Soyabean farmers in parts of Maharashtra have started reporting early germination failure, which has put them in a fix.
Growers in some parts of the state have blamed inferior quality of seed, while in some cases, insufficient soil moisture is being blamed for the failure of the seed to germinate. Agriculture Commissioner Suhas Diwase confirmed the problem but said it is restricted to some talukas of particular districts.
Timely onset of the monsoons had pushed farmers to hasten their sowing activities, especially in Marathwada and Vidharbha. Soyabean is a major kharif crop, with Maharashtra reporting around 40 to 42 lakh hectares of sowing. The oilseed is sown in June and harvested October with the oil marketing year lasting till next September.
Well before the sowing season, the agriculture department had asked farmers to prioritise usage of their homegrown seeds rather than buying seeds. Also, the department had conducted around 3 lakh workshops to educate farmers about conducting germination tests and treat their seeds before sowing. The lockdown, seed manufacturers said, had put a stop to the process of certifying seeds and as such, most seeds have been sold as “truthfully labelled”.
The early sowing, however, failed to help farmers, as in many cases, the seeds failed to germinate. Diwase mentioned that complains have come in from some talukas of Yavatmal, Beed, Ahmednagar, Osmanabad and Pune.
“Seeds of some private players and a particular variety of Mahabeej (335) have failed to germinate. Also, there have been germination failures either due to deep sowing (seeds being planted too deep in the soil) or early sowing, wherein the seeds failed to germinate in want of proper soil moisture,” he said.
In Parbhani, where over a third of farmland is under soyabean, the problem is complex – farmers said they have used a weedicide that is suitable only for soyabean fields, rendering it impossible to plant cotton at this stage. Also, they usually opt for a second kharif crop of jowar after the three-month soyabean crop, which may now not be possible.
Sakharam Bobde of Paregaon village said around 50 farmers in his region have found not even 30 to 40 per cent germination in store-purchased soyabean seeds. “Only 10 per cent of farmers use their self-grown seeds, and the remaining have all been hit very hard by the seeds failing to germinate,” he added.
Sowing was completed about a week ago, and the three-day germination has not begun even on Monday. “Soyabean has become hugely popular in Parbhani because we are able to take a second crop of jowar that’s used for self-consumption and its foliage provides us fodder. That crop planning is destroyed, what will we eat and what will we feed our animals later in the year?” he asked. Bobde’s family owns about 25 acres.
Farmers in Parbhani said they had incurred about Rs 10,000 per acre costs on soyabean until now, including labour costs and fertilisers, weedicide and seeds. “The question is also now of how long to wait for the spot surveys, because the window for sowing a second time is also closing rapidly,” said Govind Yadav, who owns one hectare of land and is set to lead a group of farmers and activists to the Gangakhed tehsildar office on Tuesday to lodge an official complaint.
Until the spot surveys are completed, farmers cannot even remove the failed seeds and re-sow. Those who have leftover seeds are not sure whether to make another attempt or to try and return the goods to stores. “If we choose to sow soyabean again because the weedicide effect lasts 90 days, we will have trouble getting seeds from the market also – in some places, sales have stopped because the seeds appear to be of poor quality,” said Yadav, adding that urgent government intervention is needed.
Agricultural officer Manoj Lokhande in Hingoli district’s Basmath taluka said early estimates show about 50 per cent of area under soyabean in Parbhani and Hingoli could be affected. He said he has been inundated with phone calls and applications about the problem. “Soyabean requires 100 mm of rain at sowing time for proper germination. We have had rains here but sowing may have been completed a little early,” Lokhande said.
Hingoli Collector Ruchesh Jaivanshi has ordered spot verification surveys and the panchnamas are currently underway, he added.
Like in dozens of villages in the region, at Chondi village of Basmath, farmers sent applications to local politicians and government offices complaining that it had been a couple of weeks since sowing and the seeds had failed to germinate.
Farmer Vishnu Jadhav said some farms had almost no germination at all. A few also said the unexpected heavy showers during the departing monsoon of 2019 appeared to have affected seed production in the state.
“Germination percentage is very low. There seems to be a problem with the quality of the seed itself. Thousands of farmers are affected, and the government should intervene urgently. Farmers need to be compensated and the seed companies should be probed,” said farmer-leader Maruti Korde-Patil.
Ganesh Narote, a cotton and soyabean grower from Akola, blamed low soil moisture. The problem of non-germination of seeds in Osmanabad was highlighted by BJP MLA from Tuljapur in Osmanabad, Ranajagjitsinh Patil. He had called for speedy redressal of the problem.
Diwase said the problem has been referred to the agricultural universities, which will form a special team to investigate the problem. “Maharashtra Seeds Corporation Limited has already started the process of investigating and replacing the seeds that have failed to germinate,” he added.
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