Saturday, August 22, 2009

Climate Change and its impact on Indian Agriculture

Climate change is defined as change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity. Adaptive capacity is the ability of a system to adjust to climate change (including climate variability and extremes) to moderate potential damages, to take advantage of opportunities, or to cope with the consequences. Vulnerability is the degree to which a system is susceptible to, and unable to cope with, adverse effects of climate change, including climate variability and extremes. New options for carbon sequestration in agriculture and forestry and land-use change such as deforestation contributes to, respectively, 13 and 17 percent of total anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. While carbon dioxide emissions from agriculture are small, the sector accounts for about 60 percent of all nitrous oxide (N2O, mainly from fertilizer use) and about 50 percent of methane (CH4, emitted, mainly from natural and cultivated wetlands and enteric fermentation). The IPCC estimates that the global technical mitigation potential for agriculture (excluding forestry) will be between 5 500 and 6 000 Mt CO2-equivalent per year by 2030, 89 percent of which are assumed to be from carbon sequestration in soils.

In India the direct impact of climate change would effect plant growth, development and yield due to changes in rainfall and temperature. Increase in temperature would reduce crop duration, increase crop respiration rates, change the pattern of pest attack and new equilibrium between crops and pests hasten mineralization in soils and decrease fertilizer use efficiency. All these could considerably affect crop yields in long run. In general the simulation results indicate that increasing temperature and decreasing solar radiation levels pose a serious threat in decreasing growth and yield of agricultural crops. Increased CO2 levels are expected to favor growth and increase crop yields and therefore, will be helpful in counteracting the adverse effects of temperature rise in future. On global level climate change effects will change the crop production areas. In middle and higher latitudes, global warming will extend the length of the potential growing season, allowing earlier planting of crops in the spring, earlier maturation and harvesting, and the possibility of completing two or more cropping cycles during the same season.

Crop-producing areas may expand pole ward in countries although yields in higher latitudes will likely be lower due to climate change. Many crops have become adapted to the growing season, day lengths of the middle and lower latitudes and may not respond well to the much longer days of the high latitude summers. In warmer, lower latitude regions, increased temperatures may accelerate the rate at which plants release CO2 in the process of respiration, resulting in less than optimal conditions for net growth. Another important effect of high temperature is accelerated physiological development, resulting in hastened maturation and reduced yield.

Available water

Agriculture of any kind is strongly influenced by the availability of water. Climate change will modify rainfall, evaporation, runoff, and soil moisture storage. Changes in total seasonal precipitation or in its pattern of variability are both important. The occurrence of moisture stress during flowering, pollination, and grain-filling is harmful to most crops and particularly so to corn, soybeans, and wheat. Increased evaporation from the soil and accelerated transpiration in the plants themselves will cause moisture stress; as a result there will be a need to develop crop varieties with greater drought tolerance.

The demand for water for irrigation is projected to rise in a warmer climate, bringing increased competition between agriculture, already the largest consumer of water resources in semiarid regions and urban as well as industrial users. Falling water tables and the resulting increase in the energy needed to pump water will make the practice of irrigation more expensive, particularly when with drier conditions more water will be required per acre. Peak irrigation demands are also predicted to rise due to more severe heat waves.

Pest and disease

Conditions are more favorable for the proliferation of insect pests in warmer climates. Longer growing seasons will enable insects such as grasshoppers to complete a greater number of reproductive cycles during the spring, summer, and autumn. Warmer winter temperatures may also allow larvae to winter-over in areas where they are now limited by cold, thus causing greater infestation during the following crop season. Altered wind patterns may change the spread of both wind-borne pests and of the bacteria and fungi that are the agents of crop disease. Crop-pest interactions may shift as the timing of development stages in both hosts and pests is altered. Livestock diseases may be similarly affected. The possible increases in pest infestations may bring about greater use of chemical pesticides to control them, a situation that will require the further development and application of integrated pest management techniques.

