GUWAHATI, Sept 10 - With floods hitting the State with increasing frequency and causing substantial crop damage, agriculture scientists have called for an effective adaptation strategy to mitigate the flood-induced damage.
As the floods occur in multiple waves and the nature and extent of damage varies, the adaptation approach and contingency plan may also accordingly vary.
The problems that arise during flood time range from deficit of seedlings for planting sali rice and rice seedlings (surviving the flood damage) getting over-aged due to the farmers� inability to transplant the seedlings within the stipulated time to damage of the transplanted rice at different stages of growth.
�Depending on the time of flood occurrence, the farmers can choose high-yielding improved rice varieties with appropriate duration, including early-maturing varieties. The duration of the varieties should be such that the varieties must come to flowering within October,� Dr PK Pathak, Associate Director of Research, Assam Agricultural University (AAU), told The Assam Tribune.
In situations where flood water may submerge the rice plants for not more than two weeks, the farmers should opt for submergence-tolerant sali rice varieties like Ranjit Sub 1, Bahadur Sub 1, Jalashree, Jalkuwari (all AAU-developed varieties), Swarna Sub 1, etc.
In flood-prone areas, the farmers can choose Gitesh for sali rice crop as this is suitable for staggered planting with aged seedlings.
�We need to maintain a buffer stock of seeds of early and mid-early rice varieties such as Luit, Disang, Kolong, Dikhow, Lachit, IR50, etc., every year as a matter of policy by the State government and with participation of AAU, Assam Seeds Corporation, and the Department of Agriculture,� Dr Pathak said.
Having a contingency plan with thrust on crop care during flood time can also ease the situation for the farmers.
According to Dr Pathak, post-flood, in the event of non-availability of seedlings and constraints of transplanting rice crop due to shortage of man and animal power, the farmers may opt for growing rice following direct sowing of seeds on the puddled field with sprouted seeds depending on the suitability of the field conditions.
�It is always advisable to arrange sowing of the seeds in line to facilitate better management and also to ensure optimum plant population. It is also advisable to use herbicide for weed control. Under no circumstance, direct sowing can be delayed beyond the first week of September even with the shortest-duration varieties,� he said.
In upland and medium lands where farmers fail to grow rice, they should be guided and duly supported for growing blackgram and green gram during end of August to mid of September with provision of surface drainage.
�A massive programme for encouraging farmers to grow rabi crops is another option. For this, the farmers should be supplied free seeds of appropriate crops (based on land suitability/farmers� choice),� Dr Pathak said, adding that expanding irrigation facilities, particularly through installation/renovation of shallow tube-wells can compensate the farmers for their loss in the sali season.
Expanding the area under Boro rice can also compensate the farmers� loss in rice production during the sali season.
Sources in the agriculture department said that steps taken by it in the aftermath of the floods included raising of community nurseries for sali paddy over 700 hectares of land, distribution of 2,300 quintals of kharif black gram seeds to cover 11,500 hectares of land.
�Flood-affected families are being given first priority for subsidized inputs under different ongoing schemes,� sources said.
The floods this year affected a total of 3.823 lakh hectares of cropland in 30 of the 33 districts in the State. The total area of crop damage was 2.79 hectares and the total number of affected farm families was 6.19 lakh.