THE FUTURE OF RICE: SHRINKING PRODUCTION AREA, YIELD AND PRODUCTIVITY
Organisation size: Small
Publication date: 14/04/2021
Credit: Shreeshan Venkatesh
I work as a visual and data journalist with BBC. Earlier I have worked with Carboncopy and Kashmir Observer newspaper and wrote on multiple beats. In my free time I like to click photographs and trek.
India’s foodgrain production has been hitting the record books every few years. For rice too, production numbers have consistently been rising since 2016-2017. According to official estimates, current rice production in India is 12.23 MT higher than the past 10 years’ average production of 108.09 MT. But is it rising fast enough to meet future demand?
The story tries to find the answer to this question. It also takes into account various aspects like climate change, elevated levels of carbon dioxide, stressed water levels and farming techniques that directly or indirectly affect agriculture in India.
The project was shared widely amongst the scientists working with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)- an autonomous organisation under the Department of Agricultural Research and Education (DARE), Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India.
Since ICAR is dependent for production of new varieties of crops, this story delves into the science behind it by talking to scientists from the institution.
Rice has been a staple food of India for decades. The project tries to bring the story behind the future of rice to the audience with a focus on the effect of climate change, stressed water levels and elevated temperature and carbon dioxide on the crop.
The projected demand for rice by 2050 is estimated to be 197.40 MT for a population of 1.65 billion— almost 80% higher than the current demand. This story served as a reality check to the government, scientists, farmers and people who are dependent on rice directly or indirectly.
The story required a lot of research. It took into account a lot of scientific research papers to extract data to get the numbers for the yield, production area and productivity of rice.
A lot of data was available to scrap. Tabula was used to scrape the data from pdf files.
The data was cleaned in Google Sheets and for visualizations, Flourish was used.
What was the hardest part of this project?
One of the hardest parts of the project was to determine how much carbon dioxide (CO2) is too much CO2 for rice since rice responds positively to elevated levels of CO2. This meant that as global warming would increase, the yield and productivity of rice would also increase.
To find the answer, I went through a lot of research papers and talked to scientists and Phd candidates to know the real picture behind it. Ultimately I did get a response but I was looking for a number that was provided by one of the scientists who has done extensive research on rice in India.
Other challenges included going through scientific research papers and understanding the scientific terminology.
Breaking the terminologies to make the piece understandable even to people from non-science backgrounds was also one of the main challenges.
What can others learn from this project?
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)-a leading international body for the assessment of climate change, in its sixth assessment report, has put into light the irreversible effects of climate change that the world has already witnessed or will be witnessing in the coming days.
Making the science behind climate change understandable to the audience is very important considering the effects of climate change are visible everywhere these days. The story used rice as a central point to explain how climate change will affect its yield, productivity and production area in the coming time.
The story also tries to find answers to the challenges that lie ahead which is very important to make the audience optimistic about the future and lessen the eco-anxiety that has been increasing amongst the people.