The cold wave and intense fog across the northern states are deemed beneficial for the rabi crops, notably the main cereal, wheat. Agricultural experts have, however, advised farmers to protect oilseeds and vegetable crops against a possible damage from frost, which may ensue when the fog lifts.
Krishi Bhawan now seems confident of achieving the target of increasing wheat production by two million tonnes over last year's record output of 80 mt. The area sown under wheat till December 31 was 26 million hectares, compared with 25.5 million sown till this date last year.
"The expansion in acreage, coupled with higher per hectare yield, will help bag bigger wheat harvest this year," Krishi Bhawan sources said. Higher production may lessen the government's worries in fighting a battle against rising food prices.
According to Ludhiana-based Punjab Agricultural University's agro-meteorologist K K Gill, the wheat crop is still in its early vegetative state and the cold and foggy weather is favourable for it. This is likely to promote tillering (number of shoots per plant), improving the prospects for higher yields.
Besides, the cold wave, the recent spell of rainfall in almost the entire rabi belt has also benefited the crops.
The India Meteorological Department has forecast the cold wave to continue in Punjab, Haryana, northern Rajasthan and adjoining areas for the next two days. Dense fog has been predicted all across the Indo-Gangetic plains during this period.
The cold wave may begin abating subsequently, the IMD said in its medium range weather forecast on Friday.
Agriculture experts are, however, keeping their fingers crossed on the prospects of other rabi crops, fearing damage if the cold persists for long and the night temperature drops further. The crops also need sunlight to be able to grow to their full potential.
Gill said frost injury to mustard has been observed in some parts of Punjab. The farmers have, therefore, been advised to apply light irrigation to oilseeds, sugarcane and potato crops to save these from adverse effects of frost.Many vegetable crops, notably capsicum, chillies, brinjal and tomato might also need protection against frost, Gill said. Nurseries of these crops are particularly vulnerable and should be protected by covering with plastic sheeting.