Wheat production to be record high despite unseasonal rains: Officials

Back-to-back western disturbances have enriched the soil moisture in the past two weeks, say scientist

By Himanshu Nitnaware
Published: Tuesday 28 March 2023
Back-to-back western disturbances have enriched the soil moisture in the past two weeks
Photo: iStock Photo: iStock

The unseasonal rains and hailstorms lashing several parts of the country is likely to not dent wheat production, central government officials claimed. 

From March 3, 2023 states across India received rainfall and hailstorms causing heavy crop loss. West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and others received large excess rainfall, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD). 

Around 61 per cent of 714 districts in the country recorded large excess rainfall, 10 per cent recorded excess and another 10 per cent had normal rainfall in March 2023, according to IMD.

The rains affected all major wheat-growing states such as Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh received 45 millimetre rainfall, Rajasthan and Bihar received 32 mm and Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana 23 mm each.

“The unseasonal rains were recorded across the northwest plain zone, which led to crop lodging or flattening of the standing wheat plantations,” Gyanendra Singh, director at the Indian Council of Agricultural Research-Indian Institute of Wheat and Barley Research, Karnal, told Down To Earth.

There is no exact estimation of damages and it is challenging to calculate the losses, he said. “However, rough estimates show the losses will be about one per cent which is equivalent to 10 million tonnes of the expected harvest,” he added.

The Union agriculture ministry in February estimated a record wheat output of 112.2 million tonnes during the rabi harvest season of 2022-23. In 2021-22, the wheat production was recorded to be 107.74 million tonnes.

Read more: It’s been a dry winter in the hills & plains of North India. Here’s why

Rather than damage, the unseasonal rains have benefitted the late growing of wheat that are due for harvest in April. “The rains and showers have helped to bring relief to the wheat crops, which are expected to increase production by 15 million tonnes. Considering the damages on the standing crops, the production gains would still count to five million tonnes,” he informed.

The rains helped in extending the duration of wheat crops, favouring them by reducing the surface temperatures that increased during the heatwave in February. 

Debasish Jena, agrometeorology scientist, district agromet unit, Cuttack, said that according to the IMD reports from March 19-25, the satellite images show that crop conditions favour. 

“In the northern states, the rains have benefitted the wheat crop as they are in the flowering stage. The crops will now move to grain formation and the moisture in the soil will prove beneficial,” he said. 

Normalised Difference Vegetation Index in the soil data shows green in the wheat zone that will help bring agriculture vigour, he added.

The heatwave conditions in February that threatened shrinking of grains during the maturity stage has improved and will reduce the damages that were estimated earlier.

Back-to-back western disturbances have enriched the soil moisture in the past two weeks, the scientist said. “The improvement in moisture levels is beneficial for rice and other crops at the reproductive stage, but will be detrimental for vegetables, pulses and others,” he added.

The IMD predicted rainfall and thunderstorm activity to continue in the northwest, central, east and northeast India until March 31. 

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