THANJAVUR: The last monsoon showers were heavy, drenching the delta, flooding the fields and recharging the groundwater table, which encouraged more number of farmers to take up summer paddy and pulses. But the scorching heat has taken a toll on their plans, being forced to irrigate the fields more often that they would otherwise.
R Sukumaran of Kakkarai village said during summer, farmers used to irrigate their paddy crop once in seven days. “However, the moisture is evaporating quickly due to the heatwave this year; we have to irrigate the fields once in two days using our bore wells,” he said. While power supply is available, the low voltage has led to many pumps going out of order.
“In the last one week alone, around 1,000 pumps went out of order at Orathanadu block itself. We have to spend thousands of rupees to repair them,” he added. During this period, he added, the fields cannot not be irrigated, he pointed out.
Concurred Sami Natarajan, another farmer from Thennamanadu, who explained how the water evaporates in just a day this season.
The unforgiving heat is also forcing the black gram farmers to increase the frequency of irrigation. From once in 10 days, they are now watering the fields once in 6-7 days, said Sundara Vimalnathan of Swamimalai. Though pulses – mainly black gram – is cultivated in only around 2,000 hectars at present, this area under cultivation is expected to go up to 15,000 hectares in this ‘Chithiraipattam’ that started on April 14.
Sukumaran noted that more farmers are going in for black gram as it is expected to fetch them Rs.13,000 per 100 kg. “Last year, the price did not go beyond Rs. 8,000 per 100 kg”, Vimalnathan recalled.
The normal area under summer paddy cultivation has seen a substantial jump this year. In the last few years, it was around 13,000-15,000 hectares, which went up to 20,000 hectares this year due to the comfortable ground water level — thanks to 37 per cent excess rainfall during last North East Monsoon. This excess rainfall brought up the average groundwater level to 3.58 metres below the ground level.
When contacted, joint director of agriculture R Gnana Oli said the frequency of irrigation has increased due to increased evapotranspiration rate. But there were no reports of paddy damage due to hot weather.