Sustainability and food security

Climate change can impact agricultural sustainability in two interrelated ways: first, by diminishing the long-term ability of agro-ecosystems to provide food and fiber for the world's population; and second, by inducing shifts in agricultural regions that may encroach upon natural habitats, at the expense of floral and faunal diversity. Global warming may encourage the expansion of agricultural activities into regions now occupied by natural ecosystems such as forests, particularly at mid- and high-latitudes. Forced encroachments of this sort may thwart the processes of natural selection of climatically-adapted native crops and other species.

While the overall, global impact of climate change on agricultural production may be small, regional vulnerabilities to food deficits may increase, due to problems of distribution and marketing food to specific regions and groups of people. For subsistence farmers, and more so for people who now face a shortage of food, lower yields may result not only in measurable economic losses, but also in malnutrition and even famine. In general, the tropical regions appear to be more vulnerable to climate change than the temperate regions for several reasons. On the biophysical side, temperate C3 crops are likely to be more responsive to increasing levels of CO2. Second, tropical crops are closer to their high temperature optima and experience high temperature stress, despite lower projected amounts of warming. Third, insects and diseases, already much more prevalent in warmer and more humid regions, may become even more widespread.


1. CO2 is increasing.

2. CH4 is increasing.

3. Earth atmosphere systems temperature and Surface temperature
is increasing.

4. Extreme temperatures increasing

5. Atmospheric water vapour content increasing. Frequency of heavy precipitation events increasing

6. More intense and longer droughts.

7. Mid-latitude wind patterns/ storm tracks shifting poleward.

8. Tropical cyclone intensity increasing.

9. Area of seasonally frozen ground decreasing.

10. Glaciers and snow cover decreasing, Arctic sea ice extent decreasing.


  1. Plantation should be increased on the foots of Himalaya, Sahyadri ranges, coastal area and barren land. With reference to Gujarat forest area should increase from 9.5% to 20% in next decade or by 2020 AD.
  2. For controlling methane emission from the paddy field, the appropriate water saving technology should be used instead of transplanting and submerged paddy cultivation method.
  3. Shelter belts should be created near sea shore to check salinity and salt nuclei in atmosphere, which changes rainfall pattern.
  4. The simulation results indicate that increasing temperature and decreasing solar radiation levels pose a serious threat in decreasing growth and yield of agricultural crops. Increased CO2 levels are expected to favor growth and increase crop yields and therefore, will be helpful in counteracting the adverse effects of temperature rise in future.


In many studies the impact of climate change on crop growth and yield is analyzed using crop simulation models.

A proper analysis of the performance of such models should be made to verify their reliability in the projected conditions of changed atmospheric composition and changed climate.

Further identify regional variations and sensitivity (w.r.t. Climate change)

Impacts would be analyzed mainly for: Crop yields and variability and

Shifts in relative productivity and production

Way forward:-

Advances in technology has altered the trade off between growth and environmental quality in recent years. It is possible to ensure environmental quality now, more than ever before, if we manage to harness the entrepreneurial skills of the people, administrative skills of the State, the reach of civil society, growth and investments to work for environment rather than against it. Stronger partnerships and better polices can make up for poor resources. The provision of clean drinking water, pure air and sanitation are as much poverty busters as is increase in income.

- Dr. M. C. VARSHNEYA, VC, AAU, Gujarat-

Intensity and Impact of Drought- Looking Forward

With over 250 out of 533 meteorological districts declared as drought-hit and rice production alone expected to decline above 10 million tons, the situation in the country on food front is grim. The cascading effect of drought on many sectors is discernible, necessitating strategies on priority. The prolonged monsoon failure is likely to affect stored moisture dependant rabi season for early sowing of crops. Depleted water in reservoirs would aggravate the situation unless drastic steps are taken.

South west monsoon is crucial for agriculture production with kharif crops comprising cereals, pulses, oil seeds and vegetables. Livestock and fisheries sectors also thrive well with copious rainfall. In normal rainfall years the productivity showed upward trend, while any deviation in rainfall tended to lower productivity curve depending the deficit levels. The cumulative rainfall during the season is a major parameter to define either excess or deficient rainfall. If the shortfall is between 20% and 59% of the normal rainfall, it is defined as ‘deficient’, while shortfall above 60% in the cumulative rainfall is considered ‘scanty’. The country experienced both in different States.

