Lower than estimated wheat crop in KP

be Lower than estimated wheat crop in KP
By Tahir Ali | From InpaperMagzine | 30th April, 2012

http://dawn.com/2012/04/30/lower-than-estimated-wheat-crop-in-kp/

WHEAT harvest in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa may be lower this year than expected earlier because of inhospitable weather, officials and farmers say.

An official of the Directorate-General of Agriculture Extension in KP said wheat acreage in the province had increased from 724,500 hectares last year to 758,350 hectares this year but the crop has suffered badly in rain-fed areas. The raid-fed areas contributes around 55 per cent of the provincial wheat output. The continued drought mainly in southern districts has diminished the prospects of a bumper crop.

Though wheat crop cultivated on irrigated lands in both the central, southern and northern districts is expected to be healthy, the crop in the fertile but rain-fed lands is feared to have been reduced by about 50-60 per cent for lack of rains during September to January.

“The southern rain-fed districts of Tank, Kohat, Karak, Laki Marwat and Dera Ismail Khan together with Haripur, Dir lower, Buner etc, did not receive any rainfall at the time of sowing. Little moisture in the soil also affected the germination at the start.

Later, occasional showers were received but at the time of flowering and grain-filling stages the weather remained almost dry for a long period. As a result the grain could not develop well and it is either not there or is too small. Hence lower crop yield is expected from the rain-fed areas of the province,” said the official.

“In the irrigated area, the crop is very promising and high yield is expected. However, in the last week of April rains throughout the province and storms in some parts, damaged crops including wheat. In Peshawar the crop was damaged due to hailstorm in Sarband, Achini, Sango Llandai, Nodeha,” he added.

When asked as to whether other factors like use of low quality seeds and less fertiliser have also affected the crop, the official said there was no shortage of such commodities. The department had obtained thousands of tons of quality seeds from registered growers or purchased them from Punjab Seeds’ Corporation and supplied these to the farmers in time.

An official of the agriculture department in Laki Marwat, predominantly a rain-fed district, said though the farmers had cultivated the crop on vast track of land, lack of rain had hit the crop and reduced the output by a big margin.
“Around 60 per cent of wheat crop on over 16,000 hectares in the district has no or small/dry grain. Around nine per cent of the wheat crop on irrigated land is also affected by water shortage. While generally a grain sprouts 10-12 plants when there is plentiful water, this year a grain has sprouted up only one plant in the district for lack of rains in the critical germination period,” he said.

The recent spell of rain is of no use for the crop as it has already matured. The rain instead can harm the crop if followed by winds, he added.

An official of the agriculture department in DIK and a farmer said the abnormal winds following rain in February this year had also damaged the crop to some extent. But the drought had little impact on the crop this year, he added.

A farmer from Mardan said that while the grain was healthy in the canal-fed lands, there were reports of small grains and weak/little stems from the rain-fed areas in the district.

Gushy winds after the recent downpour also damaged the mature crop as it shook and moved its roots. “While the rain reduced mercury that delayed maturity of the grains, the winds levelled down wheat plants in some areas. If rains continue, the fallen grain may fall prey to stem-rot disease for excess of water,” the farmer said.

“Little wheat crop means food shortage and food inflation. I am worried how farmers will pay their agricultural debts, and feed their families when they get low yield, said Ahmad Khan, a farmer.

The land under wheat cultivation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is 1/5th of the 2.75 million hectare total cultivable land in the province. It usually has a share of around four per cent in countrywide wheat yield. It could be increased by bringing the vast fertile land in southern districts lying uncultivated for want of irrigation water.

The low acreage and less yield per acre than the rest of the country leaves the province dependent for over two-thirds of its wheat needs of over three million tons on purchases from Passco and Punjab.

The government apart from bringing more land under cultivation can increase per acre yield by ensuring mechanised farming and providing better seeds.

It should ensure provision of seeds and fertiliser to farmers on subsidised rates. Access of farmers to agricultural loans needs to ensured with the help of banks and NGOs.

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About Tahir Ali Khan
I am an academic, freelance columnist, writer and a social worker.

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