Climate change is predicted to negatively impact wheat yields across northern India, primarily as a result of increased heat stress during grain filling at the end of the growing season. One way that farmers may adapt is by sowing their wheat earlier to avoid this terminal heat stress. However, many farmers in the eastern Indo-Gangetic Plains (IGP) sow their wheat later than is optimal, likely leading to yield reductions. There is limited documentation of why farmers sow their wheat late and the potential constraints to early sowing. Our study uses data from 256 farmers in Arrah, Bihar, a region in the eastern IGP with late wheat sowing, to identify the socioeconomic, biophysical, perceptional, and management factors influencing wheat-sowing-date decisions. Despite widespread awareness of climate change, we found that farmers did not adopt strategies to adapt to warming temperatures and that wheat-sowing dates were not influenced by perceptions of climate change. Instead, we found that the most important factors influencing wheat-sowing-date decisions were irrigation type and cropping decisions during the monsoon season prior to the winter wheat growing season. Specifically, we found that using canal irrigation instead of groundwater irrigation, planting rice in the monsoon season, transplanting rice, and transplanting rice later during the monsoon season were all associated with delayed wheat sowing. These results suggest that there are system constraints to sowing wheat on time, and these factors must be addressed if farmers are to adapt wheat-sowing-date decisions in the face of warming temperatures.

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