Intensity of drought: From the very beginning of monsoon there was erratic rainfall in some States. By early August the deficiency in cumulative rainfall was 25%, but within ten days increased to 29%. By mid August the Meteorological department placed 115 districts under ‘scanty’ rainfall category, with ‘deficient’ category enhanced to 262 districts. The normal or excess rainfall occurred only in 149 districts. When computed on the basis of normal average rainfall over five years this year’s failure is much higher in ten States. The announcement of daily and weekly fluctuations resulted in statements like ‘monsoon will recover’, ‘grim monsoon’, ‘do not panic’ which reflected on lack of adequate preparations to face the crisis. By the time the realization on the intensity of drought dawned it was too late for many initiatives. The infrastructure, expertise and funds in plenty did not help in time as people expected. Even to declare the States and country as ‘drought-hit’ was debated for long.

State scenario: The Western Uttar Pradesh was the worst hit with 68% shortfall, followed by Delhi-Haryana-Chandigarh belt with 66%; Eastern Uttar Pradesh was better with 53%. All the three regions of Andhra Pradesh recorded deficiencies as high as 59% in Telangana, 51% in Rayalaseema, but little less in coastal regions with 46%. The situation was no better in Himachal Pradesh (51%), Jharkhand (49%) Marathwada (47%) and Uttarakhand (42%). Although there was slight improvement in Punjab and Bihar due to mid season showers, the deficiency increased later to 35% and 40% respectively. In the North East region the shortfall ranged from 33% (Arunachal Pradesh) to 37% (Assam and other States). Although the deficiency was less in mid July in Tamil Nadu and Puduchery (16%) and Northern Karnataka (17%), the cumulative rainfall declined to 22% in these regions by the first week of August. Similar deficiency was recorded in Gujarat (from 22% to 31%), West Madhya Pradesh ( from 21% to 28%) and East Madhya Pradesh (from 35% to 39%). Thus, monsoon played havoc in major parts of ‘food baskets’ of India.

Ground realities: The immediate impact of the drought was that majority of kharif crops could not be raised and even those raised with initial good rainfall suffered later due to water stress. It is estimated that the deficit in rainfall in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand took a heavy toll of 57.10 lakh hectares of paddy fields. The area under groundnut fell short by 11.28 lakh hectares, sugarcane by 1.29 lakh hectares and coarse cereals by 1.17 lakh hectares. In Andhra Pradesh both paddy and maize were affected in Warangal district. In Khammam paddy was taken up only under 9000 ha as against 1.15 lakh ha. Only 1.15 lakh ha could be taken up against 8.21 lakh ha under groundnut in Ananthapur due to acute water shortage. Many Kharif vegetables were lost to the tune of lakhs of tons caused by drought stress. In many States, fodder grass suffered with poor growth and barren land, which affected livestock. One of the States reported marked decline in milk production, due to water and fodder starved cows. With drying up of small ponds and lakes even fishes died causing hardship to low income communities in rural India

Decline in agriculture productivity: As a consequence of much lowered cultivable land for food crops, including nutritionally rich vegetables, the country is poised for a near food crisis, notwithstanding buffer stocks. As the vegetables constitute ‘current consumption’ category of food the people in the adversely affected areas would have gone without normal intake of vegetables which would lead to malnutrition. As admitted by the Union Agriculture Minister 57.10 lakh ha of paddy land could not be cultivated, which amounts to a loss of roughly 13.7 million tons ( at the rate of 2.4 tons per ha). This is a huge kahrif deficit of staple food. Even coarse cereals consumed mostly by rural low income population would show a decline of nearly 0.60 million tons due to 1.17 lakh ha rendered uncultivable. A deficit in groundnut production to approximately 3.28 million tons is anticipated with lowered area of 11.28 lakh ha. Likewise, sugarcane yield is likely to decrease nearly by 30 to 35%. Although estimates are not available, fodder grass production would also be lowered significantly with impact on animals. Reliable estimates are awaited on the shortage of milk production caused by fodder starved animals. Thus the contribution of kharif food production in 2009 to the overall production with rabi by 2009-10 is expected to be much lower than the average food production of last five to ten years. The drought-induced decline in the food production in 2009-10 is likely to be much higher than the other drought years.

