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Climate change a threat to Indonesian agriculture, study says

Rice farming in Indonesia is greatly affected by short-term climate variability and could be harmed significantly by long-term climate change, according to a new study by researchers at Stanford University, the University of Washington and the University of Wisconsin. The results are scheduled for publication the week of April 30 in the online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

"Agriculture is central to human survival and is probably the human enterprise most vulnerable to changes in climate," said lead author Rosamond Naylor, director of the Program on Food Security and the Environment at Stanford. "This is particularly true in countries such as Indonesia, with large populations of rural poor. Understanding the current and future effects of changes in climate on Indonesian rice agriculture will be crucial for improving the welfare of the country's poor."

Indonesia-the fourth most populous country in the world and one of the biggest producers and consumers of rice-is characterized by a population of rural poor who depend on rice agriculture for their livelihood, she added.

Hungry season

In the study, the researchers looked at the impact of climate on Indonesian rice farming since 1983. Indonesia has two rice harvests-the main harvest in December and January and a smaller one in late spring. Because summers are dry, rice stocks often diminish and prices rise in the autumn, which Indonesians call the "hungry season." Planting for the main harvest usually begins in October with the coming of the monsoon rains.

The researchers found that rice production since 1983 has been greatly affected by year-to-year climate variability-especially El Nio/Southern Oscillation events, which occur in the Pacific Ocean every two to seven years. During a warm El Nio, the arrival of the monsoon rains is delayed, prolonging the hungry season and disrupting the planting of the main Dece
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Contact: Mark Shwartz
mshwartz@stanford.edu
650-723-9296
Stanford University
1-May-2007


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