Heatwave Takes a Toll on North India’s Wheat Yield

Environmental News from India: 

  • The heatwave in Punjab has reduced the yield and quality of wheat this year.
  • Punjab’s wheat yield this year has reduced to 43 quintals per hectare, which is the lowest since the year 2000.
  • The heatwaves and particularly their early onset have resulted in an estimated 10-35 percent reduction in crop yields in Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh.

Hardeep Kaur, 36, and her husband Chamkaur Singh, 39, owned two acres of agricultural land in the Bathinda district of Punjab, a northern Indian state. With a fierce heatwave in March and April, the yield of the wheat crop on their land reduced. At the time, the couple had a loan of Rs. 800,000 and with reduced income from the low wheat yield, the stress to repay the loan kept mounting. Kaur and Singh died by suicide in April 2022.

Sarup Singh Sidhu, general secretary of the Bathinda chapter of Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU), a farmer’s organization, told Mongabay-India, that since mid-March this year, nine farmers in Bathinda had died by suicide. In another district, Mansa, seven farmers had died the same way. Sarup Singh Sidhu attributes these deaths to the stressful situation that overcame them because of the low wheat output, which in turn is linked to the heatwaves.

Bathinda and Mansa districts have recorded the highest decline in wheat yield this season in Punjab, said M.S. Sidhu, head of the Indian Society for Agricultural Development and Policy, an agricultural journal. “Punjab registered the lowest wheat harvest this year in two decades,” he told Mongabay-India. “In the 1980s, Punjab wheat yield used to be 27 quintals per hectare which increased to 35 quintals in the 1990s and crossed 45 quintals per hectare in the year 2000.” After the year 2000, wheat yield in Punjab continued to stay above 45 quintals per hectare. From 2016 to 2020, the wheat yield crossed 50 quintals per hectare every year. Then last year, in 2021, it came down to 48 quintals per hectare.

“But this year, in 2022, the wheat yield is reduced to 43 quintals per hectare,” M.S. Sidhu claimed. Until now, the lowest wheat yield had been in 2015 when it touched 45.83 quintals per hectare.

March was the hottest in India since records began 122 years ago. This has resulted in an estimated 10-35 percent reduction in crop yields in Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh. These states are collectively known as India’s “wheat bowl” because of their high production of wheat.

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Source: Mongabay

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