Excess or normal rainfall: Fortunately, some of the States in South and East India received fairly good rainfall, some even accounting for excess. So the crops in such situations fared well giving hopes for good yield. The crops included paddy, pulses and oil seeds with vegetables with normal production, though some areas did report decline due to floods. Whether increasing the level of cultivation in these areas would help in solving or compensating the loss suffered due to deficit rainfall in major States? It would not have been possible to increase the potential of the areas without adequate preparations both land wise and input like seed materials. Neither the Central nor the State Governments anticipated the problem, though such contingency plan should be ready in future.

Looking forward: Generally, with the cessation of SW monsoon in September with normal rainfall, ensuring storage of soil moisture used to help greatly rabi crop sowing operations. With North East monsoon supporting the early crop growth, as also irrigation at required stages, crops like wheat and pulses used to perform well with good harvest in April. But, the current year is different with calamitous monsoon with acute water shortage resulting in dried soil and poor to nil conservation. This is going to cause problems for rabi as well, even if the North East monsoon is normal. The shortage of ground water in many places would pose problem to irrigate crops at critical stages. According to the Central Water Commission the water level in the country’s reservoirs is around 38% of total capacity by mid August. A normal SW monsoon would have enhanced the levels in reservoirs but that was not to be this year. This clearly indicates that the dwindling water resources would hamper irrigation for rabi crops. If NE monsoon is also erratic the situation would worsen with difficulties for redemption. The only hope, therefore, is normal NE monsoon rainfall to cope up with the rabi production to sustain the trend in production, though it would not compensate the heavy shortage of kharif. How to tackle the situation to save at least the rabi production? The answer lies in large scale water harvesting structures in buildings to trap rainfall, field moisture conservation strategies, planting of proven stress resistant/tolerant varieties of crops with distribution to farmers in adequate quantities well in time and enhance the efficiency of irrigation channels to be ready to supply water to crops at right time. At the social/ community level, judicious rationing of water for industrial and real estate purposes, strict restriction of water supply for domestic consumption uniformly to all areas including VIPs, heavy penalty for wastage of water and theft are all appropriate measures the Government has to implement with strong political will to save the citizens from impending food crisis.

To sum up, the apparent unpreparedness on the part of the authorities, both Central and State Governments until drought situation worsened in August might serve to learn the unlearnt lessons, despite drought being an age old problem, well researched for decades, with many committee recommendations. The problem is most difficult but not impossible to solve with coordinated strategies with time bound implementation of decisions.

- Dr. Rajagopal V., Ex – Director, CPCRI, Kasargod-

For another Green Revolution.

The agriculture saga in India gets repeated almost every year. The two triggers are a delayed or deficient monsoon and higher food prices. This year, there is a combination of the two, which has made the issue even more acute. The official view was that there was no need to panic as the granaries were full, even though the stocks were of only wheat and rice. Imports of foodgrains were banned and we were assured that the monsoon would catch up, which it has somewhat done in July. We probably will end up with a satisfactory aggregate harvest and will soon forget about the problem until next year. And the same saga will start all over again.

There are two sides to this problem. The first is on the supply side. While foodgrain production has increased continuously in the last three years, the performance has been skewed by rice and wheat, while pulses remain neglected. We remain net importers of pulses and higher production in any year merely means that we import less.

The policy thrust has been on rice and wheat; production has been propelled by providing incentives to farmers. The minimum support price (MSP)—the price floor at which the government buys food—of wheat has been increased from Rs630 per quintal in 2003-04 to Rs1,080 in 2008-09, while that of paddy has been increased by Rs300 per quintal during the same period. Production is further bolstered by the presence of the open-ended procurement programme of the Food Corporation of India (FCI).

