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Unseasonal rains and hailstorms threaten wheat harvest in India

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Unseasonal rains, hailstorms, and strong winds damaged more than 523 000 ha (1 292 332 acres) of wheat crop in three Indian states, causing harvesting challenges and fears of significant yield losses. The untimely rains have also affected mustard, channa, barley, and vegetable crops, among others.

Over the past two weeks, unseasonal rains accompanied by thunderstorms, hailstorms, and gusty winds due to western disturbances have affected major wheat-growing states, including Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh. These untimely rains arrived just as the crop was nearly ready for harvesting and are expected to continue for a few more days.

According to early estimates, the inclement weather has damaged more than 523 000 ha (1 292 332 acres) of wheat crops in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh, leading to concerns of massive yield losses for farmers and harvesting difficulties. India, a major producer of wheat, is experiencing this crop damage amid persisting global high inflation and food security issues due to geopolitical uncertainties.

In Madhya Pradesh, a senior agriculture department official stated that nearly 100 000 ha (247 105) out of 9.5 million ha (23.5 million acres) of wheat cultivation had been affected by recent rains and hailstorms.

In Rajasthan, around 388 000 ha (958 921 acres) of the wheat crop out of a total sown area of 2.965 million ha (7.3 million) has been impacted by untimely rainfall, according to official sources.

In Uttar Pradesh, over 35 000 ha (86 487 acres) of the wheat crop has been damaged by recent untimely rains, predominantly in nine districts.

Experts from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) emphasize that it is difficult to quantify the extent of damage to the wheat crop at this stage. However, they acknowledge that the quality of the grain may be reduced and harvesting losses may occur because it’s difficult to pick up fallen crops by a combine harvester and manual harvesting is costly.

Wheat crop damage assessment is still ongoing in Punjab and Haryana, two other major wheat-growing states that have also received unseasonal rainfall.

Bhupinder Singh, a farmer from Punjab’s Mohali district said he expects yields drop from an average of 20 quintals per acre to 10-11 quintals per acre. Singh also mentioned that high-velocity winds have flattened some parts of the crop in his fields. If the rain persists, he fears the crop will be completely submerged.

References:

1 Untimely rains, hailstorm hit wheat crop over 5.23 lakh hectare; farmers stare at yield loss – The Economic Times – April 2, 2023

Featured image credit: The Watchers (stock)

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