Winters and Rabi crops

Why in the news?

The Indian Meteorological Department has predicted rain with thunderstorm activity in Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, and Uttar Pradesh. This winter was dry and cold, unlike last year.

How were the weather conditions in the past few years?

  • Due to extreme weather conditions, wheat and rice production had dropped, leading to financial losses.
    • The fall in production is the sudden rise in the temperature at the harvesting time.
    • March recorded the hottest in 122 years.
  • The variations in weather are quite challenging for the agriculture sector.
  • It is believed that 2021-22 was the climate change for Indian agriculture from September 2021 to 2022. Excessive rainfall damaged the Kharif crops at the time of harvesting.
  • In 2022-23, the rainfall was lower, leading to a crop shortage in the country's northern, central, and western parts.
    • The rabi crops of these parts are wheat, chana, Masur, potato, onion, and maize.

What effect will the weather have on the rabi crops?

  • This year, farmers have sown around 341.13 lakh hectares of wheat. The expectations are that this would translate into bumper production.
  • It is required for the annual retail cereal inflation, which was 13.79% in December.
  • The wheat stocks in the warehouses were also low.
  • The experts say that harvesting takes about two months, and the weather is forecasted to be heavy rainfall with hailstorms that can bring crop acreages that are fraught with risks. 
  • The policymakers can be carefree about two things-
    • Sufficient amount of public stock of rice to meet the public distribution system's requirements before harvesting the wheat crop.
    • International wheat prices are at ease after the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
  • Though these two factors may not be sufficient in crop failure, as occurred last year, which resulted in wheat procurement and importation into India, potentially driving up global prices again. 

What is the current condition of the crop?

  • The wheat crop is in the boot stage, where earheads (that bear the flower and then the grain) form at the tip of the plant. 
  • The scientist at IARI (Indian Agricultural Research Institute) said that the crop condition is good now because sunny skies and low temperatures at night are perfect for wheat. 
    • He also said that the rain at this time would be welcoming as it would provide the growth momentum for the crop by cooling the canopy and enabling natural nitrogen fixation. 

Why is rain beneficial to crops?

  • The rainfall will wash away the dust and pollutants on the leaves. Rainwater is purer than underground water because it does not contain salt or other contaminants.
  • It saves on irrigation costs. 
  • The wheat requires 4 or 5 irrigations if there is no rain. 

What is the situation with mustard?

  • This dry and cold winter is not beneficial for mustard.
    • The reason is that it is sown in October andt starts flowering after 50-60 days. During this time in the winter, severe cold waves in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi, Punjab, and Madhya Pradesh caused frost damage to the crops in many areas. 
    • The condition of the mustard was vulnerable since the pod development has been advanced in this case.

Is the chana crop affected?

  • It is the second biggest rabi crop in the area.
  • The crop condition is better, and there has been no loss from the frost since the flowering starts in late January or early February. 
  • The crop condition is good, and rainfall will be helpful.

Way forward

The government has raised the MSP (minimum support price) for all Rabi crops for 2023–24. The government prioritizes increasing the production of oilseeds and pulses to accomplish the objective of Atmanirbhar Bharat. The mini kits will be provided to the states for oilseeds and pulses. 


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