Explore the El Nino effect and how this can impact upon agriculture

Paper Topic:- EI Nino effect and its impact on agriculture


EI nino is a Spanish derived word which means "little boy". It is a weather anomaly which leads to warmer sea surface temperature. This is a cycle of events, even though it does not follow a regular pattern but re-occur after a period of 2-5 years and emerges when warm water from western tropical Pacific Ocean flows eastward along the equator to South America coast. The EI nino-Southern-Oscillation (ENSO) event, which last for 12 months causes significant alteration in wind patterns, characterized by extreme weather events, may be flood or drought in many parts of the world. They begin by spring and go at highest peak during December and January and falls by May. The 2015/16 EI nino was the strongest ever recorded in history.

ENSO is a general term and comprises of two phases, the warm phase is the EI nino and the cool phase is known as La Nina. EI nino causes the sea surface temperature (SST) to increase by 5 °C. The mean of SST for a period of three months is the oceanic nino index (ONI) and extends from 120 °W to 170 °W.

The mechanism of occurrence of EI nino effect is still to be unravelled. It is difficult for the scientist to comprehend because of the variety and uniqueness of each of the emerged EI nino cycle as well as the variations in the atmospheric and oceanic patterns. However, it has been observed that during an EI nino event, the trade winds, which blows from east to west along the equator in the pacific ocean reverses its direction to eastern coasts. Meteorologists, Jacob Bjernes, describes that it could be due to abnormal warmer surface temperature along eastern coasts in Pacific Ocean, which should be otherwise cooler. The water, as a result piles back to east and gets even more warmer facilitating heavy rainfall and flood in dry areas like Peru, whereas drought in wetter regions like India, Indonesia and Australia. Global warming as a result of human activity is postulated as an important reason for more frequent and intense occurrence of EI nino phenomenon in recent years (Latif and Keenlyside, 2009).

EI nino impact on agriculture

            Literature and various surveys indicate that EI nino has negative affect on agriculture, forestry and fisheries, nevertheless, the extent of impact depends upon the geographical locations (Hammer et al., 2000; Lizumi et al., 2014). It is a serious concern for countries whose agriculture is monsoon dependent, like India. EI nino phenomenon caused severe drought in India during 2009 -2010, as a result of which sugar production was reduced and increase in sugar price was documented, highest in history. The major and inevitable consequence of EI nino is poor productivity, which severely affect the social and economical life of people. In countries, like India majority of population depends on agriculture for their livelihood. Decreased productivity increases the incidence of poverty and famine. Death trolls were also reported to be enhanced as a result of suicides among farmers in India. Decreased production will elevate inflation and simultaneously the tax worsening the life of farmers even more as well as whole country.

            During 1984 - 2004, 22-24% reduction in harvested crops was recorded in global scale. The 2002 nino has worsely affected the monsoon ultimately the yield of food grains in India (Selvaraju, 2003). During 2002, 2004 and 2009 Nino years, a 14, 23 and 27%, respectively, reduction in pulses was observed. About 15% loss of cereal production was recorded in Central America and some Caribbean countries in 1982/83 EI nino event. In 1997 phenomenon the rice crops were however escaped from their wrath and so do the cassava. Evidently, cassava has better adaptability to adverse environmental conditions and marginal soil nutrients. Moreover, EI nino event has only subtle or no effect on coarse grain production during 1997 on a global scale. The recent 2016/16 EI nino has extensively reduced the yield of major crops like, wheat, rice and maize, resulting in rising of inflation, interestingly the impact coincides with previous events in history (cane et al., 1994). However, the soyabean yield was accelerated owing to the favorable condition imposed by EI nino in Brazil and US.

            EI nino has also negative impact on various other crops and on livestock's. Oil crops are the one which are significantly affected and there had been decline in production of south American fishmeal. The yield of coconut and palm oils were also tremendously reduced due to drought in south east Asia during 1998. The EI nino effect has also fuelled the global shortage of cocoa as a result of drought in Asian countries. Deterioration of pasture and range conditions has led to slaughtering of ruminants which is reverted to the farmers in agriculture.

            Since global warming is posited to be one of the significant factor behind the EI nino, responsibility to reduce the effect is on the arms of every single person on the globe. Further, intensive research on predicting EI nino phenomenon must be carried out so that appropriate farming practices could be followed to counteract the climatic changes. 

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