Drought occurs every 2.5 years: ICAR report

In a finding that could help predict drought, farm scientists have noticed that deficit rainfall and drought follow a chronological pattern, repeating every 2.5 years in Telangana and Rayalaseema, and once in five years in coastal Andhra. According to a study of rain pattern in peninsular India by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the frequency of deficit rainfall and resultant drought is once in 2.5 years in Rayalaseema and Telangana, three years in entire Tamil Nadu, four years in Vidarbha and north interior Karnataka, and once in five years in coastal Andhra Pradesh, south interior Karnataka and Madhya Maharashtra.

Peninsular India witnessed El Nino during 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2009 resulting in deficit rainfall and consequent fall in production of food grains. The following years showed increased farm output. The ICAR has also warned that the uncertainties related to monsoons will stay and even might increase in future due to climate change.

“It is important to evolve strategies to cope with these uncertainties. This can be done only by fully using existing scientific knowledge on early warning systems, crop planning in relation to progress of monsoon and timely dissemination of weather-based agro advisories to farmers,” says ICAR's report on “Contingency crop planning for 100 districts in peninsular India”, prepared by the city-based Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture.

According to the ICAR report, “any deviation from the normal rainfall pattern seriously affects production of food grains, fodder availability to livestock, supply of raw materials to agro-industries, livelihoods of rural workforce. It leads to increase in prices and inflation and finally affects the share of agriculture in GDP.” Agriculture in peninsular India is predominantly rainfed with 57 per cent area in AP, 70 per cent in Karnataka and Kerala, 82 per cent in Maharashtra and 43 per cent in Tamil Nadu falling under rainfed farming.

The problem is compounded in case of mid-season breaks in monsoon between July and September. This implies regular monsoon failures in one part or the other in this region results in serious consequences for small and marginal farmers and livelihoods of the rural poor. Breaks in monsoon are responsible for deficit soil moisture conditions during early, mid and late season.

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