to changes in infrastructure, technological factors, and human capital, etc; represents weather variables and Z accounts for non-weather variables such as net irrigated area of concerned crop. β and γ are parameters associated with explanatory variables; and is the random term. The effect of temperature and rainfall on rice and wheat yield is generally non-linear (Jacoby et al 2011). To account for non-linear effects, the minimum and maximum temperature, rainfall, and the squared term of each are included in equation (1).

Equation (1) was estimated as non-linear to reduce excessive variation in the dependent variable—yield (kg per ha) of rice and wheat in Punjab. The explanation of regression coeffi­cients is not clear. Therefore, the marginal effects of temperature and rainfall were calculated to measure the exact relationship between crop yield and weather variables at their mean values and, accordingly, the variation in crop yield due to a 1 mm rise in rainfall and a 1°C increase in temperature. Irrigation is important to mitigate the harmful effects of extreme climate events, and neglecting it in modelling climate impacts may lead to inconsistent and biased estimates. The omission of irrigation leads to overestimation of climate impacts (Schlenker et al 2005; Kurukulasuriya et al 2011). Jacoby et al (2011) assess the effects of irrigation interacting with growing period temperature and rainfall and find that irrigation is important in mitigating the harmful impacts of climate change. In this model, irrigation is included as an exogenous variable.

There is a possibility that the dependent variable Ytis non-stationary, bringing in the issue of autocorrelation. The autocorrelation might be serious if the series of explanatory variables (temperature and rainfall) are non-stationary. To test for stationarity, panel unit root tests—Levin–Lin–Chu; Im, Pesaran and Shin; and the Fisher-type tests—are utilised, and the null hypothesis is rejected for almost all the series (Table 1). In other words, data are stationary for all the weather variables.

Results and Discussion

Trend analysis of temperature and rainfall in Punjab: In SBS Nagar and Patiala districts, the maximum temperature in the rice-growing period has increased between 1986–95 and 2006–15 (Table 2). Even the coefficient of variation for Bathinda and SBS Nagar districts has risen from almost 0.9% to 3.7%, which indicates a huge variation in the maximum temperature in the rice-growing period. The mini­mum temperature in the wheat-growing period has increased in the recent past in all the districts. Kharif and rabi rainfall has decreased in all the districts, but the decrease has been maximum in Patiala, SBS Nagar, and Ludhiana (Table 2).

The mean temperature of the state in the rice-growing period from 1986 to 2015 was 30.02°C on average; the minimum temperature during the period was 25.22°C and the maximum temperature was 34.81°C (Table 3). The mean temperature during the wheat-growing period was about 17.58°C, which was lower than during the rice-growing period. However, the change in maximum temperature (0.32°C) and minimum temperature (1.59°C) is maximum in the rice-growing period, whereas the minimum temperature in the wheat-growing period has shown the most significant annual change. In the rice-growing period, the mean temperature increased by 0.92°C, which is about 0.06°C more than the mean temperature of the wheat-growing period, and which indicates that summers are becoming hotter. It is the minimum temperature in both the periods that has led to the change in the mean temperature (Table 3).

Rainfall has been decreasing in all the agroclimatic zones of Punjab. During the last 30 years, rainfall has decreased by 208 mm in the rice-growing period, a significant decrease of 6.92% per year, and by 20 mm in the wheat-growing period, a non-significant decrease of 0.68%. To understand the behaviour of climate variables over the 1986–2015 period, the mean growing period temperature (Figure 1, p 41) and cumulative rainfall (Figure 2, p 41) were plotted. An upward pattern in the temper­a­ture may be observed in both the rice- and wheat-growing periods; the trend is stronger in the rice-growing periods (Figure 1).


Impact of Temperature and Rainfall on Rice and Wheat Yields

Regression analysis: Climate variables and the net irrigated area are regressed with the log yield of rice and wheat after controlling for district and time fixed effects (Table 4). To assess the importance of irrigation as the coping strategy to climate change, two different specifications of equation (1) are estimated. The first model includes temperature and rainfall and their quadratic terms. The second model includes net irrigated area by district and crop along with climate variables.