There have been two consequences. First, farmers prefer to produce these two crops, which in turn reduces the water table level—these crops need relatively more water. Second, the open-ended procurement scheme squeezes private traders. The marketable surplus of rice is around 70%, while that of wheat is 55%. Therefore, when we talk of production of around 80 million tonnes (mt) of wheat this year, only 44 mt enters the market, of which FCI has claimed around 24 mt. This leads to an anomaly where there is surplus production and prices still increase on account of the shortage being inadvertently created. The solution would be to release this stock, which is not being done—ostensibly to retain public confidence!

The second side of the problem is demand: Here, one must realize that with our population growing by 1.4% per annum, individual products need to grow by this level. This has not been so in the case of pulses and oilseeds; this has exacerbated the problem. Shortfall in oilseeds production can be substituted with imports of edible oils; this, however, comes at a price, as international prices respond to India’s demand, given the sheer quantity of imports. In the case of pulses, the conundrum is that we cannot import them easily as there are limited sources of imports and the harvest season in other nations isn’t the same.

The other important factor working towards increasing the demand for food in general is the declining poverty ratio. The Economic Survey 2008-09 has reported that the poverty ratio has come down by almost 9 percentage points between 2000 and 2005. This actually means that around 100 million people have moved out from utter “wretchedness” to a better standard of living, which translates immediately into higher demand for food items beyond the staples of rice and wheat. Therefore, thanks to such economic mobility, demand would be increasing at a faster rate than the population growth and will, hence, have to be matched through higher production or imports.

However, the bigger problem is the cyclical nature of production, which has been alternating between highs and lows. This is because, first, the area under cultivation is not keeping pace with increasing demand. This can partly be explained by the gradual shift of agricultural labour to urban areas, due to the uncertainty in farming. Second, the dependence on the monsoon is still very high. Less than half of cereals production is supported by irrigation, while 85% of pulses are still dependent on the monsoon. Also, just around 30% of oilseeds come under the irrigation belt. The absence of irrigation facilities has contributed further to alienating farmers from their land. Alternatively, they keep changing their cropping pattern, which, in turn, affects the crop output.

What are the solutions? Quite clearly we need to have in place a comprehensive agricultural policy which starts from landholding, inputs, credit, marketing, subsidies and distribution—all of which should be internally consistent. The roles of the state and the private sector should be clearly delineated and adhered to without ad hoc intervention.

We need to improve acreage and yields so that there is a self-sustaining production stream in place—the second Green Revolution. Further, we should seriously consider our pricing policies. MSPs and procurement have caused certain distortions which can be corrected by letting the market forces play a role through futures trading. This way, the procurement process could be capped and targeted primarily at the buffer stock and MSP would be the last resort rather than the first choice for the farmer. Given the shortages that occur in pulses and oilseeds, we could consider buffer-stocking these until we have attained stable production levels. Moreover, we can also conceive of having a system of providing tax incentives to companies, so as to make farming in non-MSP crops more attractive.

Pursuing such a policy will do away with the approach we are taking today, one that myopically looks only at the very short term.

Madan Sabnavis, Chief Economist, NCDEX Ltd.


India is reeling through a crisis seen after a long time. Continuous good monsoon had brought a sense of well being among the Indian policymakers about our food security. However failing rains across the country has busted quite a few myths. The entire country barring the Saurashtra peninsula of Gujarat has received inadequate rainfall till the week ending 5th August. Parts of western UP and Haryana have received up to 64%-61% less rainfall from average. Nearly 60 percent of India’s farm sector is dependent on monsoon rains between June and September. This year has witnessed one of the driest spells in eight decades, as according to IMD. While the debate rages whether Global Warming is the prima facie culprit for this situation, the effects are far ranging and for the 214 million Indians below the poverty line who are denied access to two square meals a day, the implications are disastrous.

