Govt worried over adverse effect of erratic weather on crops


The state government is worried that disruptions caused to the state's agriculture activities, including sowing, germination and maturity of crops, by climatic change and accompanying erratic weather conditions have become real, but what is more galling is the fact that no immediate solutions are in sight to alleviate farmers' problems.

"The disruptions caused to agriculture activities were visible during Rabi cropping season this year. Normally, one-month-long wheat sowing starts from November 15 and lasts till December 15, but farmers resorted to delayed sowing lasting beyond December 31. Then, there was frosty conditions," said agriculture department joint director (agronomy) Venkatesh Narayan Singh, adding that farmers have taken a chance, hoping for good/rich harvest from around March-end, when "hot and strong westerly wind begins to blow".

Temperature, as well as moisture content in the soil and air, has to match for the proper sowing, germination and maturity cycle of wheat for good harvest. Normally, wheat requires four and a half month to be ready for harvesting, but this year it would get only three months and, by March-end, the hot and strong westerly wind would begin to blow. "Keep fingers crossed on yield," Singh said.

This year, as achieved by the Bihar farmers in spite of demonetisation odds, the combined acreage of wheat, winter maize and barley is 86% of the target area — winter maize alone accounting for 101% and wheat 93% of the target area — till January 5.

The backdrop is worrisome, but the department, along with experts and agronomists, has recognised that the problem is real. "Agriculture scientists recognised the seriousness of the problem long back, but it is exacerbating and immediate solutions are not in sight," said Anil Kumar Jha, deputy director (agronomy) in the state agriculture department.

As a matter of fact, the agriculture department arranged a meeting of agronomists at Bihar Agriculture Management and Extension Training Institute (BAMETI) here early this month to get an idea of the likely solutions to the emerging problem.

By and large, the approach suggested to combat the problem is on short-term basis. "Unless a mechanism is developed to give a forecast of the emerging weather conditions even six months in advance in a year, no proper planning can be done. The eco system has to be restored. Otherwise, farmers depend on short-term ad hoc measures," Jha said.

A few solutions offered include crop rotation, large-scale forestation and measures to augment moisture content in the soil. Tree plantation has gone up in north Bihar plains, but the south Bihar plains, westward from Lakhisarai, look barren and devoid of forests due to pressure to reserve land for wheat and paddy cultivation.

Two years ago, the department tried to promote 'arhar' sowing on 'aars (bunds)' of plots of land in south Bihar, but could not be scaled up. Similarly, efforts to promote plantation of commercially viable poplar trees, used in the making of match sticks, too, did not get wide acceptability. "The support of community to change is a must. It should be ready to accept change," Jha said.


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