District fixed effects are significant in the analysis, suggesting that it is important to control for the time-invariant location-specific factors that could be correlated with climate variables. The time fixed effects are also significant, implying the importance of farmers’ responses to climate change in terms of adjustments to their crop mix, crop varieties, and input use (Birthal et al 2014). The coefficient of the net irrigated area is positively significant for both rice and wheat, which signifies the importance of irrigation in controlling the harmful effects of increased temperature on these crops. The coefficient of minimum temperature is found to be negative and significant in the rice-growing period (Table 4).

On the other hand, the maximum temperature shows a non-significant effect on the rice yield. It clearly indicates that it is the minimum temperature, not the maximum temperature, which affects rice yield. The effect of the rise in maximum temperature has been lessened, or even minimised, through the overuse of groundwater resources (overuse is one of the reasons that groundwater resources have dwindled). The volume of irrigation water used for paddy varies from 9,000 cubic metres per hectare to 14,000 cubic metres per hectare depending upon the depth of the water table and the installed capacity of groundwater abstraction structures at that place. For most other cereals, pulses, and oilseeds, the volume of irrigation water used varies from 2,000 cubic metres per hectare to 3,500 cubic metres per hectare. The water use of paddy is three times higher than that of wheat and five to six times higher than that of pulses and oilseeds.

In Punjab, rice is grown over an area of 28.94 lakh hectares. That has seriously depleted groundwater resources. The maximum water table depth has declined, particularly in central Punjab, and most of the development blocks have been categorised as “dark,” where no extra borewell can be permitted (Sidhu et al 2010). The proportion of overexploited blocks swelled from 45% in 1984 to 78.98% in 2011, and the proportion of white blocks decreased from 30.5% in 1984 to only about 15% in 2011 (Kaur et al 2015).

In the wheat-growing period, the estimated coefficient for minimum temperature is negative, though weak, but the square of temperature is positive. Some of the weaknesses of the estimated minimum temperature are due also to its extreme, frequent fluctuations in the month of March. The estimated coefficients of the minimum temperature for the wheat-growing period suggest that the increase in the minimum temperature from the long-run average temperature of the concerned months negatively affects the yield of wheat in Punjab.

The coefficient of rainfall has found to be negatively significant in the wheat-growing period; therefore, its effect is non-linear, which means excessive rainfall affects the wheat yield. On the other hand, rainfall has been found to be negative, but not statistically significant, in the rice-growing period. A decrease in the rainfall impacts the yield, but the assured irrigation in Punjab moderates the harmful effects of the warmer climate, and thereby lessens the negative impact of the decreased rainfall. In 1998, 2002, 2009, and 2012, when there was a deficit in the rainfall, a rise in the consumption of diesel for irrigation compensated for the decreased rainfall and prevented a decline in productivity (Table 5).

Marginal Effects

In the presence of non-linear, or quadratic, terms in the model, the interpretation of regression coefficients is not straightforward. Therefore, to measure the true effect of deviation in temperature and rainfall, their marginal effects were estimated at their mean values. Variations in crop yield were observed due to 1°C rise in mean temperature or 1 mm rise in rainfall by using equation (2). The expected marginal impact of a single climate variable, Xi, on yield evaluated at the mean is:

E {∂ᴫ/∂Xi} =α1, i+2α2, i*E [Xi] ... (2)

Table 6 presents the marginal effect of climate change in terms of temperature and rainfall (with and without irrigation effect). The regression coefficient of the minimum temperature is negatively significant (0.012) in the rice-growing period; it shows that a 1°C rise in the minimum temperature would reduce the rice yield by 1.20%. However, the effect of a similar increase (1°C) in the maximum temperature is opposite but not enough to fully compensate the loss due to a rise in minimum temperature.

In the wheat-growing period, the rise in maximum temperature would reduce the yield by 1.08%. But when the net irrigated area is not considered in the model, the rise in minimum temperature raises the wheat yield by 1.61%. The marginal effect of rainfall in the wheat-growing period has been found to be negatively significant (0.0004), which implies that a 1 mm increase in rainfall would reduce the wheat yield by 0.04%. In general, the marginal effect of rainfall is much smaller than that of temperature.

