When it’s too cold, use a heater. Well...err, use a heater to keep the crop warm.
Absurd as it may seem but that is exactly what the Madhya Pradesh government has advised the state’s farmers, leaving the community scratching their collective head in bewilderment.
The advisory is part of a 6-point to-do list issued to the farming community as a newspaper advertisement earlier this week, asking them to use heaters, if possible, in farmland with high-value horticulture and condiment crops.
The state experienced severe cold conditions in the first few days of the month with maximum temperatures hovering 8 to ten degree Celsius below normal. Though the weather has improved, the Met department said that both day and night temperatures are still below normal.
Farming experts said that drop in temperatures affects pulses and horticulture crops like papaya and banana but impacts wheat only if the exposure is prolonged. Condiments, however, are not commonly grown in MP.
The government advisory is based on the assumption that the farmers have worked hard and the “crops are ready”, also questionable since the harvest season is still sometime away.
Farmers said they had no idea what kind of ‘heater’ the government was suggesting as agriculture-specific heating equipment is not used in the country.
Ghanshyam Yadav, owner of a 30-acre farmland in Jamunia of Sehore district, about 30km from Bhopal, felt the advisory was unrealistic even if they had “heater”.
“We do not get regular power supply for even domestic use,” he said. In many rural areas of the state, power is available only for four to six hours on most days.
Yadav pointed out that the most common method used for keeping farm land frost-free is to burn piles of dried cow dung cake, husk and other agriculture waste.
Shivkumar Sharma, president of a breakaway faction of the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, said that such advisory exposed the level of sensitivity, knowledge and seriousness of the agriculture department towards agriculture.
“Only mad persons could come out with such suggestions. It is totally impractical given the power supply situation and the size of agriculture fields,” he said.
Principal secretary, agriculture, Rajesh Rajora, defended the advisory saying “farmers do, at times, use heaters to protect crops, especially high-value crops.”