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Climate change poses a serious threat to modern agriculture. Without adopting sustainable farming practices, our agricultural goals are out of reach.

Climate change brings lasting changes in climate and weather, fuelled by activities like deforestation and industrial emissions, disrupting natural ecosystems and impacting both plants and animals. Enhancing agriculture and combating climate change involve minimizing pollution through various strategies.

Reducing nitrate fertilizer use by 10 kg/ha cuts fertilizer pollution by 6%, while a 10% decrease in water usage conserves water and reduces irrigation pollution at the same rate. Similarly, limiting soil disturbance in farming operations lowers soil pollution. These actions collectively promote environmentally sustainable farming practices and improve resilience to climate change.

Experts from the Department of Agronomy at the Central Cotton Research Institute, Multan, emphasize the criticality of assessing weather impacts on cotton crops across various growth stages. Understanding how weather influences early development, flowering, boll formation, and picking time is crucial. By devising effective strategies, it’s possible to minimize seasonal impacts, boost yield, and enhance quality in cotton cultivation.

Assessing climatic hazards on cotton crops is crucial, requiring proactive measures to mitigate risks effectively. Initially, it’s vital to identify potential problems or risks associated with climate at various stages of cotton growth, drawing upon available data sources and expertise. Determine the specific risks to the crop, estimating potential damage and likelihood of occurrence for each stage.

Prioritize addressing the most significant risks by formulating a strategy focused on mitigating them first. Prevention measures should be prioritized, followed by strategies for less severe risks once the primary ones are managed effectively.

The primary threats to cotton crop productivity, leading to low yields, encompass drought, heat waves, heavy rainfall, land degradation, and floods. Ranking these risks, drought emerges as the most critical, succeeded by heat waves, land degradation, and heavy rainfall, with floods considered the least pressing concern. This ranking aids in prioritizing interventions and allocating resources to address the most urgent threats to crop health and yield. Small farmers are typically at higher risk from climate change compared to larger ones.

This vulnerability stems from their limited resources, reduced access to modern technologies, and financial support. Moreover, smallholder farmers heavily rely on rain-fed agriculture, making them more susceptible to low or erratic rainfall patterns. Their smaller land holdings constrain their capacity to diversify crops or explore alternative livelihoods, heightening their exposure to risks. Consequently, smallholder farmers bear a disproportionate burden of the adverse impacts of climate change.

The Central Cotton Research Institute, Multan, is actively involved in developing diverse cotton varieties to address the challenges posed by climate change and future agricultural needs. Each year, extensive testing of different cotton types is conducted in experimental fields to assess their performance under varying climatic conditions such as high rainfall, high temperatures, and water scarcity. Various departments within the institution collaborate to conduct these trials, leveraging their expertise.

Thanks to these efforts, the CCRI Multan has successfully bred cotton varieties that exhibit resilience to low water availability and high temperatures while maintaining good productivity.

Additionally, ongoing experiments on artificial rain application to cotton crops aim to enhance the development of varieties capable of thriving even in regions prone to heavy rainfall. In addition to developing cotton varieties resilient to climate change, CCRI Multan is also focusing on genetic cotton varieties requiring minimal fertilizers and pesticides. Notable varieties include BTCIM 663, BTCIM 785, BTCIM 343, BTCIM 678, BT Cyto 535, and BT Cyto 537, all of which demonstrate good productivity.

Furthermore, to enhance soil fertility and productivity, there’s a need to transition from traditional agricultural methods to embrace new technologies and farming systems. These innovations not only ensure food security but also contribute to soil health and resilience.

The Central Cotton Research Institute, Multan, has introduced a cost-effective and environmentally friendly technology known as Low Expenditure and Environment Friendly (LEEF) Tech, aimed at boosting cotton production while reducing production costs.

LEEF Tech eliminates the need for frequent soil plowing, which can degrade soil health by disrupting beneficial anaerobic microbes crucial for soil fertility. Instead, it preserves these microbes, enhancing land productivity. LEEF Tech involves mulching cotton beds with rice straw and spreading wheat straw in furrows.

This helps maintain optimal soil temperature, reduces water usage, and fulfills the nutritional needs of cotton plants while preserving soil organic matter.

The technology minimizes the use of fertilizers, water, and other inputs, lowering cotton production costs and increasing yields. Furthermore, the decomposition of rice and wheat straw enriches soil fertility, moderates soil temperature, and suppresses weed growth, even during heavy rainfall, thereby reducing weed management costs.

When considering adapting cotton farming to climate change, several factors come into play. Firstly, selecting the appropriate cotton variety based on regional climate and seasonal conditions is crucial, as certain varieties may thrive better under specific weather conditions. Secondly, planting at the optimal time can help mitigate the impact of extreme weather events like droughts or heavy rains.

Thirdly, the judicious application of balanced fertilizers can enhance crop growth and resilience. Additionally, adjusting plant spacing according to the cotton variety can aid in weathering adverse conditions. Diversifying cotton types can also help mitigate the effects of climate change. By incorporating these measures into a comprehensive strategy, we can improve cotton crop outcomes, protecting against pests and diseases while achieving both high quality and yield.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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