Wheat production in India, the world’s second-largest producer, is likely to fall below 90 million tonnes for the second year in a row in 2015-16 due to an unusually dry and warm winter.
Wheat output had declined to 88.95 mt in 2014-15 due to a poor monsoon and unseasonal rains in February-March, as against a record 95.85 mt achieved in the previous year.
Sowing of wheat, a major rabi (winter) crop, begins in October and is harvested from April.
“Wheat sowing is lagging behind as there is higher temperature stress because of an unusually dry and warm winter in the wake of two consecutive drought years. This will impact wheat production by at least 5 per cent,” a senior Agriculture Ministry official told PTI.
The area sown under wheat was trailing by 2 million hectare at 27.14 million hectare till December of the ongoing rabi season, as against 29.31 million hectare in the year-ago period, according to ministry data.
The 2 million hectare lag in wheat area means production would be down by around 6 mt considering an average yield of 2.9 tonnes per hectare achieved in the drought year 2014-15, the official added.
Stating that wheat crop is in a “critical stage”, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) Deputy Director-General (Crop Science) J S Sandhu said: “High temperature stress particularly reduces the yield of wheat. We hope rains in the next 15-20 days can help recover some loss in yields.”
High temperature leads to early maturing, thus reducing crop yields. Rain this month would bring down temperatures and help in achieving good production, he added.
Currently, the temperature is above normal in wheat growing areas. There is more moisture stress in central India especially Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and parts of Rajasthan.
There is temperature stress because of a 14 per cent deficit in the June-September south-west monsoon and 23 per cent deficit in the October-December North-East monsoon, according to the India Meteorological Department.