Bihar farmers upbeat after monsoon reaches state on time in a decade

Bihar’s farmers are heavily dependent on monsoon rain for kharif crops, mainly paddy, a water-intensive crop

By Mohd Imran Khan
Published: Tuesday 16 June 2020
Paddy sowing was reported in 84,000 hectares across Bihar, according to data from the state’s agriculture department Photo: Pixabay

The timely arrival of the monsoon in Bihar after a decade has given hope and cheer to thousands of farmers in the state. Farmers have begun sowing their paddy crops, even as the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the nationwide lockdown to prevent it has made life tough for them in terms of getting labour and protecting themselves.

Bihar’s farmers are heavily dependent on monsoon rain for kharif crops, mainly paddy, a water-intensive crop.

Shambhu Nath Singh, a farmer in the outskirts of capital Patna, has reason to be happy: The monsoon reached Bihar on June 13, 2020 and Patna on June 15, prompting Singh to sow his crop on time.

“I am not alone. There are hundreds like me in nearby villages as timely monsoon rain not only gave us the opportunity to start sowing on time, but also gave us hope amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

He is now busy in his field completing the sowing process to prepare seedlings which will be followed by timely transplantation considered important for a good harvest.

Most farmers will now be able to finish sowing by the third week of June.

Paddy sowing

The sowing process has begun on a large scale across the state, according to Anil Kumar Jha, an official from the state’s agricultural department.

“We got initial information that more than 25 per cent paddy sowing was over. The target of paddy cultivation is 3.3 million hectares for this year’s kharif season,” Jha said.

Paddy sowing was reported in 84,000 hectares, according to data from the department. Around 53,000 hectares of paddy was sown on the same date last year, according to the data.

In Bihar farmers usually go for paddy sowing during Adra Nakshatra after Rohini Nakshatra that start after June 20. “Farmers have not waited for Adra Nakshatra because of moisture fields due to pre monsoon rains after a long time and timely monsoon rains and sowing paddy”.

Abdus Sattar, an agro-meteorologist at the Rajendra Prasad Central Agricultural University in Samastipur district told Down To Earth that the onset of monsoon in Bihar was on time, compared to the past 10 years.

This was a good sign as almost 70 per cent of the state’s kharif crop cultivation depended entirely on monsoon rainfall, according to him.

“Farmers can take advantage of this and start planting kharif crops. Chances of more sustained rain in the coming weeks will keep seedlings healthy,” he said.

RK Sohane, the director extension at Bihar Agriculture University in Bhagalpur district, said timely monsoon will boost kharif crops in the state.

Paddy will not be delayed this time. It will be ready on time with optimum yield,” he said.

The timely sowing of paddy will be followed by timely paddy transplantation. This will help ensure the cropping system of paddy and wheat. If paddy is delayed, then wheat is delayed as well, according to Sohane.

Rain in Bihar

“Pre-monsoon rain lashed the state early June. This softened fields and provided necessary moisture,” Bihar Agriculture Minister Prem Kumar told DTE.

“Unlike in the past, the fields were not dry. Farmers began sowing paddy last week, but it sped up once rains lashed,” Kumar added.

Apart from paddy, the monsoon rain will help kharif maize as well, according to Kumar. Maize is targeted to be cultivated in 450,000 hectares, while pulses have to be cultivated in 150,000 hectares and jute in 137,000 hectares.

“The monsoon is active and all districts are likely to receive rainfall on June 16, with more rains in the next two days,” said SK Patel, an officer at the Patna Meteorological Centre.

Last year’s monsoon arrived on June 22, according to Patel.

The monsoon last arrived on time on June 9, 2008, according to data from the weather department.

From 2009 till 2018, the monsoon arrived on June 29, June 18, June 17, June 19, June 15, June 18, June 22, June 17, June 22 and June 25 respectively.

Bihar has, however, faced less rainfall during monsoon year after year, except in 2019 when the state recorded three per cent more than normal to heavy rainfall from September 27 to 30.

This resulted in floods in over a dozen districts, with Patna facing waterlogging for days.

Bihar received 1,027.6 millimetres rain in a normal monsoon year and its average annual rainfall — including pre-monsoon, monsoon, post-monsoon and winter — is 1,205.6 mm, according to the India Meteorological Department.

The state received deficient rainfall between 2012 and 2018.

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