Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Dry spell lessens late wheat-sowing woes

Punjab is still reeling at 58pc of its wheat target of 16.50 million acres as the Nov 20 deadline – the most propitious date for sowing – lapses last week, though the Agriculture Department is hopeful of catching up by the end of the month.
According to the department, only 9.5 million acres were cultivated by last Monday. The running week is the most crucial one, and sowing is in full swing. Farmers may have added up to three million acres though fresh figures would be compiled by Monday, but it would, by all means, be around 80pc.
Regarding region-wise sowing, departmental officials claim the arid belt has been covered. But south and central Punjab have yet to pick up pace. In these areas, cotton and rice crops are creating problems for wheat. But overall, sowing has been 12pc this year, if compared to the last one year, they claimed.
“Climatic changes may not affect the crop this year,” says an Agriculture Department official. The Nov 20 deadline was set because temperature drops very sharply in the third week of November, which affects the germination of seed. However, this year the situation is different: mercury is still mild and mellow enough to allow full germination. So, a weather-related deadline has become irrelevant, at least this year so far. But it remains to be seen for how long. This situation should allow sowing up to the end of December without affecting the yield. But that deadline must be met if farmers want to avoid any yield losses, he said.
“Apart from cotton and rice crops, heavy rain in the first week of November has left soil saturated in some parts of the province that is delaying sowing,” says Naeem Hotiana, a farmer from the central part of the province.
It is true that weather has given some additional time, but the real worry for farmers is urea whose consumption would reach its peak by mid-December. But the domestic inventory is still to be built up to that level. If imports get delayed and domestic production is restricted because of gas shortage, the situation would worsen. More than the weather or the delay, urea availability would determine the fate of the crop, the farmer predicted.
Published in Dawn

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