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A Central teams to study damage to winter crop

NEW DELHI: The Centre has sent teams to Punjab, Haryana and other northern and western States to asses the loss of winter-sown (rabi) crops, including wheat, due to untimely rains and hailstorms in the past few days.

There are reports of damage to wheat crop in parts of Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh as hail and rain, accompanied with strong winds flattened the standing crop at many places. The current spell of rain and hailstorms in parts of Rajasthan has also threatened the mustard crop.

R.K. Gupta, Director at the Indian Institute of Wheat and Barley Research (IIWBR), told The Hindu that it was too early to assess the damage. However, on a conservative side, the wheat crop might have been damaged in five per cent of the total sown area in these northern States. Wheat has been sown on around 29 million hectares this season across the country and out of this, around half the wheat is sown in the northern and western States.

Meanwhile, an Agriculture Ministry official said: “We are monitoring the situation and our teams have already left to asses the crop loss. It would be only after the reports are submitted by these teams that an actual assessment of damage could be figured out.”

Agriculture experts say the current spell of rains is detrimental for the early sown varieties. However, the late-sown crops could survive provided there is no wind or hailstorm in the coming days.

“Untimely rain, hail and strong winds have flattened standing wheat crop. This would certainly reduce yield and affect quality as well,” senior agriculture expert and Punjab State Farmers Commission adviser P.S. Rangi told The Hindu. “The damage to wheat could be extensive if heavy spell of rains or hail occurs in the coming days, similar to what had happened last year,” said Mr. Rangi.

He said the rain could also trim the earning of farmers, who had already suffered losses in the previous two years due to the first back-to-back droughts in nearly three decades. In many parts of wheat-producing States in north and central India, the untimely rains and hailstorms last year during the March-April period had significantly damaged the wheat crop, resulting in sharp fall in production by around 9.32 million tonnes.