International Rice Research Institute
Los Banos, Philippines
The UN Climate Change Conference was held in Copenhagen, Denmark to develop consensus among nations on ways to address climate change mitigation and adaptation. In preparation for the Conference the UN Environment Program (UNEP) published the document Climate Change Science Compendium http://www.unep.org/pdf/ccScienceCompendium2009/cc_ScienceCompendium2009_full_en.pdfoutlining the range of impact scenarios covering sea level rise to extreme weather events, as well as implications for agricultural production. The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon labeled the Compendium, “ ….a wake up call. The time for hesitation is over. We need the world to realize, once and for all, that the time to act is now and we must work together to address this monumental challenge”. Climate change will threaten the sustainability of world agriculture. Besides its direct effects on crops themselves, there will be indirect pressures from pests, diseases and weeds. In November 2008, FAO called for an immediate plan of action on a new “World Agricultural Order” to ensure that production meets rising demands while safeguarding the goals of sustainable ecosystem management (http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/8569/icode/).
Of particular interest in the Compendium is the section on managed agricultural adaptation (pp 46). UNEP recognizes the need for sustaining agricultural production to meet the projected growth in human population and eventually doubling current production. To meet such challenges UNEP advocates a move away from the conventional model of land use segregation and technologically based production systems to focus on developing more diverse, low input and integrated systems at the landscape level, labeled eco-agriculture. The agricultural intensifications in the mid to late 20th century has undoubtedly made great achievements, characterized by economic and social advances in China, India and Latin America. However its practices have accelerated soil erosion, soil salination, nitrification of water bodies, and overuse of synthetic pesticides with subsequent loss of natural pest control, pollination and other ecosystem services affecting agricultural sustainability. The new eco agriculture mosaics would have high productivity, support biodiversity and other ecosystem service besides the provisioning services, and would be more resilient to climate change effects and pest invasions. For decades biodiversity conservation and agricultural productivity were thought to be incompatible and mutually exclusive, but there is now an emerging body of scientific research to support otherwise. Increasingly we need to focus of developing approaches that recognize multiple ecosystem services and ways to enhance them that can build resilience in the face of the changing climate. One such an approach towards developing rice systems that have resilience and reduced vulnerability to pest invasions, such as rice planthoppers, is ecological engineering. In March 2009, UNEP published “The Environmental Food Crisis – The environment’s role in averting future food crisis” that provided 7 options for improving food security. Option 4 is “to support farmers in developing diversified and resilient eco-agriculture systems that provide critical ecosystem services (water supply and regulation, habitat for wild plants and animals, genetic diversity, pollination, pest control and climate regulation), as well as adequate food to meet local and consumer needs.” Available in http://www.grida.no/publications/rr/food-crisis/