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Rising temperature in past 5 years hits wheat yield
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 13
The per hectare yield of wheat has been falling in Punjab for the past five years. The state meets 60 per cent of the country’s total requirement of wheat.
The major reason for the fall in the yield is said to be the rising temperature in this region. The maximum day temperature has remained on the higher side during February and March in the past five years, severely affecting the per hectare production of wheat.

In other words, this region is showing clear signs of warming like other parts of the world. In the past years, a rise has been also noticed in the minimum day temperature in the region during February and March.

The other reason for the fall in productivity is said to be fatiguing of the earth which has been overexploited for the past four decades. Should Punjab shift to spring wheat varieties abandoning the winter varieties grown in this region at present? This question requires a serious discussion by experts.

In 1999-2000, the per hectare average yield of wheat was 46.96 quintals across the state. Last year (2004-05) it came down to 42.21 quintals per hectare. This year also the rising temperature at this stage has become a big worry for the Punjab Agriculture Department. “Of course, we are feeling concerned because of the unprecedented rise in the temperature in the past few days”, says Mr Balwinder Singh Sidhu, Director, Agriculture, Punjab.

“Along with farmers, we are praying for rain which is the need of the hour”, he says, adding that good rainfall at this stage will come to the rescue of the wheat crop which can be hit by rising temperature in the days to come.

The wheat crop has been in good shape so far this year, but it requires cold weather conditions for tillering at this stage. The day temperature has gone up to 27°C in the state and it is a disturbing sign for the wheat crop. Already, the declining buffer stocks of wheat have forced the country to import this foodgrain.

Over the past four decades, Punjab has developed various varieties of wheat from varieties suited to cold weather conditions. Haryana, the other major wheat producing state and western Uttar Pradesh are also following Punjab in this regard. However, the changing weather pattern in this region will force experts to redraw their strategies with regard to wheat.

Mr Sidhu, says the Punjab Government will soon set up a task force in this regard. “Obviously, it will study the falling yields and measures required to tackle this problem”, he says. Punjab can certainly think of trying spring wheat varieties. Will any country be ready to give germ plasm to develop spring varieties suitable to this region? This is also a major question.

Meanwhile, sources in the Punjab Government says the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, wants an increase of at least Rs 50 per quintal in the minimum support price. For the coming wheat crop, the MSP is pegged at Rs 650 per quintal.

However, the Agriculture Costs and Prices Commission has announced the MSP for wheat, the Union Government can give Rs 50 per quintal as bonus.


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