BENGALURU: With just weeks to go for the Kharif sowing season to end, which is normally by August-end, farmers across the state are pinning their hopes on the last spurt of good monsoon rain. After the initial expectations of a normal rainfall season were dashed, the Department of Agriculture is now busy preparing to deliver on its contingency plan to supply alternate short-term crop seeds to farmers. The season has so far been dismaying.
The state has recorded rainfall deficit of about 27 per cent, registering only 404 mm of rainfall as against the average of 551 mm from June 1 to August 10. Of this, only 358 mm of rainfall was recorded from June 1 to July 31, marking a deficit. South-Interior Karnataka has been one of the worst hit areas with a (-)44 per cent departure from the average rainfall.
Agriculture Department Director G Y Srinivas pointed out that only 63 per cent of sowing had completed so far with 46.35 lakh hectares (ha) being cultivated against the target of 73 lakh ha. Of this, only 8.53 lakh ha is irrigated while the remaining 37.82 lakh ha is dependent on rainfall.
So far, districts like Mysuru and Chamarajanagar have registered only 57 per cent and 43 per cent sowing, respectively. In districts like Yadgir, Kalaburagi, Raichur and Bagalkot, farmers who had sown earlier in June and early July are looking at stunted plants of cereals and pulses in their fields. This will lead to lower yield and also lower prices as such cereals and pulses tend to be of inferior quality.
“In districts like Chitradurga, farmers have completely removed the millet plants as they were badly damaged due to lack of rain. It has affected pulses more and cereals like maize and bajra are next on the list,” Srinivas explained.
He also said that the Cauvery basin has been one of the worst affected as the dams storing Cauvery waters have seen the lowest storage in 46 years. “As we are looking at conserving water till next May and fulfilling water drinking requirements of people and cattle, we are requesting farmers not to go for water-intensive crops like sugarcane and paddy and instead opt for dry crops like ragi, jowar and maize which require less water,” he added.
Each year, the department prepares a contingency plan for short-term alternate crops at the district and taluk levels of the Kharif sowing fails to take off. This year, coupled with news of good rain till the end of August, the Department is preparing to supply 1.94 lakh quintals of seeds for this purpose. About 60 per cent of the average rainfall in the state is witnessed before August 15 and but it has fallen woefully short yet again.
Director of Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre (KSNDMC) Srinivas Reddy said rains are likely to be good until the end of August. “Predictions for rain are good for the entire state and hopefully, this will cover sowing gaps. There are some areas where sowing has not been taken up at all. I can say that as far as agricultural purpose is concerned, it is good news for us. But, as far as the inflow into dams is concerned, we are not sure if it is sufficient to make up for the shortfall. We will have to see about that,” he said.
He has good reason to be wary. For instance, the catchment areas in Cauvery basin received only 56 per cent of rain till last week and has only picked up since. Just a week of good rain and with a little bit of inflow, the government has decided to release Cauvery waters from the four reservoirs purely for drinking water purposes.
Only 50 pc land cultivated
Kumar Mulkipatil, who had cultivated green gram, groundnut and cotton on his 20 acre farm land in Annigeri Hobli has lost all the crop due to scanty rainfall. He had spent about `1.5 lakh on cultivation and his five-member family is now in deep financial crisis.
“For the last three years, I have been suffering crop loss. Every year I slip into financial trouble. Agriculture is not at all profitable now. I may have to sell some of the land to save my family”, says Mulkipatil.
With the monsoon season in its last legs, the situation is turning grim for farmers in Hubballi-Dharwad district which has recorded 60 per cent deficit rainfall (June 1 to August 10). The district has received only 67.4 mm of rainfall as against normal of 134.3 mm rainfall for this period. The district has recorded only 58.1 mm rain against a normal of 113.6 mm, a deficit of 49 per cent.
As a result, sowing activities have came to halt and only 50 per cent of the cultivable land has been covered under kharif sowing so far. Of the targeted 2.31 lakh hectares, sowing has been completed in 1.24 lakh hectares as of August 10. Last year, at end of June, sowing was completed in 1.78 lakh hectares while the rain deficit was just 20 per cent.
This year, maize has been cultivated in 18,000 hectare against a targeted area of 34,621 hectares. Green gram, another major crop, was sown in 8,000 hectares of the targeted 43,284 hectares while groundnut was sown in only 3,145 hectares against a target of 32,215 hectares. Hybrid cotton has been cultivated in 6,608 hectares against a target of 49,217 hectares. Agriculture Department Joint Director Rudreshappa T S said the kharif season has failed completely in Navalgund and Kundagol taluk completely. However, farming activity is good in Kalaghtagi taluk, Alnavar in Dharwad and Chabbi Hobli in Hubballi taluk, he added.
Farmers worried about another drought year
Despite having four reservoirs -- Tunga, Bhadra, Anjanapura and Ambligola -- the district is staring at a drought for the third successive year. Deficit rainfall has led to low water levels of in all the reservoirs.Lakes and tanks which feed agricultural fields in Shikaripura and Sorab taluks are not yet full and farmers are pinning their hopes on good rain in the remainder of the monsoon season.
The district has recorded a deficit of 31 per cent rainfall as on August 1, having received 1,000 mm of rainfall against the normal of 1,444 mm.
