Best Practices for Protecting Sensitive Crops from Extreme Weather

Protecting Sensitive Crops from Extreme Weather

The world is experiencing an increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, droughts, floods, and unseasonal rainfall. These pose a big threat to agricultural production in India, which is an agrarian economy. Due to these extreme weather events, sensitive crops require specific strategies to increase their resistance and protect yields. In this article, we will explore the best practices that Indian farmers can adopt to safeguard their sensitive crops from the impacts of extreme weather.

Early Warning Systems

Weather Forecasting

India’s Meteorological Department (IMD) provides timely and accurate weather updates, which are crucial for farmers to make informed decisions. These forecasts include cyclone alerts, heavy rainfall warnings, and heatwave alerts, which help farmers prepare in advance for upcoming weather changes.

Personalised Agro Advisories

The Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) provides an IoT-based early warning system. It uses Wireless Sensor Networks (WSN) to collect micro-climate data from agricultural fields and sends personalised agro advisories via SMS. These alerts cover pest and disease warnings and optimal irrigation scheduling, allowing farmers to act promptly.

District Agriculture Contingency Plans

The Indian government has several contingency plans at the district level to combat weather changes from region to region. These plans cover various crops, livestock, and fisheries. They also provide detailed strategies for mitigating the impact of extreme weather events like droughts, floods, and heat waves. This ensures that the farmers are prepared for any extreme weather situation.

Crop Diversification

Crop diversification is an important strategy for mitigating extreme weather risks. By growing various crops with different characteristics, farmers spread their risks and increase the chances of a successful harvest, even if one or more crops fail due to weather conditions.

Choosing the Right Crops

Farmers should prioritise crops suitable to their region’s specific climatic conditions. In drought-prone areas, options include drought-resistant crops like millets, sorghum, pulses, and oilseeds. Crops that require more water and can withstand waterlogging, such as certain rice cultivars or aquatic vegetables, are ideal for flood-prone regions.

Benefits of Diversification

Diversifying crop rotations and incorporating legumes helps combat extreme weather situations. They also improve soil health, enhance biodiversity, and provide multiple sources of income and food, thus increasing the farming system’s overall resilience.

Soil Management Practices

Resilient crop production is highly dependent on healthy and well-managed soil. By implementing sustainable soil management practices, farmers enhance the soil’s capacity to combat and recover quickly from extreme weather events.

Key Soil Management Practices

  • Applying Organic Matter: Soil structure, water-holding capacity, and nutrient availability can be improved by adding compost, which is a natural manure.
  • Using Cover Crops and Mulches: These protect the soil from erosion, moderate soil temperatures, and retain moisture.
  • Reducing Tillage: Increased tillage causes soil compaction. Minimising soil disturbance helps maintain soil aggregation and prevent compaction.
  • Crop Rotation and Legumes: These practices improve soil fertility and natural biological activity, resulting in healthier soil.
  • Balanced Fertilization: Ensuring crops get the right nutrients at the right time supports optimal growth.

Water Management Strategies

Water is a critical resource for crop production, and extreme weather events, like droughts or heat waves, can significantly impact its availability. Farmers can adopt various water management strategies to optimise water use and reduce their vulnerability to water scarcity or excess.

Effective Water Management Practices

  • Water-Efficient Irrigation: Drip irrigation or sprinkler systems minimise water use and ensure that only targeted areas are water. This is a brilliant way to save water in fields. 
  • Rainwater Harvesting: In areas with water scarcity or scant rainfall, collecting and storing rainwater in ponds, tanks, or underground reservoirs ensures a sufficient supply during dry spells. 
  • Recycling Water: Where possible, recycling and reusing water helps reduce overall consumption.
  • Soil Moisture Monitoring: Irrigation schedules can be adjusted by monitoring solid moisture levels and crop water needs. This reduces unnecessary water usage in fields and ensures the crops get enough water at the right time. 
  • Selecting Drought-Tolerant Crops: In water-scarce regions, choosing drought-tolerant varieties of crops and employing mulching and other water-saving techniques enhances the crop’s resilience and reduces the need for water.

Pest and Disease Management

Extreme weather events can bring about an increase in pests and diseases, which further threaten crop yields. Farmers should adopt an integrated pest and disease management (IPM) approach to address these challenges.

Key IPM Strategies

  • Regular Monitoring: Monitoring pest and disease incidences is crucial to save sensitive crops in time. Farmers can detect potential outbreaks and save their yield by using early warning systems.
  • Natural Pest Control: Beneficial insects are great for maintaining biodiversity and promoting natural pest control. This reduces the dependence on chemical pesticides, thus improving the health of the crops. 
  • Cultural Practices: Practices like crop rotation, intercropping, and sanitation help to disrupt pest and disease cycles. This also reduces the need for chemical pesticides and improves overall crop health. 
  • Judicious Use of Pesticides: Biopesticides and organic pesticides are great ways to protect sensitive crops. Targeted chemical pesticides should only be used as a last resort.
  • Resistant Varieties: Some crop varieties have a built-in resistance or tolerance to common pests and diseases. Selecting these crops during extreme weather conditions can save farmers’ crop yields. 

Capacity Building and Knowledge Sharing

Effectively adapting to extreme weather events requires continuous learning, knowledge sharing, and capacity building among farmers. Governments, research institutions, and agricultural extension services should collaborate to support farmers.

Key Initiatives

  • Weather Forecasts and Early Warnings: Providing farmers with timely forecasts and early warning systems helps them prepare for and respond to weather events in an effective manner.
  • Training and Demonstrations: Offering training on climate-smart agriculture practices, including crop selection, soil management, water conservation, and pest control.
  • Access to Resources: Facilitating access to climate-resilient crop varieties, technologies, and financial services like crop insurance.
  • Peer-to-Peer Learning: Encouraging farmer-to-farmer networks to share successful strategies and experiences.

Empowering farmers with the necessary knowledge, tools, and resources will allow them to make informed decisions and implement appropriate measures to safeguard their sensitive crops from the impacts of extreme weather.


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