Rain flattens crops in north India

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Rains and thunderstorms accompanied by hailstorm in some places have flattened standing wheat, mustard and coriander crop in some parts of Punjab, Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. However, the situation is not as grim as last year because the showers have been followed by bright sunshine.

Agriculture scientists say the weather over the next few days will hold the key and if the hailstorm intensity increases or strong winds start blowing, then it might cause extensive damage to the standing wheat, mustard and coriander crops.

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"As of now, there is no reason to be pessimistic. Whatever reports we have received so far show the situation is not grim. But, all this might overturn if rains persists and are accompanied by heavy hailstorm as happened last year," R K Gupta, acting director of Karnal-based Directorate of Wheat Research told Business Standard.

"Till now, there has been no report of any big lodging in fields. Also, pest attack is less this year. If rains remain mild over the next few days and there is no big incidence of hailstorm accompanied by strong winds, then we could accept a better harvest," said Gupta. "This also means that winter might get prolonged for a few more days, which is always beneficial for the standing wheat crop."

On the reports of flattened crops in some fields in North India, Gupta said it was not of much concern as of now, because the bright sunshine following the showers would ensure that stems straighten in a few hours.

Since Friday, rains, winds and hailstorm have lashed parts of western UP, Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan. In parts of Maharashtra, it has been on since the past week and has reportedly caused damage to the standing orange crop in the Vidarbha region.

The showers have brought back the memories of 2015, when widespread rains, accompanied by hailstorm and strong winds, damaged standing Rabi crop in 19 million hectares of land.

A repeat of the same situation would further push the farming sector into distress, which has been suffering the vagaries of weather for the past three seasons.

"Most of the mustard crop in Rajasthan was sown in late October and November and, hence, has not reached the maturing stage. That's why the damage has so far been minimal. However, if the weather remains bad for next 10-15 days, then it would have an impact on the output," said a trader based in Alwar.

India is expected to produce 94 million tonnes of wheat and 6.8 million tonnes of mustard in the 2016 crop season, according to the government's second advance estimates.

Meanwhile, agencies report that in Haryana, wheat crop in 2.5 million hectares and mustard crop in 0.55 million hectares have been impacted due to the recent rains and hailstorm.

In a related development, central government officials have urged the farmers to use the crop disaster app launched few months ago, to post pictures of their damaged fields to help in proper assessment.


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