Agriculture

Wheat crisis: All eyes on weather as mercury shoots up in February

Farmers worry about a repeat of last year even as Centre claims record production for this year

 
By Raju Sajwan
Published: Thursday 16 February 2023
The Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has claimed wheat production in the current crop season is estimated to be 112 million tonnes — 4.44 million tonnes more than last year. Photo: iStock

The central government has claimed the country’s wheat production is likely to set a new record in the crop year 2022-23. Farmers, however, seem to have less faith in these claims, with many worried about the temperature rise reported early in February.

The Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has claimed wheat production in the current crop season is estimated to be 112 million tonnes — 4.44 million tonnes more than last year.

Farmer Sandeep Singroha of Assandh area of Karnal district of Haryana has planted wheat on 12 acres. “It was unusually hot in the first week of February. I checked my crops; the wheat grains have already started forming and wilting due to the heat,” he said.


Read more: Government push to coarse cereals as climate change affects wheat, paddy cultivation


The return of the slight nip in the air on February 10 brought some relief to Singroha. “Last year, I faced major losses due to excessive heat, which is why I am focusing on it this time,” he said.

Like Singroha, farmer Sukhdeep Singh is also keeping an eye out for weather changes. Singh has planted wheat on 25 acres and was worried about the heat in the first week of February.

“I would go to the fields every day to check the effect of the heat on the crop. There is no damage to the crop yet and I am lightly irrigating the fields. Thankfully, the weather has cooled down again, so that’s a relief,” he said.

In the first week of February, the temperature in many parts of the country reached 5 to 7 degrees Celsius above average.

The highest temperature in most of the wheat-growing states, especially Madhya Pradesh, in the week of February 2-8, 2023 was higher than the average temperature of the last seven years, according to a report by the National Crop Forecasting Centre of the Department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare under the central government.

NCFC also does crop estimation across the country through the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). This index is a simple indicator that shows how much vegetation is covered.


Read more: Sowing wheat early in eastern India can increase yield by 69%, finds study


Between January 20 and February 9, 2023, the mustard crop had reached maturity in Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and western Uttar Pradesh, NCFC found using the NDVI. Wheat in many parts of Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana has also matured and the grains have formed in the crop.

The temperatures next week will be crucial. “The temperatures are expected to rise in the next four to five days, which will be harmful to the wheat,” said Singroha. “It is possible that the situation will be like last year, which is why farmers are afraid of losses once again.”

The temperatures had shot up after the last week of February in 2022, which scorched the wheat crop in many areas and grains shrunk. The farmers of Punjab-Haryana suffered 20 to 50 per cent crop loss.

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