The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Grain basket in rain shadow
- Touch and go for crops in thirsty states

New Delhi, Sept. 9: Striking deficits in rainfall this year across India’s northern grain basket states have raised concerns about the yields of pulses, maize and oilseeds, agriculture meteorologists said today.

The monsoon so far has been nearly 8 per cent below normal for the country as a whole, but the rainfall deficits in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have ranged between 20 and 30 per cent, meteorologists have said.

“For some crops, it’s going to be touch and go,” said Lakshman Singh Rathore, a senior scientist at National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting, an institute that issues advisories for farmers.

A prolonged spell of dry weather in northwest India in August is expected to take a toll on crop productivity, but the severity of impact would depend on rainfall behaviour in the next few days, he said.

Some parts of Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Rajasthan have received rainfall over the past 24 hours and atmospheric conditions portend more rain in the northwest in the next two days.

The Indian Meteorological Department has also predicted widespread rain over Andhra, central India and the western coastal states. But rainfall is likely to be subdued over Uttar Pradesh.

Paddy is the principal summer crop in Punjab, but most of it is irrigated. Scientists say they are worried about productivity of pulses, maize, oilseeds and pearl millet.

“Where soil retains water, we’ll see low impact, where it does not retain water, we’ll see a more severe impact,” a scientist at the Punjab Agricultural University said. “Pulses are more susceptible to water stress,” Rathore said.

“The prolonged hot and dry weather in August had pushed the groundnut crop in Gujarat to the verge of collapse, but with good rains over the past two days, it’ll probably be saved,” Rathore said.

The dry weather in August was marked by strong winds, high temperatures and low humidity across northwest India. “Strong winds cause mechanical and physiological stress on crops,” he said.

The IMD analysis of the rainfall from the start of the monsoon season on June 1 through September 7 shows that nine of India’s 36 weather subdivisions have received deficit ' 20 per cent or more below normal ' rainfall.

The worst rainfall performance has been in western Rajasthan with 39 per cent below normal, but Punjab, Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand all have deficits between 20 and 37 per cent.

The long range forecast issued by the IMD this May had predicted normal rainfall. The monsoon season, in weather science, does not get over until the end of September. So, the IMD may have yet another chance to issue fresh figures.

Among the four broad regions, only the southern peninsula received 10 per cent above normal rainfall. The northwest had minus 20 per cent, northeast minus 19 per cent and central India minus 1 per cent.

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