India - Faltering rain upsets paddy crop cycles in Kerala

21.06.2022 250 views

Farmers in the State, especially paddy growers, are having a tough time due to the faltering southwest monsoon in June and July.

According to the extended forecast issued by the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), below-normal rainfall is likely across the State for the next two weeks. This will be the third consecutive year that monsoon fails in June.

In the past six years, it was only in 2018 that the State witnessed above-average rainfall in June and July. This change in the rain pattern is having an adverse impact on the crop calendar.

When there is a slump in June and July rainfalls, there is a significant rise in pre-monsoon showers especially in May and northeast monsoon rains. The excess precipitation in May often leads to widespread crop loss (paddy) across the State, as it is the period of ‘Puncha’ harvest in many areas. Similarly, the excess rainfall during northeast monsoon that frequently extends to November and December first, affects the sowing of paddy in central Kerala, where the paddy crop calendar is between October-November to January-February period.

This excess rainfall pushes farming activities here to December-January and, as a result, the harvest period enters the April-May period when the cyclone-induced pre-monsoon rains begin their onslaught.

When it comes to Kuttanad region, the excess rainfall in August-September delays the paddy sowing, pushing the harvest to January. “Since rice is sensitive to high temperature, especially at booting and flowering stages, the change in crop calender affects the yield of the crop in a big way,” says Head of the Department of Agriculture Metrology, Kerala Agriculture University.

The high temperature in the last 60 days of the paddy, which is called the reproductive stage, reduces the yield significantly. In Kuttanad region, there was a drop of around 25% in the yield when the crop calendar was extended to January, whereas the farmers in central Kerala observed a drop of around 40-50% in yield when the harvest was delayed up to May.

Further, the disease attack and presence of chaff in harvested paddy was high when the crop calendar was altered.

The prolonged rains and delayed withdrawal of monsoon also hurts the mango growers. The fruit flowering in Kerala normally takes place from November-December to January-February, but the delayed excess precipitation affects the flowering cycle for which heat stress is required. So is the case with other crops such as coconut, rambutan, and tomato, for which a certain amount of heat stress is required during the flowering period, says Dr Ajith K., Assistant Professor, agriculture meteorology, Regional Agricultural Research Station (RARS), Kumarakom.

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