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Hopes of record wheat harvest

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All major States report higher coverage

Harish Damodaran

The numbers


Cumulative area

under wheat, at 275.53 lh as on January 5, is 6.8 per cent more than the 257.88 lh sown during this period last year.

All the

major wheat-growing States have reported higher coverage.

New Delhi, Jan. 6

Wheat farmers have, so far, planted a record 275.53 lakh hectares (lh) under the crop, with total acreage well set to cross the 280-lh mark for the first time in the current 2006-07 rabi season.

As things stand, scientists believe conditions are favourable for the country to harvest an all-time-high wheat crop, which will go some way in addressing inflationary concerns in the context of precarious domestic stocks and spiralling world prices.

Crop size

There are three reasons for optimism with regard to crop size. For one, cumulative area under wheat, at 275.53 lh as on January 5, is 6.8 per cent more than the 257.88 lh sown during this period last year. All the major wheat-growing States have reported higher coverage: Punjab (34.25 lh versus 34.20 lh), Haryana (23.65 versus 23.04), Uttar Pradesh (91.64 versus 88.38), Madhya Pradesh (41.05 versus 36.04), Rajasthan (22.58 versus 20.12), Bihar (21.93 versus 19.05), Gujarat (11.52 versus 10.07) and Maharashtra (10.48 versus 9.40).

Secondly, a significant part of the crop around 60 per cent was sown by November, which would give ample leeway for it to complete the full 135-145 days growth cycle. This is unlike last year, when a high proportion of late sowing, in combination with abrupt rise in temperatures in March, led to premature ripening and reduction in harvested yields. Early sowing this time will ensure that even if the mercury soars in March, the crop would have attained a minimum threshold growth and that grain-filling is not unduly impacted.

Temperature

The third good augury has been minimum temperatures during the second half of December, which is the period when tillers (stems) are formed. "In 2004-05, night temperatures ruled about four degrees Celsius above normal. As a result, we had fewer tillers per plant and the crop recorded less horizontal growth and premature vertical growth. This time, minimum temperatures throughout December have been within optimal range and tillering has been very good," said Dr Jagdish Rane, senior Scientist (Plant Physiology) at the Directorate of Wheat Research, Karnal.

There is every possibility, then, of wheat output in 2006-07 even surpassing the 1999-2000 peak of 76.37 million tonnes.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated January 7, 2007)
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