Monday, October 11, 2010

Wheat sowing in katcha areas

PREPARATIONS for wheat sowing in katcha areas including parts of Thatta district, from where floodwater has receded, have started. Land is being levelled and cleared of weeds and bushes. This marks the beginning of Rabi sowing season.

The government has not yet announced wheat’s acreage and production targets. Same is the case with the procurement price. Growers seem poised to go for an aggressive wheat sowing campaign and expect the procurement price to be fixed at Rs1,000 per 40kg.

Wheat is grown on the left bank of the Indus in Sindh which is not affected by floods. Sowing in command area is yet to begin. Farmers want to go for massive wheat sowing to get close to 4.5 million tons target by increasing acreage to 3.2- 3.3 million from normal 2.5 million acres. It will provide fodder for livestock also.

Growers argue that wheat sowing campaign should be launched in non- perennial areas also where floodwater is receding. Abadgars had suffered huge losss in Kharif crop due to water scarcity or floods. Left bank growers don’t need subsidy for that. What is needed is the provision of water in tail-end areas like Khairpur Gambho, fed by Rohri Canal and in command of Jamrao and Mitharo water channels in Mirpurkhas district, fed by Nara canal. Timely availability of seed and fertiliser is essential besides credit facility.

“Where there is need of water mobile sprinklers should be provided by the Sindh government instead of machines for dewatering,” said Sindh Abadgar Board president Abdul Majeed Nizamani. He said four cycles of water were needed for wheat cultivation and one mobile sprinkler would provide 1,000 litres per acre.

The Sindh Agriculture Extension Research Department is specially focusing on cultivation of wheat, sunflower, fodder and maize by sharing knowledge with growers. According to DG Agriculture Research Department Hidayatullah Chajro, the department is working with local growers to get benefit of residual moisture in land.

According to wheat expert Mohammad Khan of Agriculture Research Department, wheat sowing on zero tillage is recommended in rice belt of the right bank. And if the growers get one or two cycle of water they would have an average wheat yield, he said. “Growers can get 80 maunds of yield per acre through TD-1 variety while they are currently having an average 35 maunds. It is time for transfer of technology and inputs to increase per acre yield,” he added.

Sindh is in deficit in wheat production and has to turn to Punjab to meet its requirement every year. Farmers believe that it is time that small and big land owners should be encouraged to cultivate wheat to overcome the deficit.

As reported earlier, the left bank area was hit by water shortage during Kharif season. Kharif season begins in March and April and availability of water was delayed as late as July. Cotton, vegetable and chilli crops were lost due to water scarcity.

Ghotki district on the left bank of Indus and Guddu downstream were the worst affected where cotton crop was destroyed following heavy rains. Damage to sugarcane was also reported besides colossal losses to paddy. “Rain water is still standing in fields. We have lost 90 per cent of cotton, 80 per cent of paddy and 30 per cent sugarcane. Rest of the crops are hit by water shortage”, said Mujeeb Kalwar, a rice grower from Ghotki.

He said that during the Rabi season, growers opt for wheat but 40 per cent of land is still under water where wheat sowing seems impossible. Subsoil water table has also increased and locals said it would take another month for the water table to drop.

As far as seed requirement is concerned, around four million maunds of seed are required for wheat cultivation in Sindh. Farmers keep seed with them for Rabi. In addition, the Sindh Seed Certification in collaboration with the Federal Seed Certification and Registration Department (FSCRD) is certifying wheat seed available with the food department.

According to Sindh Seed Corporation chief Shafiq Mahesar so far 1.8 million maunds of seed have been certified whereas 132,000 maunds are said to be with the food department which is to be certified. He expressed the hope that seed’s availability wouldn’t be an issue for growers.

Mr Nizamani is confident that not only wheat but paddy seed would be made available as farmers have their own seed and other private organisations could provide it to them. He said the real issue was of the provision of water and the irrigation officials must ensure its availability.

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