Despite batting for varietal diversification of wheat in the ongoing sowing season, the national nodal agency for the cereals fears that the disease-prone variety HD 2967 would maintain its dominance in Haryana and Punjab.
Dr Indu Sharma, director of Karnal-based Indian Institute of Wheat and Barley Research (IIWBR) told Hindustan Times on Thursday that the said wheat variety was expected to cover nearly 18% of the wheat sowing region in the two states.
“Last year, it was found that deadly plant diseases like yellow rust and Karnal bunt were found in HD 2967 at several fields in the region. It was strongly recommended that sowing of this variety should be reduced drastically but the field inputs indicate that the variety is being sown in large areas,” she said.
Sharma said that HD 2967 remained quite popular in the region and easy and ample availability of its seeds might be responsible for ignoring advisories.
She said IIWBR, the central nodal agency for wheat-based research activities, had suggested farmers to grow more than one variety to avoid risks associated with monoculture.
“The entire area on which the farmer plans to sow wheat should not be brought under one variety. Varietal diversification is recommended to combat issues pertaining to crop diseases,” she said.
“This year, we had suggested farmers to adopt new varieties especially PBW 677, HD 3086 and WH 1105 for cultivation under irrigated timely sown conditions. These releases possess higher grain yield as well as resistance to major diseases, including yellow rust,” she said.
Initial shortfall in wheat sowing
Nearly 30 million hectare area is under wheat cultivation in India.
IIWBR director said that Haryana was expected to cover nearly 2.5 million hectares under wheat cultivation whereas Punjab would sow wheat on 3.5 million hectares.
However, she said that there was slow progress in wheat sowing than last year.
“Wheat sowing begins after November 20 but it has been delayed by more than a week. The delay is attributed to late harvesting of paddy and cotton crops as they were affected by untimely rains and attack of whitefly, respectively in Haryana and Punjab,” she said.
Owing to natural reasons, a shortfall of 20% area under wheat is reported but the experts hope that the gap would be bridged in the coming days.
“Since there is no programme of the centre or the state governments for shifting wheat area for any other crop, we hope to recover the area loss. Farmers opting for late sowing should take extra care of their wheat fields,” she said.
IIWBR hopes to touch the target of 94 million tonnes of wheat produce this year and ecpects favourable climatic conditions in the winter season.