Agriculture

Kharif Crops: Tackling Vagaries of Monsoon

The Government issues contingency plans for Kharif and Rabi crops separately every year. However, the two consecutive droughts have made the Centre and States careful in planning for the upcoming Kharif crops. Learning lessons from the past, the Government has issued its contingency plans and crop-wise recommendations to States as per their agro-climatic conditions for Kharif season - 2016. MOHD MUSTAQUIM analyses the Centre's measures and how they would help farmers

Kharif Crops: Tackling Vagaries of Monsoon

The Government issues contingency plans for Kharif and Rabi crops separately every year. However, the two consecutive droughts have made the Centre and States careful in planning for the upcoming Kharif crops. Learning lessons from the past, the Government has issued its contingency plans and crop-wise recommendations to States as per their agro-climatic conditions for Kharif season – 2016. MOHD MUSTAQUIM analyses the Centre’s measures and how they would help farmers
 

After two successive years of deficient monsoon, it has now become significant for the Central and State governments not to leave a single stone unturned for preparing for the upcoming Kharif season. The woes began from 2014 deficient monsoon, resulted in declining crop production and increasing input cost in Kharif season 2014-15. In the next Rabi season, the moisture stress in soil weakened the farmers’ sentiments in sowing in many parts of the country, further unseasonal rains and hailstorms hit the crop, primarily wheat in March 2015. As a result, the agriculture growth dropped from 4.2 per cent in 2013-14 to -0.2 per cent in 2014-15. The farming sector saw another setback as the next monsoon in 2015 was again deficient and out of 640, above 300 districts were officially declared drought-hit. The agriculture growth again remained sluggish at 1.1 per cent in the year.

The El-Nino conditions, responsible for low rainfall, are expected to be neutral by May-June 2016 and will be taken over by La-Nina which is considered favourable for good rainfall. Following this, the Indian Meteorological Department has predicted an above-normal monsoon for 2016. However, the Central and State governments are trying every possible course of action in case the weather conditions show any unexpected result.

Thus, the Ministry of Agriculture in association with Indian Council of Agricultural Research has issued contingency plans to the States for upcoming Kharif season. The plans have recommended advanced high yielding varieties of seeds tolerant to soil moisture stress and submergence of water, making assured availability of seeds, application of fertilisers as per the requirement of the soil, judicious use of plant protection chemicals, among various other measures.

The Ministry has asked all States, concerned departments and stakeholders to be prepared for a delayed monsoon, prolonged dry spells, early withdrawal of rainfall, heavy rainfall or less rainfall. As Mizoram and Goa seem to be ready for such situations, the Centre wants rest of 600 districts in 27 States to be ready for such conditions.

The Ministry wants all States to focus on timely availability of seeds, fertilisers, nutrients, pesticides and disbursement of funds under various schemes. For this, the Centre has asked the Agriculture Universities (SAUs) and Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) to play important role in the upcoming Kharif season. To monitor and review the crop situation and weather conditions, the Ministry is planning to have weekly video conferencing with officials across the country.

Focusing on Pulses

The Centre has allocated Rs 500 crore for increasing pulses production. To increase the production of pulses in the Kharif season under National Food Security Mission (NSFM), 150 seed hubs are planned to be created in the SAUs and KVKs. It is being focused to enhance breeder seeds production in the ICAR and SAU systems. The National Seeds Corporation will distribute seed mini kits to the farmers. KVKs have been assigned to demonstrate the technological application in the farmers’ field. The shortage of pulses has been a big headache for the Government in last one year which shot up the retail prices to Rs 200 per kg. Thus, the Ministry wants the production to be increased additional two million tonnes of pulses in 2016-17 and to produce 21 million tonnes by 2021 to mitigate the demand.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, focus has now been increased on Integrated Crop Management of Pulses by emphasising on seed treatment, inoculation with Rhizobium, recommending micronutrients as per requirement, promoting Gypsum as a source of sulphur, weed management with recommended chemicals, pest surveillance and integrated pest management.

Rice

Rice is the primary Kharif crop in India. And, therefore, the Ministry of Agriculture is giving special emphasis on contingency plans for rice. According to the Ministry, the Government is focusing on promoting hybrid and stress tolerant varieties for deficient rainfall, drought prone and flood prone areas.

Stressing on increasing rice production in the eastern States, Radha Mohan Singh, Union Minister for Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, says, “Eastern states such as Assam, Bihar, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Odisha and eastern Uttar Pradesh contribute 50 per cent of production by rainfed cultivation. The technological advancement and irrigation facilities can double the production in the region. As the eastern region was ignored in bringing Green Revolution in the 1960s and 70s, the Government is focusing on bringing second Green Revolution in this region.”

Rice is the one of the largest consumers of water as farmers keep their fields flooded from transplanting to crop maturity. Thus, to minimise the water consumption, focus of scientist community has gradually shifted from transplanting to direct seeding. Recently, the Directorate of Wheat Development, Ghaziabad conducted a study on Impact of Direct Seeded Rice (DSR) in conserving water and increasing production in Haryana and Punjab. The study revealed that direct seeded rice has big potential to overcome emerging resource constraints such as labour, water and energy shortage as compared to transplanted rice. As per the study, the direct seeded rice reduces the cost of cultivation and increases the production.

