Agri Business

‘Climate change may cause water scarcity in wheat-growing regions’

TV Jayan New Delhi | Updated on September 28, 2019

A study published in Science Advances says 60 per cent of the wheat- growing regions of the world will simultaneously face water scarcity in a few decades   -  Reuters

Fortunately for India, its wheat fields will be spared, with only a minimal impact: Study

The impending climate change may have an adverse impact on global wheat production in the years to come. Scientists involved in a new modelling study found that many wheat-growing regions in the world — as much as 60 per cent — will face a severe water scarcity in a few decades from now due to climate change, leading to a drop in the production of the cereal which currently provides 20 per cent of all calories consumed by humans.

Luckily for India, its wheat fields will be spared with minimal impact as would be the case with China, which tops the wheat producing countries in the world. Most other wheat exporters, including the European Union, Russia and the US, may not be as lucky.

According to a study published in the journal Science Advances, even if the world manages to stabilise climate change to the minimum as envisaged in the Paris Agreement, 60 per cent of wheat growing regions of the world will simultaneously face severe water scarcity events as compared to 15 per cent regions currently, the scientists said.

Water scarcity events

Among the scientists involved in the number-crunching experiment were those from Austria, the Czech Republic, China, Denmark, Germany, Spain, the UK and the US. The scientists, led by Miroslav Trnka of Global Change Research Institute in the Czech Republic, and Song Feng of the University of Arkansas in the US, studied how water scarcity events would hit wheat growing areas under present and future conditions. They found that even with significant cuts of carbon dioxide emissions, much larger portions of wheat growing areas will suffer from a severe drought. Earlier studies had shown that for every 1 degree celsius increase in global temperature, global wheat production may come down by 4-6.5 per cent. According to the scientists, a suitable crop replacement for wheat is unlikely as it is among the cereal crops that require the least amount of water for cultivation.

Such a threat looms large on humanity at a time when the Food and Agriculture Organisation projects a 43 per cent increase in global annual demand for cereals from approximately 2.1 billion tonnes in 2006 to three billion tonnes by 2050. The uncertainty may lead expansion of net cereal imports. When the production of wheat in exporting countries are affected, it may lead to increase in global food prices, food insecurity and consequently to political instability and migration.

The scientists stressed the need for hammering a framework for coordinating trade policies, which, they said, could enable trade to alleviate the effects of regional challenges on global wheat markets.

Published on September 28, 2019

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