Chandigarh: In India, longer and colder winters usually mean nothing more than lazy mornings and respite from the impending heat.
But there was more to it this time for wheat farmers in the country’s north-western region, with the production of wheat—the crop is normally harvested in April—showing a good rise compared with previous years.
The bulk of this higher yield, which came from Punjab’s Malwa region, is due to a drop in temperatures in mid-December 2007 to mid-February and extended mild weather, experts say.
Officials at the meteorological unit at the Punjab Agricultural University have confirmed this fall in temperature and continuation of mild weather till early April.
First official estimates suggest the yield per hectare of wheat in the state this season was 4,450kg, almost 200kg more than what it was a year earlier. According to scientists at the wheat section of the Ludhiana-based Punjab Agricultural University, lower temperatures help crop germination, besides extending the time the crop takes to mature.
Unlike in western Europe, where wheat takes around eight-nine months to ripen, in north-western India, it is ready for harvest in four-five months.
Punjab’s deputy director of agriculture Gurdial Singh also confirmed that the colder and longer winter played a role in better wheat yields.
Prolonged winter meant that the grain development was better and the grains were larger.
“However, the entire increase in yield cannot be attributed to weather alone since better seeds and pre-arrangement of fertilizers also helped,” Singh said.
In the third week of December, the maximum temperature in the region was half a degree lower than normal—defined as the average temperature in the week in 20 years. Minimum temperatures were a degree below normal.
In the last week of the month, although the average maximum temperature was 0.3 degrees above normal, the minimum temperature was 2.9 degrees below normal. Even the mean temperature in the state was lower by 0.7 degrees.
Punjab farmers usually complete harvesting the wheat crop by mid-April—when the state celebrates the Baisakhi festival.
Farmers in the state said this year, they had only completed the first round of harvesting by Baisakhi; harvesting continued till the end of the month.
The good harvest has enabled the government to already buy 15 million tonnes (mt) of wheat from just Punjab and Haryana, data released by the food and civil supplies departments of the two northern states show.
While Punjab is likely to cross its earlier procurement record of 10.5mt set in 2001-02, Haryana has already bought 5.2mt of wheat, 55% more than last year.