Paro, Thimphu and Chukha that grow apples in abundance today, would be affected by climate change and become unsuitable to produce the cash crop by 2050, a study shows.

Wengkhar Agriculture and Research Development Centre’s principal horticulture officer, Loday Phuntsho said this means areas such as Paro would not be suitable for growing apple in both high and low emission scenarios.

In a study conducted by Loday Phuntsho and his group it was found that change in shift of crop suitability areas could affect income and livelihood of people and change cropping systems.

In agriculture suitability, the study tried to assess the production potential of a crop in a given environment mainly biophysical and climatic characteristics, he said.

Loday Phuntsho said that the country, in its policy document Vision 2020, recognises horticulture as one of the industries of the future.

He said that the study focused on apple and mandarin, as these were two important cash crops with apple earning Nu 215 Million (M) and mandarin Nu 432M in the country last year.

The study looked at the possible impacts of climate change on agriculture especially on the physiology of plants, on how and where they grow, their flowering, and harvest season.

He said there are only few studies about climate change, especially in relation to agriculture in the country. “A research recorded a rise of about 0.2 degree Celsius in eastern part of the country.”

He said that agriculture provides livelihood to about 57 percent of the population in the country today.

To assess the crop suitability, an ecological niche model using parameters such as minimum and maximum length of growing season, temperature at which a crop dies, and minimum temperature at which crop grows, among others were studied.

Moderately low emission (temperature) and high emission scenarios were used to project future crop suitability in 2050.

Loday Phuntsho said that in the low emission scenario, about 6,036 acres of land in Haa and about 2,161 acres in Wangdue would become suitable for apple cultivation while it would not be suitable in Paro, Thimphu and Chukha.

He said that Samtse gains in both low and high emission scenarios for mandarin cultivation.

He said that future projection was a way to study and look for possible problems in the country. “Change in crop variety and understanding an experience of change in similar weather areas could intervene problems related to climate change,” he said.

He said that accessing climate data was the main challenge while conducting the study as the country is mountainous and the weather differs every one kilometre.

Rinchen Zangmo