By Dr. R. H. Patil
The forecast given by the India Meteorological Department (IMD), New Delhi suggests that India at large and Karnataka state will get normal rains at 98% of the long-period average during the ensuing four months from June to September (Kharif season) of 2021. If this comes true, India will have the third successive normal or above-normal monsoon season after 2019 and 2020, which is unprecedented in the history of the Indian monsoon.
In the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic which is now severely affecting the population across India with its second wave, agriculture is the only sector, which with resilient and hard-working farmers, showed positive output while other sectors came to stand still severely denting national GDP as much as 24% during the first wave.
This has left millions unemployed in non-farm sectors which lead to mass re-migration of the labor sector from cities to villages. Here agriculture sector again came to the rescue as it absorbed this re-migrated labor force back into farming and allied farm-related activities.
The weather forecast for 2021 also indicates positive rainfall anomalies during the ensuing monsoon season for North Interior Karnataka region (NIK) which is good news for the farmers from North Karnataka. The year 2019 was above-normal across India, 10 % more than the long-period average, and was excess in Karnataka, similarly, in 2020 India received normal rainfall, 9 % more than the long-period average, while Karnataka received above-normal rainfall. Hence, Karnataka could achieve record food production during 2019 and 2020.
Despite heavy rains and occasional floods witnessed across Karnataka and the COVID-19 pandemic situation during 2020-21 record food grain production was achieved in Karnataka. The state of Karnataka produced 154 lakh tonnes of food grain production, which is an all-time record, as against 141 lakh tonnes in 2019-20, which is 30 % more than the State’s average food production of 115 lakh tonnes.
The monsoon rains are very critical to almost 55% of India’s farmland which is totally dependent on rains (not irrigated), hence the timely arrival and adequacy of monsoon rains through the season plays a vital role in the success or failure of farm production. When it comes to Karnataka, almost two-thirds of the total geographical land comes under dryland with <750 mm of annual rainfall. This low rainfall also comes with higher spatial and temporal variability thus often exposes and pushes Karnataka into the drought-like situations and crop failures.
So far, the State has witnessed well-distributed and higher pre-monsoon rains, which must have enabled farmers to take up land preparation. However, despite the positive forecast outlook for the ensuing monsoon the concerned departments namely Agriculture, Horticulture and Sericulture need to make certain preparations logistically and resource-wise to connect with farmers.
With land preparation ready and monsoon rains expected to arrive within a fortnight what farmers need to get ready with seeds and fertilizers. In this regard, the Department of Agriculture through its RSK outlets needs to make sure that certified the latest better varieties seeds of major crops of the region are made available.
For instance, paddy, green gram, soybean, groundnut, red gram, and millets including finger millet and bajra for the NIK region is made available and wide publicity is given to reach out to farmers.
Similarly, the NIK region covers a vast area under maize, Bt Cotton and Chilli, hence certified and legitimate seeds of these crops are sold through private parties under the close watch of Government machinery to avoid any duping of farmers with sub-standard or expired old stock seeds in the open market.
The second input which is very critical to achieve enhanced production is chemical fertilizers. Measures must be taken to make sure that all the Farmers Cooperative Societies operating at villages, taluk, and district headquarters keep enough stock of all types of fertilizers namely Urea, DAP, MoP, and compound fertilizers, and reach out to farmers of their jurisdiction.
Apart from quality seeds and fertilizers, an equally important aspect on the farmers is to insure the crops sown by the farmers to cope with any variability in monsoon.
With climate change, the rainfall patterns are changing and the variability of monsoon over space and time is becoming more unpredictable with increased variability. This is resulting in droughts and floods at the same time at different places. Such events are expected to occur more often and more frequently thus exposing the crops to moisture stress or floods resulting in partial or complete crop failures.
To cover this loss farmers need to insure crops. In this regard, the Government has come up with lots of initiatives to popularize the Crop Insurance Scheme namely Prime Minister Fasal Bhima Yojana (PMFBY). The government of Karnataka last couple of years has developed and come up with mobile-based Apps like Crop Insurance Mobile App and Crop Survey Apps. These help farmers not only insure the sown crop and acreage but also the entry of crops using their own mobiles. This is very critical not only to cope with the aberrant monsoon but also to claim financial benefit for crop loss.
• Dr. R. H. Patil is the head of the Department of Agricultural Meteorology, UAS, Dharwad.
( Views expressed here are of the author’s)