After the trials conducted in Kurukshetra and Sirsa districts in Haryana, and Bhatinda and Patiala districts in Punjab, the farmers seem very keen in adopting direct seeded rice in both States. However, the direct seeded rice has some constraints. If there is sudden rain after sowing, it can adversely affect the germination, increase appearance of new weeds, among other factors.

“To promote conservational agriculture and to save water, we need to promote direct seeding of rice. To mitigate the deficit of pulse production, I am requesting all States to join hands with us to bring a revolution in the pulse production as well,” says Dr. Trilochan Mohapatra , Secretary, Department of Agricultural Research and Education & Director General, Indian Council of Agricultural Research.

ICAR’s crop-wise recommendations

Considering the differences in rainfall and climatic conditions in various agro-climatic zones, ICAR has recommended different varieties of rice to rice producing States. The ICAR’s recommended varieties for upland rice cultivation include Rajendra Bhagwati for Bihar; Samleshwari for Chhattisgarh; Abhishek, CR Dhan 40, Birsa Vikas Dhan 111 & 203 for Jharkhand; Jaldi Dhan 6, Mandakini, Phalguni, Jyotirmayee, Satyabhama and CR Dhan 101 for Odisha.

On the other hand, for Punjab, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, the apex agricultural body has recommended BLB/Sheath blight disease resistant rice varieties such as Improved Pusa Basmati 1, Pusa 1492 and Punjab Mehak 1.

Similarly, for increasing production of pulses, ICAR has recommended RMO 257, RMO 25, RMO 423, RMO 225 and RMO 453 varieties of Moth for Rajasthan. Furthermore, the Council has suggested IPM 02-3 variety of Moong for Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand; Vamban 3 for Tamil Nadu; IPM 02-14 for Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Odisha and MH 421 for Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Moreover, ICAR has recommended 8 varieties of mosaic virus resistant medium maturing moong for various States.

For maize cultivation, the Council has recommended 38 varieties to various states. Similarly, apex body for agriculture has recommended five varieties of sorghum and 18 varieties of sugarcane for different States as per their respective agro-climatic zones. Considering the moisture stress of soil and variations in rainfall in different climatic zones, different varieties of oilseeds crops such as soybean and groundnut have been recommended.

Amid whitefly attacks on cotton crops in Punjab and Haryana in 2015, the Council has conducted screening of all Bt cotton hybrids’ resistance to whitefly, infestation and resistance to CLCV disease for northern States. Further, the ICAR-Central Institute of Cotton Research (CIAR-CICR) issues advisories for whitefly and pink bollworm management every week in English and eight regional languages. The institute has suggested timely release of irrigation water from canals for sowing of cotton and has suggested State governments to ban such Bt cotton varieties found vulnerable for whitefly and CLCuD diseases in the screening. The recommendations say that crops sown before May 15 are tolerant to whitefly and CLCuD. The excessive usage of urea during vegetative phases may increase the vulnerability towards such diseases. The recommendations have a long list which the States need to communicate the farmers timely.

The Centre has recommended the States for replacement of uplands rice cultivation which require big quantum of water and low yielding rice areas with oilseeds, maize and pulses. To increase the production of edible oil, the Government has asked Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha to introduce soybean in non-traditional areas.

New interventions

To make assured availability of seeds for speeding up the agricultural growth, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, the Central government has plans to set up seed production centres under National Seeds Corporation in West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand. For this, West Bengal and Jharkhand have been allocated the land while Bihar is yet to give the land. Similarly, new campuses of farm mechanisation under ICAR -Central Institute of Agricultural Engineering, Bhopal are on the cards in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. So far, Maharashtra and Gujarat have allotted land while it is expected that Uttar Pradesh and Bihar will follow the suit very soon.

“Farmers are facing big challenges of deficiency of important inputs including quality seeds. I appeal all States to contact us anytime whenever they face any problem. Though cotton production has significantly increased in past years, it is now showing signs of new challenges, pest and disease. It should be ensured by the States to send right communication to the farmers,” Shobhana K Pattanayak, Secretary, Department of Agriculture & Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare says.

Further, the Ministry data shows that 4.5 crore soil health cards have been issued to the farmers against the target of 5 crore in the first year. The Ministry has set a target of issuing 13.5 crore soil health cards in first two years. It is expected to play important role in using fertilisers in a judicious manner and increase the yield.

In line with the successful implementation of integrated farming by ICAR Research Complex for Eastern Region, Patna and Bihar Agriculture University, Sabour, the Centre wants this model to be applied across the country for small landholding farmers. The model has been replicated in one hectare of land at Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi recently.

The ICAR and Union Ministry of Agriculture issue recommendations separately for Kharif and Rabi every year. However, the vagaries of monsoon derail the planning in a big way. Therefore, learning lesson from past two consecutive droughts which resulted in farm distress, the Centre, States and local administration at district, block and panchayat level will have to come up together to tackle such situations.  

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