These results suggest that the impact of climate change on agriculture in Punjab will be driven largely by changes in the temperature. These findings are in line with that of several studies. Sinha and Swaminathan (1991) estimate that a 2°C increase in temperature could decrease rice yield by about 0.75 tonnes per hectare in high-yield areas and by 0.06 tonnes per hectare in low-yield coastal regions. Mahi (1996) show that under Punjab conditions, the yield declined by 5% when the temperature increased by 1°C. Mall et al (2006) analyse the impact of climate change on the sensitivity of wheat crop and found that a rise of 1°C in temperature reduces the yield of wheat by 8.1%. Kalra et al (2007) report that a 1°C increase in temperature reduces the yield of rice by 5%–8%. Birthal et al (2015) show that the gross value output of the country as a whole falls by 4% if the temperature during the rabi season rises 1% and by 9.2% if it rises 1% during the kharif season. Almost all the studies reveal that climate change would negatively affect Indian agriculture and largely through a rise in the temperature (Sanghi et al 1998; Sanghi and Mendelsohn 2008; Kumar and Parikh 2001; Kumar 2011).

The results suggest that climate change will make raising yields a big challenge if adaptation strategies are not employed, especially because resources are limited. To avoid negative impacts on several crops that are important to food-insecure human populations, climate-resilient technologies must be adopted (Lobell et al 2008).

Projected Impacts on Rice and Wheat Yields

To estimate how future changes in climate will influence agriculture in Punjab, the loss of rice and wheat yields has been projected by using equation (3).

∆Y= [(∂Y/∂R)*∆R+ (∂Y/∂T)*∆T]*100 ... (3)

where, Y is the yield, R is the rainfall, T is the temperature, and (Y/R) and (Y/T) are elasticities with respect to rainfall and temperature, which were calculated by the model equations. The structure of agriculture is assumed to be constant. This indeed is a very restrictive assumption, as a number of economic and non-economic factors may reinforce changes in agriculture.

Lal et al (2001) project the temperature and rainfall for India for 2020, 2050, and 2080. Changes in temperature and rainfall are predicted for the four months from June to September; three months from December to February; and the whole year. This study selects the highest and lowest temperature and rainfall in 2020, 2050, and 2080. This study considers the change in climate during June to September as representative of the change during the rice-growing period; and it considers the change in climate during December to February as representative of the change in the wheat-growing period (Table 7).

While estimating climate impacts at the regional level, similar climatic changes are assumed for all the agroclimatic zones of Punjab. The marginal coefficients are used to predict the yield loss. The temperature is projected to increase 1.81°C–2.37°c in 2050 during the months of June to September and the rainfall is projected to change 7.18%–10.52%. During the December–February quarter, the temperature is projected to rise 2.54°C–3.18°C and rabi rainfall change from -9.22% to 3.22% (Table 7). The changes in mean temperature and rainfall are projected to reduce the rice yield by about 2.56% in 2020, 5.27% in 2050, and 8.10% in 2080 and the wheat yield by 1.93% in 2020, 3.82% in 2050, and 6.51% in 2080 (Table 8).

In Conclusion

The climate change and fluctuations experienced in Punjab over the past couple of decades has reduced rice and wheat yields and, consequently, national food security. The mean temperature in the rice-growing period increased 0.92°C, about 0.06°C more than the mean temperature of the wheat-growing period, which indicates that summers are becoming hotter. Rainfall has been decreasing in all the agroclimatic zones of Punjab. During the past 30 years, rainfall has decreased 208 mm in the kharif season and 20 mm in the rabi season. The fixed effect panel model in the study showed that a 1°C rise in the minimum temperature in the rice-growing period will decrease the rice yield by 1.20%, and a 1°C rise in the maximum temperature in the wheat-growing period would reduce the yield by 1.08%. When the net irrigated area is not considered, however, the rise in minimum temperature raises the wheat yield 1.61%. If the climate change is significant, the rice yield could fall around 8.10% by 2080 and the wheat yield by about 6.51%.


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Updated On : 25th Nov, 2019


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