Is tardy monsoon a cause for worry?

A short delay does not impact sowing as there is a sufficient window

The onset of monsoon over Kerala has been less than reassuring. Not only is it late by five days compared with the normal date of June 1, but it has also failed to arrive in the eight-day window set around the median of May 30. The conspicuous lack of flourish has led many to doubt the quality of the onset dynamics.

So, what can the country’s farmers look forward to? Not all is lost yet, says N Chattopadhyay, Deputy Director-General of Meteorology (Agricultural Meteorology Division), India Met Department, Pune. A member of the management group of the Commission of Agricultural Meteorology, he also coordinates the expert group on agro-meteorology for the World Meteorological Organisation, Geneva. This is what he says about kharif prospects.

On onset dynamics and progress of rain

If the onset phase were to prove normal, sowing/transplanting of kharif crops too could proceed on course.

A short delay in the onset does not much impact the extent of sowing as there is a sufficient sowing window for the crops.

If rainfall were to commence within that period, normal sowing could be undertaken in tandem. In case of a long delay in the onset (since declared), alternate medium- and short-duration varieties and crops could be grown instead of regular crops.

Implications for kharif sowing

Summer showers in April/ May are not significant to decisions on sowing of kharif crops due to enhanced evaporation.

However, summer ploughing followed by land preparation can be undertaken in those areas receiving rainfall during the second fortnight of May.

However, in many states of north-east India, sowing is undertaken based on the pre-monsoon thundershowers as they ensure sufficient soil moisture in this region.

Can sowing proceed now?

The monsoon set in over Kerala on Friday. Hence, conditions will be favourable for preparation of land for sowing/transplanting of crops, particularly in Kerala, Karnataka and north-eastern states in the initial phase. However, in north-eastern states, sowing has already started in the backdrop of pre-monsoon thundershowers. The India Met Department will monitor the progress/advance of monsoon and issue suitable advisories to farmers to decide on the course of action from time to time.

Is kharif losing prominence to rabi as the major season?

Not really. Kharif cropping is still the major contributor to food grain production as major portions of the cultivable area in the country continue to be rain-fed. Apart from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, where rabi crops are well-irrigated, farmers elsewhere are mainly dependent on monsoon rainfall for undertaking cultivation.

What is the latest update from the farm front?

The Central and State Governments are keenly monitoring the rainfall as it is directly linked to the prospects of crop production. Various agencies such as the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, India Met Department, and the Central and State seeds corporations are watching the rainfall situation in order to arrange for seeds of both major and contingent crops to farmers. Suitable advisories will be issued jointly by the India Met Department and Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture from time to time.

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