Agriculture | Crops |

Wheat Crop in India – the Productivity Woes

Wheat crop is India’s prime most staple harvest, placed second only to rice. It is mostly consumed in the north and north-west parts of the country. Being rich in protein, vitamin and carbohydrates, it provides a balanced food to millions of people each day!
Wheat crop cultivation in India has a long history, with some early transcripts from Mohen-jodaro suggesting that wheat was cultivated even 5,000 years back in the region! However, when India got its Independence in the year 1947, production and productivity of wheat were quite low at 6.46 million tonnes and 663 kg/ hectare respectively and India had to import wheat to feed the population.
With the advent of Green Revolution in the 1960s, India’s wheat crop production and productivity increased at a great level. In the current scenario, India with a production of 87 million tonnes is the second largest producer of wheat in the world after China. Even the productivity increased at a good pace and was computed to be around 2872 kg/ hectare in the latest report by the Indian Department of Agriculture (Agricultural Statistics at a Glance 2014-15).

Production of Wheat Crop

In India, wheat crop is grown mainly in the northern states, with Uttar Pradesh being the top-most contributor of wheat with a total production of 25.22 million tonnes, followed by Punjab (15.78 MT) and Madhya Pradesh (14.18 MT). It is interesting to know that despite being the highest producer of wheat and having the largest land under wheat cultivation in India (9.85 million hectares), Uttar Pradesh’s productivity (2561 kg/ hectare) is still less than the national average. But Punjab with 4491 kg/ hectare beats every other state in terms of productivity!
Mainly three varieties of wheat are grown in India, with T.aestivum or bread wheat being the most commonly grown one. It is produced in almost all the wheat cultivating states of India, i.e. Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Bihar, West Bengal, Assam, etc. The second most common variety is T.durum or macaroni/pasta wheat which is grown in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Southern Rajasthan and few locations in Punjab. The third kind, T.dicoccum or Emmer is rarely grown in the country and is only found to be cultivated in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu that too very less compared to the other varieties.
Wheat crop is usually sown from months of September to December in various states of India depending upon the suitable climate, and the harvesting is done from February to May depending upon the climate as well as the time it is seeded. The temperature required for sowing ideally should be the winter temperature of 10°C-15°C and summer temperature of 21°C-26°C. The temperature at sowing needs to be low while at the harvesting time, higher temperatures are necessary for the proper ripening of Wheat.
Being a plant, pests and diseases have always been a problem, although, with the use of pest and disease resistant varieties and pesticides, the yield has increased phenomenally. Some common pests that affect the wheat cultivation are Stripe Rust /Yellow Rust, Powdery Mildew, Aphids, Head Scabs, Army Worm, Termites etc. Most of them can be taken care of with some added vigil and judicious use of pesticides.
The Indian government has been taking proactive steps to ensure that the farmers do not have to bear the brunt in case of sharp fall in the selling price of crops. Every year, Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) advises the government on the minimum support prices (MSP) for the particular year. For the current year of 2016-17, the MSP has been announced as INR 1625 per quintal as compared to the last year’s figure of INR 1525 per quintal.
The high production of wheat crop, however, comes with a downside. Wheat being a water intensive crop has been responsible for the degradation in the groundwater table in the states of north India, since farmers resort to groundwater to fulfill the requirement of the crops. In Punjab alone, the fall in groundwater levels has been around 10 feet each year. In a country where 65 per of agricultural land is irrigated by groundwater, the situation seems to be grim and needs some attention and awareness from the people.

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