As samba season enters its crucial phase, farmers are facing the dire prospect of loosing three tonnes of paddy per acre. Samba is estimated to have been raised in more than 9.5 lakh acres as against the normal 12 lakh acres in delta districts of Nagapattinam, Tiruvarur, and Thanjavur.

“Now the problem has compounded not just because of poor rains during the past fortnight but also because the dry spell engenders a host of issues,” lament Cauvery V.Dhanapalan, general secretary, Cauvery Delta Farmers’ Protection Association, and Mahadhanapuram V.Rajaram, working president, Cauvery Delta Farmers’ Welfare Association.

Talking to The Hindu after touring a number of places in Nagapattinam district on Sunday, they said the fields look parched.

They pointed out that samba season had an ominous start. Mettur water, that was released by the third week of September, 100 days behind schedule, could reach most of the tail end areas only by October.

The end of October saw the Nilam cyclone lashing delta region, inundating standing crops in lakhs of acres.

“Any paddy crop that remains submerged for more than 36 hours becomes nutritionally deficient. Besides, now weeds have mushroomed. We are facing serious problem of insects – ‘kuruthuppoochi’ (stem borer) and ‘ilaisuruttu puzhu’ (leaf folder).

Also, this is the time for tillers to open which determine the yield. But as there is no water for the past more than a fortnight, it is only the mother plant which is left. “Hence we are facing the possibility of losing at least three tonnes of paddy per acre,” they predicted.

Their expectations that there will be considerable rains during the northeast monsoon season of October-December were belied.

“We hoped that the monsoon would take care of minimum 40 days of irrigation and water need not be supplied for so long from Mettur Dam. Situation has become so bad now that at least one tmcft has to be released from Mettur Dam every day within two weeks after Nilam. The Mettur storage won’t last even for a fortnight now.”

They estimate that 50 per cent of the area covered has long-term variety (150 days) and 40 per cent of the area medium term variety (135 days).

Planting is yet to be completed only in five per cent of the total area.

Direct-sowing which normally faces serious weed threat had a providential escape this year initially. “We did not even require 10 persons per acre for removing the weeds. But situation is turning for the worse now.”

“Most of us have drained our fields after the Nilam fearing that the standing crops would be totally submerged if one more spell of heavy rain were to occur during the first week of November. But it has proved totally dry. Quite unusually, we have got to hope for rain only when a depression forms,” they lamented.

Now the standing crops are 60 to 75 days old in several parts. They require water for a minimum of 75-90 days.

All that we can do is to pray the Rain God as Karnataka looks determined not to give us any more water, they added.