Monsoon effect: Late kharif harvesting may hit rabi sowing and output

October 30, 2019 12:16 AM

Arrivals of 11 major kharif crops such as paddy, maize, soyabean, tur and cotton were down 3-57% during October 1-28 compared with whole of October last year (see chart).

For seven of 11 crops, the decline in arrivals was over 30%.For seven of 11 crops, the decline in arrivals was over 30%.

By Prabhudatta Mishra

Barring bajra, moong and sunflower, market arrivals of all other kharif crops are now lower than a year ago mainly due to late sowing during the monsoon season and excess rains in September. If this trend continues for a longer while, the sowing of key rabi crops like wheat, mustard and chana may get delayed, potentially bringing down their yield as northern India has been witnessing above-normal temperature from March, the month when rabi harvesting commences, during the past few years.

Arrivals of 11 major kharif crops such as paddy, maize, soyabean, tur and cotton were down 3-57% during October 1-28 compared with whole of October last year (see chart). For seven of 11 crops, the decline in arrivals was over 30%.

There is unlikely to be any significant changes in arrivals in the next three days, experts said. The four-month monsoon season started with 33% deficient rain in June but was 52% above normal in September. Monsoon this year started retreating from the northwest region on October 9, against the normal date of early September.

This year, rabi output is expected to be robust as most reservoirs have high water levels due to the above-normal monsoon and prolonged rain season. “Due to climate change, temperature in northern plains has been above normal from March in the past few years. Variation in temperature beyond prescribed limit will drag down productivity of the standing winter crops,” said a former agriculture commissioner.

The government targets 143.20 million tonne (MT) of foodgrains production during rabi this year and it includes 100.5 MT of wheat and record 11.6 MT of chana, the main pulse crop of the winter season. Target output of mustard, the key winter-grown oilseed, has been fixed at 8.24 MT in 2019-20 crop year (July-June).

The sowing window of high-yielding varieties of mustard such as RH-749, RH 725 is already over as the ideal time is to complete the sowing by October 25. These varieties, which take 145-155 days of maturity, have 28-30 quintal/hectare productivity when sown and harvested in the prescribed time period. Even another high-yielding mustard variety Giriraj (DRMRIJ-31), having 135 days maturity and 28 quintal/hectare yield, will not be suitable any more.

“There may not be drop in overall acreage of mustard but due to late rains in September and October, farmers are waiting for water to dry up from their fields in low-lying areas. This has delayed the sowing a bit and it is expected that farmers will complete mustard planting by mid-November,” said PK Rai, director of Bharatpur-based Welcome to ICAR-Directorate of Rapeseed-Mustard Research.

There are some late-sown varieties like NRC HB 101, though with lower yield compared to RH 749 and others, which should be adopted by farmers when they sow the mustard crop next month, he said.

On the other hand, GP Singh, director of Karnal-based Indian Institute of Wheat and Barley Research, is quite optimistic for wheat crop with the high level of moisture this year due to late withdrawal of monsoon. The wheat area will be around the normal level of 30 million hectare and there is every possibility that India may have a record production this year if all weather conditions remain favourable.

“Already wheat sowing has started in Punjab and Haryana with 80% of paddy field cleared for the rabi cereal crop. In next one week, it will pick up in other states like Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. While sowing has begun in western Uttar Pradesh, the eastern parts of the state and Bihar traditionally go for late-sowing,” Singh said. The Centre is yet to start releasing its weekly compilation of sowing data of rabi crops from states this year.

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