Uttar Pradesh: Mustard farmers feel the sting as early heatwaves likely to affect crop yield

Unseasonal rains during the flowering of the mustard plants followed by early heatwaves have affected mustard cultivation. Farmers are complaining of wilting crops and poor quality mustard seeds, which will cause yield decline. A ground report from Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh.

Manish DubeyManish Dubey   28 Feb 2023 1:07 PM GMT

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Uttar Pradesh: Mustard farmers feel the sting as early heatwaves likely to affect crop yield

The mustard yield is likely to get impacted due to erratic climate, rendering the seeds unhealthy. This will have an impact on the quality of the mustard oil as well as on the oil market. Photo by Manish Dubey.

Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh

In Naktu village in Kanpur district, there is a pall of gloom as the mustard crops have not yielded as much as they should have. Farmers in the area are preparing to harvest the mustard, and some have already begun the process.

The arrival of early heatwaves in the country has set the alarm bells ringing for mustard farmers. Like the wheat farmers in north India, who are fearing a drop in crop productivity this year, mustard farmers are also likely to suffer damages.

“Look how insubstantial the plant looks. The seeds are not too healthy either. This will have an impact on the quality of the mustard oil too,” Ram Asre, a 71-year-old farmer from the village, told Gaon Connection. He said the erratic weather — unseasonal rainfall during mustard flowering followed by early heatwaves — was perhaps the reason this was happening.

Mustard farmer Prakash from Dhar Mangalpur village in Kanpur district had planted mustard in two bighas of land (1 bigha = 0.25 hectare) and he is resigned to losses this year, he told Gaon Connection. “The quality of the mustard plant is poor as you can see,” he said, pointing towards his wilting crop.

Summers are still a while away in India, yet this year it has gotten unseasonably hot as early as February, when crops are still maturing. This is likely to impact both production and productivity. The wheat crop is already under stress and farmers are fearing a drop in production.

Also Read: Same story, different year: High February temperatures haunt wheat farmers for 2nd consecutive year

Farmers feeling the heat

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has warned against the adverse impact of sudden rise in temperature on the crops. As per a press statement issued by the IMD on February 26, “maximum temperatures are above normal by 3-5°C over many parts of Northwest India and over some parts of Central India… Maximum temperatures very likely continue to remain above normal by 3-5°C over most parts of Northwest during next 2 days.”

The IMD statement further highlighted that "This higher day temperature might lead to adverse effects on wheat as the wheat crop is approaching reproductive growth period, which is sensitive to temperature. High temperature during flowering and maturing period leads to loss in yield. There could be a similar impact on other crops and horticulture,” it stated.

Last year too, heatwaves arrived early, in March, and had impacted a number of crops including wheat, mango, mustard, litchi, etc.

Unseasonal rains and heat dash hopes of mustard farmers

Farmers are expecting a drop in mustard yield. “When the flowers bloomed on the mustard plant in January, there were unseasonal rains. The rain was followed by extreme heat in February, also unusual. The crop did not get a cycle of normal weather patterns and this has led to a weak mustard crop,” 59-year-old Kamlesh Kushwaha, from Jargaon village in Kanpur Dehat, said.

Pointing to some of the mustard plants that looked pale, he said, “I will be happy if I can recover what I spent in sowing the crop. I have no hopes for any profit.” According to him, last year he got about four quintals out of one bigha. “This year I don’t expect it to be more than 2.45 quintals,” he said.

The farmers are expecting a poor mustard yield due to the climate bash of the crop. Photo by Manish Dubey.

According to Ram Asre, his mustard harvest this year is expected to be less than three quintals as against the usual four quintals he gets from his 1.5 bigha land. The extent of his loss will be known only once he harvests his entire crop. However he said, “The yield will not recover the cost. I may have to borrow money to feed my family.”

Also Read: Growing more mustard can make India self sufficient in edible oils

How heat affects the crop yield

Ashok Kumar, president, Krishi Vigyan Kendra Kanpur confirmed that unseasonal rains during the flowering had affected the mustard yield this year.

“It is safe to assume that this time the loss to the farmers will face about 10 to 15 per cent losses this year. The exact figures will be known when the committee under the district magistrate assesses the loss and announces it,” Ashok Kumar told Gaon Connection. Only once this is done will the matter of compensation to the farmers come up, he added.

The vagaries of weather have affected the farm labourers as well. Photo by Manish Dubey.

According to Ashok Kumar, the mustard crop is sown between October 1 and October 20, and it is ready to flower in about 60 to 70 days, around December to the first week of January. The crop gets ready to be harvested by the end of February and beginning of March.

“This time the rains took their toll on the flowers in January and the temperatures immediately after the rains rose to over 35 degrees Celsius while ideally it should be between 25 to 30 degrees,” he explained. That scorched the mustard and that has had an impact on the quantity and the quality of the mustard seeds, which are much smaller in size,” he added.

The vagaries of weather have affected the farm labourers too. “We work day and night and wait for the harvest. But you can see for yourself how hollow and insubstantial the harvest has been this year,” farm labourer Komal from Jargaon told Gaon Connection. “We will not get any share in the yield this year. The owners will keep it all and we will have to make do with our wages alone,” she said.

Ripple effect

The impact of the early heatwaves on mustard crop might lead to a rise in mustard oil prices. “There will be an impact on the selling and buying of mustard,” Archana Bhatnagar, senior marketing officer of Kanpur Mandi Samiti, told Gaon Connection.

“We have to wait and see what happens. Things will become clearer depending on the response of the government to the crisis,” she said.

Also Read: Danger ahead as GM Mustard gets a go ahead; matter before the apex court

Mustard is cultivated extensively in north India. Rajasthan leads in mustard cultivation with 46.06 per cent, followed by Haryana with 12.60 per cent, Madhya Pradesh with 11.38 per cent, Uttar Pradesh with 10.49 per cent and West Bengal with 7.81 per cent.

Mustard was hit by a cold wave in January which weakened the crop. The increasing heat is worsening the situation for the farmers. Photo by arrangement.

In early January this year, a severe cold wave and ground frost had led to extensive damage to the mustard crop in Rajasthan. Farmers complained of 40 per cent loss of their mustard crop. Gaon Connection had reported on the same. And now, an early heatwave has affected the mustard crop in Uttar Pradesh.

Added to the problem of low yield due to early heatwaves, the farmers are also dealing with the menace of stray cattle. “We have to stay awake all night between seven in the evening and six in the morning, keeping an eye on our crops. As the crop gets ready for harvest the danger of stray animals trampling them or grazing on them increases,” Ramchandra of Jargaon village, told Gaon Connection.

“It has been an unmitigated disaster for me. I borrowed Rs 10, 000 on five per cent monthly interest to sow mustard on two and a half bighas of land,” he said. He is yet to ascertain the exact monetary loss he will face.

UttarPradesh #heatwave Mustard Farmer Agriculture 

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