High yield loss is feared in winter crops this year because of bad weather marked by unusual heavy rains and high temperatures.
The Department of Agricultural Extension, however, appeared to have made an underestimation of the actual situation in its preliminary assessment presenting the account of only areas of inundation, experts told New Age on Tuesday.
The assessment was prepared with reports of losses from only 17 districts though rains occurred across the country throughout February, making the last winter month the wettest in 61 years.
‘Except for a little rain weather was favourable for crop production,’ said monitoring and implementation additional director of the department Alhaz Uddin Ahammed.
The Met Office also recorded temperatures jumping above the normal average at times throughout the three winter months beginning in December in the past winter.
The department assessment completely ignored impacts of high temperature on crops, the experts said.
It also made no reference to impacts of severe hailstorms reported in northern and western districts, they said.
The assessment said that rains in the last week of February affected 40,976 hectares of cropland.
Tuber Crops Research Centre former director Sajeda Akhter said that the rains were likely to have devastating impacts on potato production.
‘Rain is the enemy of potato,’ she said.
She said that rains came at the peak of potato harvest season.
Potato cultivation begins in Bangladesh in November and is harvested by February.
One crore tonnes of potato is expected to be produced from 4,76,000 hectares this year while about 47 per cent potatoes were harvested till February 26, according to the department.
Wet potato cannot be stored as high moisture makes potatoes to rot faster, Sajeda said.
She said that farmers would need to wait until soil was completely dry for plucking potatoes if they demanded a good price.
‘In that case they will be late in sowing their next crop,’ said Sajeda.
The relation of potato production to temperature is that its yield reduces as temperature goes beyond 20C.
Met Office repeatedly recorded temperature jumping up to five degrees above the normal average of 19.6C in February.
The department have reports about potential impacts on potato production in six districts covering only 2,026 hectares.
With 38,000 hectares under potato cultivation, Munshiganj is one of the top potato producing districts in the country and about 30 per cent potato is still in the field facing stressful weather conditions but the department has no report about it.
Mohammad Belayet, a farmer from Tongibari in Munshiganj, said that some of their potato fields were still under water or saturated.
‘Nobody will buy potato from us,’ he said.
Agriculture extension deputy director in the district Humayun Kabir, however, claimed that the loss was negligible.
Almost similar situation was found in other major potato growing districts like Rangpur, Dinajpur and Cumilla.
Wheat and Maize Research Institute director Naresh Chandra Deb Barma said that hailstorms caused stalk lodging in wheat fields at many places.
Wheat production is affected if rain comes in sheaf formation stage, which is mid February, said Naresh.
Clouded sky in late February and at the beginning of March block sunlight required for ripening of wheat eventually delaying its maturity and production, he said.
High temperature and rain also sets the stage for outbreak of blast disease which usually hits about wheat harvesting time from mid to late March, he said.
Unfavourable weather reduced wheat acreage over the past three years, from about 3.75 lakh hectares in 2017 to 3.29 hectares in 2019.
Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute senior scientific officer Nazim Uddin said that for vegetable growers the rain came at a very critical time.
He said that winter vegetable harvest reached its peak in February while farmers started sowing summer vegetables around the time.
Excessive water hampers seed germination and causes stunting affecting yield, he said.
Heavy rain is also associated with outbreak of bacterial wilt in vegetables like brinjal and tomato.
‘We need to get farmers ready to face any situation,’ said Nazim.
In pulse crops, heavy rains inspire vegetative growth more than flowering, said Pulse Research Centre director Rais Uddin Chawdhury.
Agricultural extension Narail deputy director Chinmoy Roy said that rainwater inundated 32 per cent of area where Masoor was cultivated and 20 per cent of area under Khesari cultivation.
He said that he needed another week to estimate potential losses from the inundation.
Agricultural extension Barguna deputy director Matiur Rahman predicted a fall of 46 tonnes in vegetable production.
Water stagnation became a major threat to Mung bean production in the district after 12,500 hectares had been inundated, he said