Climate change and key crops for food security: the case of rice

Salazar V. B. Climate change and key crops for food security: the case of rice

Published in The Journal Agraria 136, January 2012.Centro Peruvian Social Studies-CEPES, Lima, Peru.

Those who base their plans on one alternative, amid a climate instability, will be most likely to lose. Diversification becomes how best to adapt to the unexpected, the uncertain, the challenge of the unknown. For every hectare of rice planting on the coast, would be enabled between 1.5 and 2 ha in the high forest, and between 5 and 7 ha in the lowlands, due to the difference in yields. It is necessary that the state and research institutions makes more researches on the possible effects of climate change on rice and other important crops for national food security.

For decades, it has warned that rice cultivation is not suitable for the Peruvian coast, desert zone, because of high water requirements, so it is recommended to move to the jungle, where, in theory, yes abounds water resources and rice could be grown without problems. However, there are conflicting views on the viability of this alternative, especially against a background of climate change. In this article LRA, rice farmers, government officials, meteorologists and climate experts give their views on the matter.

.Karim Quevedo, meteorology specialist National Service of Meteorology and Hydrology of Peru-Senamhi, says a recent study on climate scenarios to 2030 indicates that although rainfall is probabily to increase to 15% on the North Coast, this does not necessarily imply greater availability of water for crops, because the increase would be offset by a reduction in rainfall of up to 10% in the northern highlands, which is where it comes most of the water that feeds the reservoirs of Lambayeque and Piura. This would affect groundwater recharge and reservoirs in the area, of which rice depends.
Although this may be an argument in favor of reducing rice areas on the north coast, Luis Zuniiga, head rice, warns that this will not be possible if it is offered to farmers other options profitable crops. It also clarifies that the rice on the north coast has decreased its water requirement and can be grown with 8,000 m3 of water / ha, and used techniques such as dry at the beginning of the plantations, the technique has been improved leveling and now you can fill a one-hectare plot with 2 or 3 cm. water. In contrast, other crops such as sugar cane, also planted on the coast and require more water demand. It also warns that the forest is not without problems of water availability, and remember that in 2010 there was a severe drought in San Martin, which affected the production of rice and other crops.

Nelson Larrea, of Agrorural, clarifies that the transfer of rice crops on the north coast to the jungle is a fact since 1980, and currently over 50% of the area planted with this crop is already in the eastern slope. This change only when there is no water in the forest and on the coast there is. Meanwhile, Augusto Sayan rice sector specialist, said that the main obstacle to the transfer of the crop from the coast to the jungle is the identification of areas for rice install because each stop has to be planted in the coast, would be enabled between 1 ½ and 2 ha in the high forest, and between 5 and 7 ha in the lowlands, due to the difference in yields. It should be noted that while in the north coast near the average yield is 9,000 kg / ha, in the high forest decreases to levels of 6,000 kg / ha, and in the lowland, about 1,500 kg / ha. Poor performance in the lowlands should be in large part because farmers grow  very rudimentary in the dry season of the rivers. Nelson Larrea indicates that there are half a million in the lowland potential that can be tapped in time of drought. An alternative would be to follow the example of Brazil, where direct seeding pre-germinated seeds is volleying and harvesting is mechanized, thanks to the Brazilians know well during low water periods of ups and downs and its rivers, fit the planting and harvest to these circumstances. But in the case of Peru, this would require that farmers have access to credit and technology packages, absent today. Low yields are not the only factor that clouds the prospects of rice in the jungle: Senamhi cautions that, by 2030, rainfall in northern and central jungle decrease to 10%, which would affect water availability for crops like rice.

According Antonio Arce, Regional Director of Agriculture of St. Martin, the effects would manifest, as the river flows in this region no longer possible to increase rice areas. One solution could be to draw water consolidation projects, such as those already being implemented in the region. However, all these predictions are subject to a degree of uncertainty.
Juan Torres, climate change specialist and professor of Ecology Mountains, clarifies that the projections are based on climate change scenarios with different probabilities to materialize, so both rice farmers and the State must have alternative plans to address different climate scenarios, which could range from a tropicalization (in terms of rainfall) on the north coast, with higher temperatures and rainfall, to the possibility of droughts in the eastern slope. The coming decades will be marked by uncertainty, erratic weather behavior, unknown, making it necessary, more than ever, have several alternatives to address the different scenarios. Those who base their plans on one alternative, amid a climate instability, which will be most likely to lose. Diversification becomes how best to adapt to the unexpected, the uncertain, the challenge of the unknown, he warns.

In summary, the rice on the north coast, and its transfer to the jungle, face problems: in the case of the coast, the possible decrease in the availability of water and the fact that soils continue salting, it which, according to a recent study IFPRI2-causes a reduction of 22% in rice yield and losses of U.S. $ 402/ha. But there are options such as the rationalization of water using techniques like those mentioned rice leader Luis Zuniiga.
In the forest there are problems that could face underperforming providing certified seeds and technology packages, technical assistance and credit to farmers, allowing more acres to win and improve productivity, as Nelson points out Larrea, of Agrorural. Finally, it is necessary that the state and research institutions make more researches on the possible effects of climate change on rice and other important crops for national food security.

http://www.larevistaagraria.org/sites/default/files//revista/LRA136/cambioclimatico.pdf

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