Agriculture and Farming Technology Updates

Extreme weather events impact agriculture in India

Significant crop losses are associated with these weather events


Sometimes the figures hide the truth instead of showing it. Take this year’s monsoon. Last September, the Indian Meteorological Department declared the monsoon of 2021 to be normal. According to government data, from June to September, the entire season received 870 mm of rain.

Extreme weather events

First of all understand what is normal monsoon. According to data collected between 1961 and 2010, 70 percent of India’s annual rainfall occurs during the monsoon. 880 mm on average. If the rainfall in a monsoon season is between 96 and 104 per cent of this average, it is called normal.

Climate change is becoming increasingly challenging for the agriculture sector. According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), Haryana’s September rainfall was over 82%, a record since 1945. Similarly, Punjab also received 30% more rainfall for the first time since 1988.

Accordingly, in 2021, there was 99 percent rainfall compared to the average and the Meteorological Department termed it as normal.

Significant crop losses are associated with these weather events. In Punjab, as Gurvinder Singh, director of the state’s agriculture department, told Mongabay-India, rains in September damaged 1.39 lakh (139,000) hectares of paddy crops. This is about 5% of the total cropped area of three million hectares in the state. Similarly, unseasonally heavy rains damaged about 20 percent of the 1.3 million hectares of crop area under paddy in Haryana, said Hardeep Kadian, director of the agriculture department in the state.

Meteorological disasters

Accurate weather forecasting is becoming a bigger challenge day by day, said a government meteorologist on condition of anonymity. Such challenge not only harms the economy of India but is also making the life of the farmers difficult. The difficulties of farmers who grow crops on the basis of rains are increasing continuously, the official said.

Meteorologists believe that from days of no rain to torrential rains, the monsoon of 2021 has witnessed extreme weather events in many ways. According to official figures, rain-deficient places such as Madhya Pradesh, East Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Vidarbha received torrential rains this year. Whereas, Odisha, Kerala, states in the Northeast which receive more rainfall, have been thirsty for rains during this year’s monsoon.

Hydro-meteorological disasters, including heavy rains and floods, have damaged 33.9 million hectares of India’s cropped area between 2015-16 and 2021-22, according to agriculture ministry data tabled in the recent monsoon session of Parliament.

Crop losses

Drought – a phenomenon resulting from less and less rainfall – was equally devastating. According to data obtained by this journalist in the last week of October under Right to Information (RTI), the damage to crop area (where crop loss was 33% and above) between 2016-17 to 2021-22 is about 35 million hectares happened. The Act was provided by the Drought Management Cell of the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.

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A closer look at both these data sets revealed that Rajasthan, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra were among the most affected states, which faced crop losses due to drought and excessive rainfall. Other states where floods and heavy rains were major factors in crop loss were Bihar, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat and Odisha.

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