Updated: December 17, 2015 6:17:18 am
NABARANGPUR HAD a “normal” monsoon this year in overall terms — but that’s only one side of the story.
The southwest monsoon period from June to September saw the district receive 1,458.17 mm rainfall, which was, 17.5 per cent more than the normal long period average of 1,241.5 mm for these four months.
What the aggregate figure conceals is the huge monthly variation in rainfall engendering a drought even in a supposedly normal monsoon year.
Nabarangpur registered 60 per cent surplus rainfall in June. It led to farmers raising their paddy nurseries well in time, through June and the first half of July. But then followed a long dry spell, with rains being deficient both in July and August. As a result, the seedlings couldn’t be transplanted in the main fields within the normal 25-30 days from the time of sowing in nursery beds.
Prolonged moisture stress resulted not only in delayed transplanting, but also lower tillering (development of shoots) and smaller size of panicles (flowers that bear the seeds or grains).
The rains did revive in September, so much so that the month actually posted a 149 per cent surplus. But that was obviously too late and couldn’t have compensated for the extended dry spell during July-August.
“This was an unusual monsoon, with the entire rains concentrated in the first and the last month. Moreover, even in the months where it rained, the number of rainy days per se was less,” said Sushil Haldar, deputy director of agriculture, Nabarangpur.
Making matters worse was a renewed dry spell in October, with rainfall for the month at 13 mm, over 87 per cent below the normal of 102.6 mm. “We estimate this year’s paddy crop to be around 20 per cent lower compared to in 2014,” said Haldar.
Things may have been different if Nabarangpur’s farmers had access to irrigation. Not even a quarter of the district’s net sown area has irrigation cover, making its farmers vulnerable in years when the monsoon isn’t normal or the rains are unevenly distributed — as it happened this time.
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