Climbing mercury raises anxiety in farmers

The increase in temperature would reduce the quality of harvested wheat since it thrives in cold weather

Published - April 11, 2022 04:09 am IST - CHANDIGARH

A farmer inspects his wheat field before harvesting, ahead of the upcoming festival of ‘Vaisakhi’, in Amritsar.

A farmer inspects his wheat field before harvesting, ahead of the upcoming festival of ‘Vaisakhi’, in Amritsar. | Photo Credit: PTI

Unusual warm weather conditions, accompanied by a prolonged dry spell in Punjab and Haryana have left farmers and experts anxious, who fear that prevailing climate conditions would not just harm the quality of the ready to harvest wheat crop, but could also delay and increase the cost of cultivation for sowing cotton, the summer (kharif) season crop.

Maximum and minimum temperatures have been hovering appreciably above normal in most parts of Punjab and Haryana, and any respite is unlikely in the coming days. The prevailing maximum temperature is 7-9 degrees Celsius above normal over Haryana and 8-9 degrees Celsius over Punjab. According to India Meteorological Department (IMD), dry weather will continue across both the States during the next five days. Also, heatwave to severe heatwave conditions have been prevailing over some districts of south and southwestern Haryana and these conditions are likely to continue. Similar conditions are likely to prevail over some districts in southern Punjab till April 12.

In Punjab’s Bhaini Bagha village in Mansa district, Mahinder Singh has started harvesting his wheat crop sown on around 10 acres of land. He is concerned over two counts, first, the reduced yield (productivity) and quality of his wheat produce, which he says have been adversely affected due to the sudden rise in temperature in the past over a month, and second is, if the weather conditions continue to be dry, the cost of cultivating the cotton crop in his field would rise sharply.

“Wheat is a temperature-sensitive crop, which thrives in cold conditions. A warm temperature is required only during the harvesting. But this year, the temperature has been unusually higher in comparison to the previous years and due to this sudden rise the ripening process was advanced, disturbing the growing pattern, which has shriveled the grain and hit the yield and quality,” he said on Saturday.

“My bigger worry though will start after the harvesting is completed as I plan to sow cotton in the field by next week. With dry and hot winds blowing for the past many days, the moisture from the soil has already gone and with no respite from soaring mercury in days to come, it would mean that more water will be required for irrigating, eventually, the input cost will rise. In my village, the canal water is almost dried at present, so the option would be to fetch groundwater from tube well, this will increase the sowing expenses as I’ll have to use a diesel fuel-based generator as there’s no regular supply of electricity these days. The price of diesel has been consistently rising. Last year, it cost me around ₹5,000 per acre to plant cotton, but with the rise in diesel price itself, the cultivation cost is expected to go up by ₹1,800 per acre, which means this year for one acre of cotton sowing, I’ll have to shell out around ₹6,800,” he said.

Gurbakhsish Singh, a farmer in Punjab’s Bhawanigarh of district Sangrur is also concerned over the adverse impact of inclement weather on his wheat crop’s quality. “The sudden rise in temperature has not been conducive for the wheat crop. The size and colour of the grain have suffered damage. The yield is certainly going to drop,” said Mr. Singh, who has sown wheat on nearly 15 acres.

Anand Sharma, former Deputy Director-General of the Agromet Advisory Service Division at the IMD, said “Certainly, the dry weather conditions will have implications, the regions which lack irrigation facility will have to bear the brunt as sowing would be difficult,” said Mr. Sharma.

In Punjab and Haryana, Bt cotton is sown in over 95% of the total area under cotton cultivation, the remaining 5% of the cultivable area usually has indigenous [desi] cotton varieties. Cotton is usually planted from mid-April till late May in most parts of Punjab and Haryana. Also, both Punjab and Haryana States are major contributors of wheat to the central pool.

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