Of the targeted 1,69,000 hectares, cultivation has been taken up in about 1,09,000 hectares. This includes 45,000 hectares of paddy and 6,0000 hectares of maize. Paddy cultivation has come down from 1,07,000 hectares to 45,000 hectare while maize cultivation has increased from 54,000 hectares to 60,000 hectares.
J Madhusudhan, Joint Director of agriculture, said farmers still waiting for good rains to sow paddy over the next fifteen days. “If there are no good rains by the end of August, then the farmers have to go in for alternative crops like ragi, green gram and black gram which require less water,” he said.
“We will suggest to farmers not to go for paddy or maize cultivation after August. They can think of sorghum (white Bijapur jowar), sunflower and horse gram. Even millets like Sava, Navane too will fetch them decent returns,” he said.
Rain deficit, but paddy sowing close to target
The district has witnessed 16.72 per cent rainfall in the current monsoon season as of July 31 this year. It received 2005 mm rain in the period between June and July, against the normal rainfall of 2,408 mm rain. Despite this, sowing of paddy does not seem to have been affected much.
Against a target of 44,000 hectares for this kharif season, paddy seeds were sown in 42,400 hectares as of August 11, according to Chandrashekar, Deputy Director, Agriculture Department. “As of July 12, paddy seeds were sown in 23,000 hectares. Later, sowing activity picked up pace and 42,400 hectares are now under paddy cultivation,’’ he said.
Delayed start to sowing activity
With deficient rain in the early days of the monsoon season in the prime catchment area of river Cauvery, farming activity had been slow across the district. It picked up pace only in the last few weeks with good rains. As on August 12, the district recorded an average of 1,345.25 mm of rainfall while it was 1,344.11 mm last year in the corresponding period.In 2015, paddy sowing had been completed by the second week of August, while last year, 55 per cent had been completed. This year, sowing has been completed in less than half of the targeted cultivation area.
Though coffee is a major crop in the district, paddy is also cultivated. The Agriculture Department has set a target of 30,500 hectares for paddy cultivation against last year’s 28,090 hectares. As of August 12, only 12,733 hectares of paddy sowing was completed in district .With many farmers turning away from paddy cultivation due to increased cost and less market price, the Agriculture Department had announced a subsidy for mechanised sowing.
70 per cent of crop already damaged
The good monsoon rains in June, when the monsoon set in, brought cheer to farmers in Kalaburagi district. But their hopes have been dashed with the no rains over the last one-and-half months. Sitting in his fields and looking skyward hoping for rains, Yallalinga, a farmer from Kere Bhosga village says, “ We have been unlucky. Already, the green gram and black gram crops have been damaged completely. If it does not rains in the next 4-5 days, the tur crop will also be damaged.”
Crops like green gram, black gram, sesame, soya and hyacinth beans have also been seriously affected due to the dry spell. Karabasappa of Kallur village in Jewargi taluk said that with high hopes he cultivated green gram, black gram, red gram and sugarcane. But he now fears he may face heavy crop loss.
According to Agriculture Department officials, 93 per cent of kharif cultivation has been completed in Kalaburagi district Farmers have cultivated green gram in 49,000 hectars, black gram in 39,000 hectars, soya beans in five hectares and sesame in 10,000 hectors. Sources say 70 per cent of the cultivated crop has been damaged badly. The executive committee of the Zilla Krashik Samaj , of which the Joint Director of Agriculture Department is also a member, reviewed the situation at a meeting on Thursday and sent a proposal to the government to compensate farmers who have suffered losses due to dry spell.
24 pc rain deficit, but all seems okay here
Traditionally a paddy-growing district, Dakshina Kannada has a total of 38,000 hectares under paddy cultivation. But with monsoon showers being scarce, this year, only 28,000 hectares have been cultivated under the kharif season.
“This will cut down our kharif window by at least 25 days as most of the low-lying fields have to get their initial showers by first week of June followed by regular monsoon showers from the last week or latest by first week of July. This is the ideal monsoon behaviour for a good kharif crop,” says Subramanya Shastry, a Krishi Pandit awardee and farmer from Buntwal taluk. “But this time we have 20 per cent lesser rainfall,” he pointed out
Joint Director of Agriculture Kempe Gowda said, “We did have a fair extent of pre-monsoon showers since April. It is wrong to assume that the extent, intensity and duration of the monsoon showers are an indicator of the quality and yield of khariff crop. In paddy-growing areas, if we get showers even in June, it is sufficient.”
Districts where sowing has been affected due to poor rainfall
Bengaluru Urban, Bengaluru Rural, Ramanagara, Chikkaballapur, Tumakuru, Chitradurga, Davangere, Ballari, Dharwad, Gadag and Yadgir.
Dists where plants have suffered stunted growth due lack of moisture
Mysuru, Chamarajanagar, Hassan, Mandya, Chitradurga, Davanagere, Tumakaru, Dharwad, Gadag, Vijayapura, Bagalkot, Raichur, Koppal, Ballari, Yadgir, Ramanagara and Bengaluru Rural.
Status of minor irrigation tanks
Out of total 3,602 minor irrigation tanks in the state, only 2 per cent of them had storage capacity of more than 50 per cent, 39 per cent of the tanks had storage capacity between 30 per cent and 50 per cent and the remaining 58 per cent of the tanks are dry.
(With inputs from Prakash Samaga in Udupi, Ramachandra V Gunari in Shivamogga, B Kishan Singh in Hubballi, Coovercolly Indresh in Madikeri & M Raghuram in Mangaluru)