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Vol. 16 No. 1 - January 2010

Impact of Global Climate Change on Floriculture in India

By: S.C. Sharma* & R.K. Roy**

Climate change is one of the most important global environmental challenges in the history of mankind. It is mainly caused by increasing concentration of Green House Gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere. In 1980s, scientific evidences linking GHGs emission due to human activities causing global climate change, started to concern everybody. Subsequently, United Nations General Assembly in 1992 formed Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which finally adopted the framework for addressing climate change concerns.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been publishing periodic assessment reports on atmospheric carbon concentration and its likely impact on the environment. The IPCC in its 4th Assessment Report states that emission of global GHGs has increased since pre-industrial times, with an increase of 70% between 1970 and 2004. The big challenge before the international community is to limit the emission of green house gases by 2050 and measurably by 2020.

Climate of the planet earth is always in a state of change as a natural process influenced by both natural variability and induced environmental changes due to anthropogenic reasons. Natural causes include continental drift, volcanoes, earth’s tilt, and ocean current while human causes are GHGs, agricultural practices, energy sources, waste disposal, depleting forest cover, etc. However, the reason for worry is that climate change is taking place at a much faster rate than expected by the human interference. The consequences of such rapid change are - global warming, change of seasonal pattern, excessive rain, melting of ice cap, flood, rising sea level, drought, etc. leading to extremity of all kinds. The implications will be wide spread but specially on the food production (agriculture / horticulture), forest ecosystem, health, energy, etc. Vulnerability, rarity and rapid extinction of plant species will be among other consequences.

Plants are key components of the ecosystem and are greatly influenced by climatic and geographical factors. Therefore, climate change has a direct impact on agriculture and horticulture as the basic factors for crop production are being influenced. Overall, a low production of horticultural crops is feared due to the climate change. Assuming a global temperature rise of 4.4oC by 2080 over the cultivated areas, India’s agricultural output is projected to fall by 30-40% which would be quite alarming unless proper remedial measures are taken. Further, occurrence of new diseases, pests together with severity of the existing ones is also foreseen. Some of the well established commercial varieties of fruits, vegetables and flowers will perform poorly in an unpredictable manner.

Floricultural Scenario

India is becoming a strong centre of commercial floriculture in the international market. During the last 5-7 years, there was a great surge in the floricultural activity in the production of flowers (cut and loose), ornamental plants (potted and cut-greens) and dry flowers (value added products), besides marketing. The horticultural sector contributed around 28% of the GDP annually from 13.08% of the area and 37% of the total exports of agricultural commodities (2004-05).

Albeit, India’s present contribution in the global floricultural export market is negligible (about 0.4%) as compared to Netherlands (58%), Columbia (14%), Ecuador (7%), Kenya (5%), Israel (2%), Italy (2%), Spain (2%) and others 10%, it is not far when India will come up as a major grower/exporter by virtue of well planned policies formulated by the Government of India backed with foreign technologies for green house production.

Impact of Climate Change on Floriculture

The impact of climate change on flowering plants and crops will be more pronounced. Melting of ice cap in the Himalayan regions will reduce chilling required for the flowering of many of the ornamental plants like Rhododendron, Orchid, Tulipa, Alstromerea, Magnolia, Saussurea, Impatiens, Narcissus etc. Some of them will fail to bloom or flower with less abundance while others will be threatened. Indigenous species in the natural habitat will be under threat for not getting favourable agro-climatic conditions for their proliferation. Western Ghats and surrounding regions may be deprived of normal precipitation due to abnormal monsoon. Plant species requiring high humidity and water may find them under difficult conditions for survival. Plains of India will also have similar kind of problems and will be affected either by drought or excessive rains, floods and seasonal variations.

Commercial production of flowers particularly grown under open field conditions will be severely affected leading to poor flowering, improper floral development and colour besides reduction in flower size and short blooming period.

Future Strategies

In view of these problems, horticulturists will have to play a significant role in the climate change scenario and proper strategies have to be envisaged for saving horticulture/floriculture from future turmoil. The most effective way to address climate change is to adopt a sustainable development pathway, besides using renewable energy, forest and water conservation, reforestation etc. Awareness and educational programmes for the growers, modification of present horticultural practices and greater use of green house technology are some of the solutions to minimize the effect of climate change. Hi-tech horticulture is to be adopted in an intensive way. It is necessary that selection of plant species/cultivars is to be considered keeping in view the effects of climate change. The performance of different seasonals may not be satisfactory due to shorter and warmer winter. Judicious water utilization in the form of drip, mist and sprinkler will be a key factor to deal with the drought conditions. Development of new cultivars of floricultural crops tolerant to high temperature, resistant to pests and diseases, short duration and producing good yield under stress conditions, will be the main strategies to meet this challenge.

 

*Former Head, Botanic Garden & Floriculture and Emeritus Scientist (CSIR), National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow-226001.

E-Mail: scsharmagardener@gmail.com

**Sr. Scientist (Floriculture), Botanic Garden Division, National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow-226001.

E-mail: roynbri@rediffmail.com


This article has been reproduced from the archives of EnviroNews - Newsletter of ISEB India.


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