With deficient rains across Uttar Pradesh in this monsoon, farmers are staring at difficult days ahead fearing a sharp decline in their Kharif produce. As per the data of India Meteorological Department (IMD), Uttar Pradesh received only 170 millimetre (mm) rainfall between June 1 and July 29, which is 50 per cent less than the normal rainfall of 342.8 mm.
Of the total 75 districts of the state, 67 recorded deficient rainfall while only seven recorded normal rainfall during this period.
The less rainfall is reflected in the drop in Kharif cropping across the state. As per the state agriculture department, of the total 96.03 lh (lakh hectare), the total acreage of Kharif plantation, close to 72 lh, has been cultivated till July 29. Of the total Kharif acreage, 60 lh is used for paddy plantation which has lagged this year.
“The paddy cropping in the state has been done at around 40 lh in the state which is around 65 per cent of the total area. This has mainly occurred due to delay in the monsoon and less rainfall,” Baldev Singh Aulakh, the Minister of State for Agriculture in Uttar Pradesh told PTI.
The minister added that the paddy farming will exceed 90 per cent in a week’s time if normal rains continue.
Paddy farmers first sow paddy seeds in nurseries, where the seeds germinate into seedlings for a period of 25 to 35 days. The farmers then uproot these seedlings and replant them in the field.
Bisya Sen Verma (58), a marginal farmer of Naribehdan village of Lakhimpur Kheri district said, “We usually plant the seeds in the nursery in the first week of June and transfer them into farms during the first week of July. In past years, our fields used to be filled with water by July 10 which is ideal for planting. But this year the rain gods are angry. Forget replanting, even our nurseries have been damaged due to lack of rains.” Majority of the drop in paddy cultivation this season, according to experts, can be attributed to loss of saplings in nursery or delay in transplanting the sapling to the field.
“The ideal time for transplanting the paddy sapling from nursery to fields is 25 to 35 days. Once the saplings are mature beyond that the chances of survival of transplanted sapling reduces,” D Subrahmanyam, Principal Scientist and head of Plant Physiology Department at Indian Institute of Rice Research, Hyderabad explained.
Paddy farmers in various parts of the state complained that due to weak monsoon they transplanted their paddy crop from nursery to field after a gap of 40 to 50 days.
“We cannot sow paddy saplings in dry fields. So we had no choice but to wait for the rain to do so. I used to cultivate paddy in 1.5 acre of farm but this year I have only cultivated it in 1 acre area,” said Somaru Pal of Mau district.
Mau is among the districts which have less rainfall this monsoon. The district received just 120 mm rainfall till July 29 which is 69 per cent less than the normal of 385 mm The state recorded little to no rains till June 29 this year. This was followed by four days of normal rainfall between June 30 and July 5. The rains subsided again for over two weeks till July 23 with little or no rains, which according experts was a crucial period for paddy cropping.
While the monsoon, although weak, has resumed from July 23, experts suggest that the damage to paddy crop has been done with an average of month-long delay in paddy cropping.
“The month-long delay in paddy cropping will affect seed formation and lead to reduction in the produce. This will also have a cascading effect on the next crop because the farmers will get less time between harvesting the paddy crop and cultivating the next crop. Shorter duration of two crops reduces productivity of the soil,” explained D Subrahmanyam.
Apart from paddy, the cropping of arhar (tur), most grown kharif puls, has also been affected in the state.
Shivnath Singh, a farmer from Bansdih in Ballia district said, “I use to cultivate arhar in an acre of land but this year due to delay in monsoon I have planted it in only half of the farm and considering the weak monsoon, I fear that the crop will be affected severely.” The maize farmers also tell a similar story. “We sow maize seeds in the first week of July. This year, due to less rainfall, our maize seedlings dried after germinating. We are not in a position to buy seeds again and sow them in the fields,” said Dayashankar Verma, a marginal farmer of Gonda district.
While the farmers in eastern UP are worried about their arhar and maize crop, in western UP, the farmers worry about their sugarcane crop.
“My sugarcane has wilted due to excessive heat in absence of monsoon. I cannot afford to pay the charge of tube well to irrigate my sugarcane crop. It appears that the sugarcane produce will be affected badly,” said Subodh Mishra (50), a farmer from Rampur district. Rampur is the most rain deficient district in the state with 84 per cent less rainfall this monsoon.
AD Pathak, Director of the Indian Institute of Sugarcane Research, Lucknow told PTI, “The lack of rainfall is certainly a stress for sugarcane plants, but the plant can overcome it. This stress will have a small impact on the plant growth but will not impact the overall growth.” Considering the weak monsoon, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath held a review meeting with senior officials and asked them to stay prepared for any situation. The CM directed officials to ensure that water levels in canals are maintained and steps be taken to help farmers.