Researchers urge a re-evaluation of the cultivation map of pearl millet, or bajra, in India, caused by climate change.
Amid changing weather patterns and evolving agricultural priorities, they are calling for the classification standards governing pearl millet growing areas, originally established in 1979, to be reviewed in a timely manner.
They put forward their proposed changes in the study conducted by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Hyderabad, and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research-All India Coordinated Research Project on Pearl Millet (ICAR-AICRP), using data from a district level database (DLD) of ICRISAT. It is published in the Journal of Agricultural Engineering.
The changes suggest a reassessment of Zone A, shown in the map as covering the semi-arid regions of northern and central India. While A1 covers the arid regions of Rajasthan, B refers to the semi-arid regions with heavy soils in southern India. The study said that these areas currently depend on rainfall and soil type.
“The current A-Region can be divided into three distinct sub-regions: G, AE1 and AE2, covering states in northern and central India. G-Region includes Gujarat, AE1 covers eastern Rajasthan and Haryana, and AE2 covers Uttar Pradesh.” said Vincent Garin, a postdoctoral fellow at ICRISAT and one of the study’s authors.
“The proposed new zoning takes into account the complexity of the system in response to changing climate conditions,” Jarin said. “While the current zoning for Zones A1 and B remains generally applicable, the proposal is to modify Zone A.”
The new zoning framework identifies ‘AE1’ as the core of pearl millet production in India, where favorable climate and soil conditions, coupled with improved pearl millet varieties, have led to significant increases in yield, the study said.
Furthermore, AE2 shows promising progress in productivity and better agricultural practices, offering the potential for export-oriented gains.
She added that Region G is witnessing more rainfall due to climate change, which may prompt farmers to shift towards cash crops and limit pearl millet cultivation to the summer season.
“This new classification system aims to improve pearl millet production, to effectively help policy makers, researchers and farmers make better evidence-based decisions,” said Jacqueline Hughes, Director General of ICRISAT.
The study used digital technology and crop models to reassess regions, helping design crops and strategies tailored to each region’s current and future climate conditions.
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