CHAKWAL: Unusual rainfall and windstorms in the Potohar region earlier this week have caused “irreparable damage” to the desi variety of wheat crops, according to farmers and Punjab agriculture department officials.
Although the freak weather destroyed wheat in a large part of South Punjab, recommended new varieties of wheat crops cultivated in the Potohar region survived the wind and hailstorms and torrential rain.
Wheat was grown on 300,000 acres in Chakwal district alone, and due to the above normal and intermittent rain this winter a bumper wheat yield is expected in Chakwal and nearby districts. Desi wheat known as rodi is also grown in large swathes of the region.
The desi variety was “badly affected” by the windstorm, Chakwal Agriculture Department Assistant Director Dr Mohammad Khalid told Dawn. He said the windstorm had caused the wheat to be laid down, and it was unlikely to recover now.
Newer variety of wheat crop survived weather, gram crops badly affected
“The stem of this variety is thinner than other modern varieties, which is why it could not endure the windstorm,” Dr Khalid explained.
The awnless rodi variety is one of the most sought after in rural areas when it comes to farmers’ domestic use. Zaffar Abbas, a farmer, said that chapattis made using flour from rodi wheat are more flavourful and its husk is better than that of other varieties, which makes it the preferred one for animals as husk is an inevitable requisite for cattle fodder.
Unripe crops of this variety are also used as fodder because its kernel does not have any bristly material, called the beard, and cattle can eat it easily. Rodi is also drought tolerant, but not able to produce sufficient yield because its spikes or ears are smaller than other varieties.
“This variety is still cultivated in a considerable quantity in the region,” Dr Khalid said, adding that more than 80pc of this variety has been damaged by the recent weather.
“Other varieties have also been affected to some extent but they could manage to recover from the recent attack of freakish weather,” he said.
Hailstorms also destroyed wheat crops in parts of Talagang and Lawa tehsils, and severely damaged what in Mianwali, Attock, Bhakar and across south Punjab.
Gram crop was also affected by the rain and wind. An official said: “Grams do not need moisture at this time of the season. The rain at this time badly affected the gram yield.”
Dr Mohammad Hanif, chief meteorologist at the Pakistan Meteorological Department said the country witnessed quite an unusual pattern of rainfall.
“This is happening due to climate change, as flash floods also recently hit Iran and Afghanistan. The freakish weather that struck Pakistan is just the extension of that phenomenon, which visited neighbouring countries,” he said, adding that the weather will remain dry for a week but rain is expected by next Thursday.
“Farmers should harvest their crops as soon as possible,” he said.
Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2019