The spectre of drought looms large over as many as 161 out of 626 districts in India due to deficient monsoon, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in New Delhi recently, but asked citizens not to panic. “One hundred and sixty one districts have been declared drought-prone. As far as sowing is concerned, 20 percent would be down,” Mukherjee told reporters on the margins of an annual conference. “Monsoon situation is still erratic,” he warned, but added: “But there is no point of pressing the panic button. You all will go and start chanting drought, drought, drought and it will have an adverse impact.” Mukherjee said Punjab and Haryana, two most important states for food output, were fortunate since they use groundwater extensively, even as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh were facing shortage of water.

Rice has been the worst hit, with the area declining by 6mha. Sugar follows closely. While Uttar Pradesh, the second-largest sugar producer, has declared drought in 47 districts, Maharashtra has cut its sugar output forecast to 4.6mt from 5mt predicted in June. Global sugar prices have jumped to their highest in more than 25 years as India, the world’s largest consumer, has had to tap the global market to offset the impact of the poor monsoon on the country’s sugarcane crop. Prices in India are, however, still lower than the cost of imported sugar.

Crisil Economist, Dharmakirti Joshi said any shortage on food can push up the consumer price index much faster this time as the index is very high in comparison to previous drought situations in 2002-03. “If the monsoon revives from now on, the damage to crops may be limited. But the damage done to crops such as paddy can’t be undone now,” he said. Tushar Poddar, vice-president and chief economist at investment bank Goldman Sachs India, said that the weak rainfall could reduce agricultural growth to -2 per cent year-on-year, down from an earlier estimate of 1.4 per cent. And UBS has warned that if rainfalls failed to improve, real growth in GDP could be 1 to 2 per cent lower this year than its forecast of 7 per cent. A Citigroup study said the damage on the price front had taken place. Despite the mitigating factors like the possibility of a better winter crop and higher food stocks, primary product prices have begun to spiral. Commodities hit include pulses, rice, fruit and vegetables and cereals with tur dal, a lentil native to India and part of the staple diet, costing over Rs.100 a kilogram in several states.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh indicated that the government is ready to undertake open market intervention to prevent the rise in grain prices caused by deficient and delayed monsoon rains. “We should not hesitate to take strong measures and intervene in the market if the need were to arise,” Singh said at a meeting of state chief secretaries in New Delhi recently.

A contingency blueprint being drawn up by officials proposes higher sugar and pulses imports, a ban on edible oil exports and curbs on futures trading in commodities whose prices are rising fast. India may have to import 3-4mt sugar — international prices have begun rising in anticipation of higher demand from India. India needs 18mt of pulses a year but its production fell short by 3.4mt last year because of water shortage in central India. This year, fears of more water scarcity have shrunk the acreage by 10%.

So far, 58 districts in UP, 26 in Bihar, 24 in Jharkhand, 12 in Himachal Pradesh and 9 in Manipur have been declared drought affected while 27 in Assam, 11 in Nagaland and 10 in Maharashtra are facing drought like conditions. Asking the Union power ministry to provide additional electricity to states like Punjab, Haryana, UP, Jharkhand and Bihar, who have suffered crop loss, the agriculture minister said the government will bear the cost of the diesel subsidy (50% of the cost usually borne by the state government).

Ajay Loganadan, Head-Investment Advisory Group, HSBC Private Banking said a 2% output reduction in agriculture, actually impacts our GDP by only 1%. "Given the fiscal stimulus policies and the policy measures that have been announced, which are largely geared towards the rural sector, we believe that should really offset the negative impact of monsoons."

The rise in prices of food items in June and July this year has been up to 32% as compared to 18% in the corresponding period in 2008. The retail price of tur, ruling at Rs 62 a kg in June, rose to Rs 82 a kg by the end of July. At present, tur has skyrocketed to about Rs 90 a kg in many places across the country. Chana dal (split chick peas), which was going at Rs 47 a kg in June in Kerala, now cost Rs 56 a kg by July-end. A 19% year-on-year jump in the price of pulses, a 15.5% leap in the cost of rice and similar rises for fruits and vegetables has been noticed recently.

