Double whammy: Mustard yield hit by extreme winter, wheat may take hit from early summer

By Siddharth Tiwari

In Hisar, Dharambir Singh (56) is staring at a loss in the ensuing harvest season as a sudden rise in temperature casts doom over his Rabi crop. With April-like weather conditions in February, Singh fears, a nearly 30% decline in his wheat yield.

“Summer is setting in early this year. Last year, a temperature rise was seen in March, just before harvest, and we saw around a 20% decline in the yield. This year, temperatures have shot up from February itself. If this continues, for every 10 acres of wheat sown only 7 acres would translate into yield,” he says.

Dharambir is among thousands of farmers across the state who has expressed concerns over the rise in mercury levels over the past few weeks. Farmers fear if the temperature remains above 25 degree Celsius, they could see crop yield decline by over 30%.

For farmers, it’s a double whammy after their mustard yield was compromised due to the extreme winter in December and January.

“The sudden rise in temperature in February is not a good sign for crops, especially for the late-sown wheat crops. I have sown wheat on over 10 acres and I’m already staring at a 25% reduction. If the temperature rises any further, the losses could be well above 30%. This is in addition to the losses in the mustard crop. Frost during the extreme winter months had destroyed the crop,” said Palwal-based farmer Mahendra Singh Chauhan.

According to the government, a total wheat yield of 12.5 million tonnes was expected this summer. But the real output could well fall short of the target, like in 2022 when the state recorded a yield of 10.44 million tonnes.

“Wheat needs moisture to grow to its full potential and the rise in temperature alters that. But it is too early to predict at the moment as the temperature has dropped in the past couple of days,” said an official of the agriculture and farmers’ welfare department.

Scientists, too, feel that if the current weather conditions persist, farmers could see a dip in their yield.

“The ideal temperature for rabi crops, especially wheat, is around 25 degrees. And the way temperature has shot up suddenly, many are anticipating a hotter March. If that happens, the development of the seeds will be stunted and the overall yield could drop,” said Dr ML Khichar, the head of the agriculture meteorological department at Chaudhary Charan Singh Haryana Agriculture University (Hisar).

Experts have advised farmers to follow the advisory issued by the government to tide through the weather conditions. “It is a cause for concern but not to panic. One cannot control the weather but there are methods that can help the farmers. We suggest that farmers use light irrigation to bring the temperature of the soil down. Also, the use of potassium chloride can be considered on days when average temperature breaches 25 degrees,” said the Indian Institute of Wheat and Barley Research (IIWBR), Karnal, director Gyanendra Singh.

Farmers, however, say that if they were to follow government advisory their input cost would shoot up. “And yet, the yield will be stunted. Moreover, the final crop would not be of good quality,” Chauhan added.

This article has been republished from The Times of India.