Wheat sowing target: prolonged dry spell may result in up to 20 percent decrease

The prolonged dry spell has delayed wheat crop sowing which may negatively impact on its output, especially in the rain-fed areas of the country. A senior official of Ministry of National Food Security and Research and agriculture experts told that wheat sowing in Pakistan begins from November 01, but the current dry spell has caused a delay in the crop's sowing which may result in a decrease of up to 20 percent in the sowing target.

He said that if the dry spell continues for some time the country will miss the wheat sowing as well as production target. "Rain-fed areas of the country produce 10 percent of total wheat production", he said, adding that dry spell will also negatively impact on sowing of wheat in the irrigated areas of the country. The official said that government has set wheat production target at 26.01 million tons for Rabi sowing season 2016-17 from an area of 9.12 million hectares. Out of 26.01 million tons, Punjab is projected to produce 19.51 million tons, Sindh 4.2 million tons, Khyber Pakhtunkhawa 1.4 million tons and Balochistan 0.9 million tons, he said.

The weather advisory issued for the farmers from November 21 to November 30, by Pakistan Metrological Department (PMD) states that during the last two months dry weather has been reported in most of agricultural plains of the country and is likely to prevail till mid December. Keeping in view the present and expected dry atmospheric soil conditions, an advisory has been issued for the farming community especially for rain-fed areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab.

It says that farmers obtaining crop water through tube wells are advised to schedule the irrigation as per crop requirement. Farmers may sow recommended varieties and seed should be specially treated before sowing in consultation with agricultural offices, it added.

The advisory further advises farmers to cultivate winter vegetables in time. In areas like Potohar region and adjoining areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where rain water storages are available farmers are advised to irrigate crops by using available irrigation methods like sprinkler irrigation etc.

According to weather outlook issued for November and December, 2016, analysis of global and regional atmospheric and oceanic circulation depicts that high pressure anomaly over Central Asia will persist which is likely to push the western disturbances (rain bearing systems) to pass across north of Pakistan.

Other external forcing such as El Nino Southern Oscillations (ENSO), North Atlantic Oscillations (NAO) and Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) are predicted to persist in their neutral phase during the months of November and December this year. The aggregate impact of climate forcing on Pakistan weather pattern will be negative. Fewer western disturbances will reach Pakistan's geographic limits effectively. Therefore, less than average precipitation is expected. It will result in cooler nights and warmer days.

Less frequent snowfall events are expected over the mountainous areas of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). Fog events in plain areas of Punjab and KP are expected to occur from December. In view of expected below normal precipitation in November and December which coincides with sowing season of Rabi crop, water shortage is most likely. Therefore, Indus River System Authority (IRSA) and Irrigation departments are urged to judiciously use water.