"The lower the income category, the more of their total income they spend on food and the more food prices rise, the more it hurts the 'common man, said Crisil's Dharmakirti Joshi”. The already high prices of food items may skyrocket further, and deficit agriculture production was likely to push up prices of essential commodities in the near future. Experts have been warning that the food situation in the country is going to be "dangerous" from September. Already, prices of oil and pulses have zoomed in the last couple of months, making them out of reach for the poor.

The harvest of pulses during kharif 2008 had suffered a serious setback, and the prospect is none-too-good in the current season, due to the erratic monsoon. Imports, which have been a regular feature to beef up supplies, have run into rough weather due to depleted inventories in our traditional markets and international prices too are bullish. To add to the woes, delays in port clearances are also reported as well as some hoarding in the hope that a further upswing in pulses may be in the offing.

But, now, not enough pulses are available abroad while the prices are also on the high side. Unlike cereals, where official stocks are sizeable and adequate to take in stride a harvest setback, the story is different in regard to pulses.

In a larger sense, pulses have been a victim of neglect. Relegated to marginal lands, and varietal breakthrough elusive, with minimal inputs and poor irrigation cover, production has languished in the face of rising demand.

To augment the pulses, shortages being faced in India, members of the Pulses Importers Association will be importing 4 lakh tonne over the next three months. India produced 14.66mt of pulses in the 2008-09 season against the annual requirement of over 18 million tonne. The gap is bridged through imports. Supply constraints pushed prices of pulses like arhar to Rs 90-100 a kg from Rs 60 two months ago. The sugar and pulses supply is causing main concern for the govt., as hoarding is widely prevalent even after the stringent open warnings of Mr. Sharad Pawar and Manmohan Singh. The edible oil scenario is also not much bright and it is decided to import 42% of total oil needs this year. But it is upto the state governments to ensure the deliveries of stocked foodgrains and other edible items at the prices affordable to the last common man. The hoarders have to be sternly dealt with by developing a fool proof mechanism. Its very tough time for the UPA govt., as they are facing challenges on all fronts of drought/ monsoon failure, food scarcity and swine flu. Mr. Manmohan Singh and his cabinet have to show their guts and come victorious, without letting down the common man.

- Abid Hussain-

SUNFLOWER- The harbinger of yellow revolution

Sunflower is one of the fastest growing oilseed crops in India and has contributed to the rapid growth in oilseed production during late eighties and early nineties. Sunflower is the largest selling oil in the branded oil segment and also the farmers’ choice due to its wider adaptability, high yield potential, shorter duration and profitability. The crop in mid nineties was cultivated in nearly 2.5 million hectare contributing to 2 Mn MT of sunflower seed in the country. In India, the commercial cultivation of sunflower began in 1972 especially in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. The Government, convinced of the potential of Sunflower in contributing to self-sufficiency in edible oil has adopted a two pronged approach - first by Technology Mission on Oilseeds which promotes scientific cultivation of sunflower to improve productivity levels and secondly by restricting import of edible oils through import tariff interventions to ensure better commodity price for domestic sunflower growers. Recently, the government has increased import duty on edible oils, up to 92% to ensure better commodity price to our farmers.

Sunflower’s sunny side:
Sunflower is a short duration (80-115 days) crop, highly suitable in rainfed conditions under diverse agro-climatic and soil conditions. It is less prone to pests and diseases and the only major investment is the cost of hybrid seeds. It is sown between August and October. Sunflower also scores favourably against the traditional cultivated crops like rabi Jowar, Bajra, Castor and Pulses during the late Kharif/early rabi season as farmers find sunflower as a highly profitable crop, especially in Southern peninsula, consisting of Northern Karnataka, Marathwada and Rayalseema, where the crop is largely cultivated under rainfed conditions during late kharif/rabi season.

