Amid fear of weak monsoon,Punjab agriculture department has suggested sowing of short duration varieties of paddy, maize and pulses crops and increasing area under basmati paddy to deal with delayed monsoon and prolonged dry spell conditions. With contingency plan to deal with deficient rains still being prepared, the state agriculture department has recommended cultivation of short duration early maturing and drought tolerant varieties of crops including paddy, maize and moong (pulses) in case of monsoon getting delayed by 2-3 weeks.
The department has suggested paddy varieties of PR 115, PR 111, PR 121, PR 123, PR 113, maize (PMH2) and Moong (PAU 911, ML 818), an official of agriculture department said.
Water-guzzling paddy is a major kharif crop in Punjab and the state is targeting 26.50 lakh hectares under this crop in current season.
The south-western monsoon usually starts in the last week of June and covers the whole of Punjab by the first week of July. It remains active during the months of July, August and mid September in the state.
In case of prolonged dry spell, if crops are damaged due to severe stress, re-sowing with short duration alternate crops may be taken up like maize PMH-2 during second fortnight of August.
Moong variety-ML-613 can be sown in rainfed area in Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur and Ropar. Moong-- PAU -911 variety has been recommended for the whole state except Bathinda, Mansa, Faridkot, Muktsar and Ferozepur, official said.
The department has recommended special efforts to adopt moisture conservation practices like inter-culture operations including hoeing, weeding and mulching in crops like sugarcane, maize, cotton, as it reduces evaporation losses.
The department noted that early withdrawal of monsoon might affect crops adversely as most of the kharif crops will be nearing grain filling/ maturity during this period.
The monsoon normally withdraws from the south western parts of the state by first week of September and in other parts by third week of September.
In Punjab, about 98 per cent percent of the net sown area is irrigated, of which 75 per cent is irrigated through electric and diesel operated tubewells. Only the Kandi (sub-mountainous) area comprising parts of Hoshiarpur, Ropar and Gurdaspur districts has rainfed agriculture.
On an average, Punjab receives an annual rainfall of 580 mm of which about 80 per cent is confined to the months of June, July, August and September.
"As farming in Punjab is well irrigated, weak or delayed monsoon may force farmers especially paddy growers to spend extra on diesel to run their tubewells to draw water to save crops. This extra cost incurred on diesel for diesel operated pumps should be duly compensated," official said.
Notably, Punjab government had sought Rs 2,380-crore as special package from Centre for farming community in the wake of deficient rains in 2012.