With the monsoon currently on a break, what does it mean for paddy production this Kharif season?
With the monsoon currently on a break and with the India Meteorological Division predicting below-normal rainfall activity for August coupled with the government’s export ban on rice, what does it mean for paddy production? According to experts Down To Earth (DTE) spoke to, it remains to be seen how the monsoon unfolds in the ‘monsoon core zone’.
“The production will only take a hit if the monsoon fares badly in the monsoon core zone since cropping there is mostly rain-fed,” Debasish Jena, agromet scientist with National Rice Research Institute, Cuttack, Odisha, told DTE.
The core monsoon zone is a region in India stretching from Gujarat in the west to West Bengal in the east. India Meteorological Department demarcates it as an agricultural region where cropping is mostly rainfed.
Currently, a total of 239 districts out of 717 are ‘deficient’ to ‘large deficient’, with most of them concentrated in the eastern meteorological subdivisions of Eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Gangetic West Bengal. More worryingly, this stretch overlaps with the rice production belt of India.
So with the monsoon currently on a break, what does it mean for paddy production this Kharif season?
Data from Crop Weather Watch Group suggests that sowing area has actually increased by roughly two per cent compared to 2022. But does higher sowing area translate to extra overall yield?
DTE had earlier spoken to farmers from Uttar Pradesh. Farmers in the Shravasti district had run into heavy losses because their nurseries were destroyed due to scanty rain in June 2023.
To salvage the dire situations, the India Meteorological Department had issued advisory alerts for farmers to switch to short duration paddy versions which mature by 125 days instead of the usual 180 days.
There is no way IMD can track the different stages of the cropping cycle, according to Jena.
“The reproduction stage is the most important phase of the cropping cycle. Rice needs 10 centimetres of water depth in the fields during the reproduction stage and the August rains (as forecast by IMD) in West Bengal and Odisha should help in that regard,” he said.
The overall yield shrinks by 50-60 per cent if the growth of a plant is disturbed in the reproductive stage compared to sowing phase, when the overall yield takes a hit by 30 per cent.
While Jena admitted that El Nino, the warming phase of the El Nino-Southern Oscillation weather phenomenon, will impact agriculture, according to him, the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) should neutralise the extreme effects.
Like El Nino, which unfolds in the tropical waters of the Eastern Pacific, IOD is the difference in sea surface temperature stretching from the Arabian Sea to the eastern region of the Indian Ocean along the southern Indonesian coast.
A positive IOD usually manifests in above-average rainfall across the Indian subcontinent.
According to the Bureau of Meteorology, Australia, “IOD is currently neutral. All models suggest a positive IOD is likely to develop in late winter or early spring.”
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