The more popular Sunflower hybrid and variety is KBSH-1 and Morden, respectively. Most of these hybrids are supplied by reputed private seed companies such as Advanta India Limited, Syngenta, Cargil, PHI, PSCL and others Govt. agencies like, NSC, State Seed Corporations etc. Some hybrids like PAC-36, PAC-8699 and PAC-1091 provide both high grain and oil yields. These hybrids, which are also notified by the government, have potential to yield upto 10 quintals/acre with oil content of >40%, if properly managed. Longer duration hybrids (>95 days) are to be sown in the early season while medium-short duration hybrids (85-95 days) give better results, if sown later. Few companies like Advanta, offer the full range of sunflower hybrids in all the maturity groups. Application of recommended doses of fertilizers particularly, phosphorous, potash and micronutrients like sulphur and boron are very important. These nutrients, apart from improving plant health and increasing grain yields, also help in improving grain weight and oil content. Proper crop rotation with legumes and other cereal/vegetable crops also helps in conserving soil nutrients and lower incidence of pests and diseases. Soil moisture, if available in adequate measure, during critical stages of vegetative growth, flowering and seed setting enhances grain and oil yield.

Birds can inflict serious damage to the crop to the extent of 10 – 40 percent. The traditional methods like erection of scare crows, noise making devices like crackers and carbide guns, tying polythene bags to ward off the birds are quiet old. In recent times, use of reflective ribbon or bird scaring ribbon has been found effective. Alternaria, necrosis and mildews also take a toll on the crop, particularly during the rainy/ wet seasons. Recommended preventive measures and usage of right hybrids provide protection to many of the common pests and diseases. Preventive sprays of pesticides before the first 50 days prevent attack by Heliothes and infestation of Alternaria. Outbreak of viral diseases can also be prevented by sowing the crop after July and by controlling sucking pests like thrips with timely spray of systemic insecticide in the first 40 days.

Farmers have a large scope of profit because sunflower gives minimum of 20 quintals per hectare and the cost is just Rs.2,000 per quintal which proves very economical to the farmers. The national productivity is 500-600 quintals and under irrigated conditions, more than 1.5 tonnes can be harvested in general. Several harvesting and post- harvest losses also exist, but some measures adopted can evade these losses and save the precious harvest. For instance, it should be harvested when the plant attains physiological maturity i.e. when the back of the head turns from green to lemon yellow colour and the bottom leaves starts drying and withering. Harvesting the seeds, when they attain maximum weight and oil concentration, results in highest seed and oil yield. Delay in harvesting causes reduction in seed yield due to lodging of plants and more damage due to birds, rodents and termite attack. Harvesting should be done by adopting proper method.

Health Benefits

There is a variety of health benefits associated with the consumption of sunflower oil.
Sunflower oil and cardiovascular benefits.
Sunflower oil is high in vitamin E and low in saturated fat. Sunflower oil has high levels of the polyunsaturated fatty acids. It is also known for having a clean taste and low levels of trans fat. Sunflower oil has been shown to have cardiovascular benefits as well. Sunflower oils with low fat content and high levels of oleic acid have been suggested to lower cholesterol which, in turn, results in a smaller risk of heart disease. But on the other hand, high consumption of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, found in sunflower oil, may increase the risk for development of breast cancer in women. It may also help food stay fresher and healthier for longer periods of time. Sunflower oil, like other oils, can retain moisture in the skin. It may also provide a protective barrier that resists infection in pre-term infants.

There are many challenges for raising oilseed productivity such as lack of technological stagnation, dependence on monsoon, low productivity per hectare, and high production loss due to extreme weather sensitivity of oilseed crops. When compared to other crops of similar category, sunflower is indeed very profitable. The profitability of the crop also depends on the commodity price. Farmers would get maximum benefits from this crop by following simple cultivation practices. Sunflower cultivation has been favoured by most of the farmers since its dividends are attractive. An increasing number of farmers are taking to sunflower cultivation, charmed by its lucrative returns. Government’s neglected policy on the dry and rainfed tracts of India, Oilseeds and Pulses, is costing it dearly with nearly 50% of edible oil imports, even after attaining self sufficiency on the food front. We have to develop congenial national policy/ mission on par with the NHM/ erstwhile, national oilseed & Pulses Mission for the gains and satisfy the requirement of ever growing populace and their enhanced edible oil demands.

- Abid Hussain-

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

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