Frost-like conditions occur every year, but an episode like this happens once in three or four years
Potato farmers in the northern parts of the country have suffered heavy crop losses due to ground frost owing to the fall in temperatures in the last week.
While potato crop has suffered the maximum damage, ground frost has also affected other vegetable crops and mustard across fields in Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
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In some fields, the damage has been between 30-40 per cent. For farmers who planted some of the late varieties, sown in late November or early December, the damage has been as high as 80 per cent of the crop.
For example, of 16-hectare (ha) potato crops planted, Jaskaran Singh lost crops on around 10 ha.
“The late variety plants have turned black and suffered 80 per cent damage. They had crossed the germination stage. But now, the growth will be stopped and there will not be any yield,” said Jaskaran Singh from Salempur Masanda village in Punjab’s Jalandhar district.
The situation is the same across the potato belt in the state, covering districts like Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Ludhiana, Amritsar, Moga and Patiala.
The damage only happened in the current week when minimum temperatures fell below normal and even to the freezing point in many places. Bathinda and Faridkot districts of the state have been reeling under sub-zero temperatures accompanied by frost.
Additionally, due to dry weather conditions, there has been a decrease in the moisture content of the soil.
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The farmers are more concerned because the price of potato has been as low as Rs 3 per kg. “In contrast, the per acre investment is Rs 40,000,” said Singh.
Frost-like conditions occur every year, but an episode like this happens once in three or four years. The last four days have destroyed many vegetable crops,” said GS Bajwa, a farmer from Gurdaspur district.
Punjab Agricultural University had, on January 19, cautioned the state's farmers about the harmful effects of frost on crops, particularly on newly planted vegetables and plant nurseries.
In Rajasthan’s Hanumangarh area, farmers saw similar damage to the mustard crop.
“The mustard crop, especially the big plants, have been damaged heavily. These plants were about to be harvested by next month. We won’t be able to plan the crop again. Time has passed now,” said Om Prakash Swami from Charanwasi village in Rajasthan.
His 2.5 ha mustard crop has suffered 30-35 per cent damage. Vegetable farmers in the village have reported a loss of 50 per cent damage.
Similarly, farmers from Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have also reported a loss.
Crops should be irrigated lightly to avoid dehydration and an adequate supply of nutrients must be ensured, experts advised.
“Soft vegetables benefit from the use of mulch that acts as a safeguard from frost,” the experts pointed out.
University scientists also recommended regular surveillance of fields by farmers and vigilance about ground frost conditions.
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