Climbing mercury raises anxiousness in farmers

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The rise in temperature would reduce the quality of the wheat harvested as it thrives in cold weather

The rise in temperature would reduce the quality of the wheat harvested as it thrives in cold weather

Unusually warm weather conditions, accompanied by a prolonged drought in Punjab and Haryana, have unsettled farmers and experts who fear that the prevailing climatic conditions could not only affect the quality of the wheat crop ready for harvest, but also delay and increase the cost of cultivation for seeding of cotton, the summer harvest (Kharif).

High and low temperatures have been well above normal in most parts of Punjab and Haryana and a 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 the India Meteorological Department (IMD), dry weather will continue in both states for the next five days. Also, some districts in southern and southwestern Haryana have experienced heatwaves to severe heatwaves and these conditions are likely to continue. Similar conditions are likely to prevail in some districts in southern Punjab through April 12.

In Bhaini Bagha village of Punjab in Mansa district, Mahinder Singh has started harvesting his wheat crop which has been sown on around 10 acres of land. He is doubly concerned, firstly about the lower yield (productivity) and quality of his wheat products, which he says has been affected by the sudden rise in temperature over the past month and a half, and secondly, about the weather with prolonged drought would increase the cost of increase the cultivation of the cotton crop in his field.

“Wheat is a temperature-sensitive crop that thrives in cold conditions. A warm temperature is only required during harvest. But this year the temperature was abnormally higher compared to previous years and because of this sudden increase, the ripening process was accelerated, disrupting the growth pattern, causing the grain to shrink and affecting yield and quality,” he said on Saturday.

“However, my greater concern will begin after the harvest is complete as I plan to sow cotton in the field by next week. With dry and hot winds blowing in the last few days, the moisture from the soil has already disappeared and without a break from the rising mercury in the coming days it would mean that more water is needed for irrigation which will eventually increase the investment costs to you. In my village the canal water is almost dry at the moment so the option would be to get ground water from a tube well. This increases the seeding cost as I have to use a diesel generator as there is no regular supply of electricity these days. The price of diesel is steadily increasing. Last year it cost me about ₹5,000 per acre to grow cotton, but with the rise in the price of diesel itself the cost of growing is expected to increase by ₹1,800 per acre, meaning that this year for one acre of cotton seed 1 I’ll have to shell out around £6,800″ , he said.

Gurbakhsish Singh, a farmer in Bhawanigarh in Sangrur state, Punjab state, is also concerned about the adverse effects of inclement weather on the quality of his wheat crop. “The sudden increase in temperature was not conducive to the wheat harvest. The size and color of the grain have been damaged. The yield will certainly fall,” said Mr Singh, who has sown wheat on nearly 15 acres.

Anand Sharma, former deputy general manager of the Agromet Advisory Service Division at IMD, said: “The dry weather conditions will certainly have an impact, the regions without irrigation facilities will have to bear the brunt as sowing would be difficult,” Mr Sharma said.

In Punjab and Haryana, Bt cotton is sown on over 95% of the total acreage under cotton cultivation, with the remaining 5% of the acreage mostly indigenous [ desi] cotton varieties. Cotton is normally grown in most parts of Punjab and Haryana from mid-April to late May. Also, both Punjab and Haryana states are important wheat contributors to the central pool.