The farmers of the border areas of the state are a worried lot in the wake of Met office’s predictions that the monsoon may not keep its date with the region.
Each day they look skywards for the sight of clouds, only to stare at the blazing sun, which dries up whatever little stagnant water is left in their paddy fields.
With priority being given to the paddy crop, other crops like sugarcane, maize and fodder remain neglected, resulting in their leaves turning yellow.
The farmers have already begun to feel the impact of occurrence of little or no rain in June and July.
With the government giving just seven-and-a-half hours of uninterrupted power supply to the tubewells, farmers are heavily dependent on their dieseloperated generator sets to pump out groundwater for their paddy as standing water in the field in which this crop is transplanted is a must for 20 to 25 days after transplantation.
According to figures with the district agriculture department, the average rainfall in Amritsar district was 21 mm in June and a mere 2 mm in the current month till July 12. This is in total contrast to the good monsoon that the state had witnessed last year, during which farmers did not have to make much use of their tubewells and hence saved a great deal of groundwater, a natural resource which is fast depleting due to too much dependence on the water guzzling paddy crop.
This year, till July 12, the average rainfall recorded in Amritsar district was 126 mm with most of it coming in the month of March (36 mm) and April (30 mm). This was of no use to the farmers who require rain as soon as paddy transplantation begins in the month of June.
In 2013, the average rainfall recorded in this district throughout the year was 658 mm. Of this, 531 mm was received in the most vital months of June and July, which put virtually no burden on the groundwater.
“June, July and August are the months when rain is needed for the paddy crop. Last year, we had a good monsoon. As a result, the farmers did not make use of their tubewells much and the groundwater table showed an improvement in the district”, said chief agriculture officer (CAO) Paramjit Singh Sandhu.
Sandhu pointed out that there were 48 rainy days during the entire paddy season (till maturity) last year while this year so far, there have been just 4 rainy days in June-July. A “good” monsoon from agriculturalist’s viewpoint is calculated from the number of rainy days and not from the amount of rain in a single day.
In 2012, the state received very little rainfall, which led to an escalation of the cost of maintaining the paddy. The rainfall recorded in that year in the months of June andJulywas107.5mmwhichwas less than 2009 when the district recorded 198 mm in the two vital months.
“However, despite less rain in 2012, the average yield of paddy in the district was 59.6 quintals per hectare which was marginally less than the 60.2 quintals per hectare recorded last year. This is because a farmer will go to any extent to look after his crop, even if it means spending more money from his pocket,” stated Sandhu while pointing out that the situation of 2012 could be repeated again this year.
Sandhu explained that the cost of maintaining the paddy crop this year could be Rs 3,000-Rs4,000 per acre more than the actual cost (uptil maturity). As per PAU (Punjab Agricultural University) norms, the cost of growing paddy in an acre is around Rs 13,679.
“The extra cost is mainly on diesel which is used in tractors and generator sets for operating tubewells. The number of irrigation cycles also increase in a dry spell,” added Sandhu.