Rising uncertainties in monsoon rainfall and rise in maximum temperature have cast a shadow over agricultural activities in Wayanad, the hub of coffee and spices cultivation in Kerala.
Most of the temperature- sensitive crops grown in the district including coffee, tea, cardamom, paddy, banana, pepper, ginger and tubers have shown a decline in output, according to a research paper compiled by the Institute of Climate Change Studies, Kottayam. Wayanad has registered the highest rainfall deficit in Kerala, for the second consecutive year.
With the irrigated area comprising only 8.3% of the farmland in the district, Wayanad is largely dependent on rains for agriculture and hence vulnerable to errant monsoons, says the paper by P.Vikraman, former Joint Director of Agriculture. Erratic changes in soil temperature and moisture have favoured the growth of soil pathogens and pests, leading to crop diseases affecting yield.
According to the paper, the disappearance of orange farms in Wayanad, presence of Indian cuckoos, the shift to coconut, arecanut and rubber crops, the presence of insects and certain plants that inhabit dry land, uniform flowering of bamboo and the gradual disappearance of mist (koda) were early indications of climate change in the district.
The weakening of rainfall in the early phase of the South West monsoon, wide variation in the North East monsoon and the rise in temperature (from 28 to 39 degrees) were other indicators. Mining activities, deforestation, land use changes and reclamation of paddy fields and wetlands also aggravated the situation.
The State Action Plan on Climate Change has identified Wayanad as one of the four climate change hotspots in Kerala, with a high degree of vulnerability to calamities like drought, forest fires and man- animal conflict.