With both maximum and minimum temperatures at 3-5 degrees Celsius above normal in most of the country’s wheat-growing areas, there is concern over the crop currently in farmers’ fields and due for harvesting only in April. 


What is the issue?

  • Last year’s mercury spike after mid-March singed the crop when it was in the final stages of grain formation and filling.
  • This time, heat conditions — or at least the winter’s abrupt curtailing — are prevailing from mid-February itself, when the wheat has hardly entered the flowering and heading period, which precedes kernel development.
  • If temperatures continue to soar, the grains will not have the time to accumulate sufficient starch and proteins.
  • Forced maturity would make them come out shriveled, translating into lower yields. This happened with the 2021-22 crop.
  • The difference now is that government wheat stocks are roughly half of their year-ago levels.


Vulnerability to climate change

  • A second successive poor crop — one hopes March does not turn out that hot — also corroborates wheat’s vulnerability to climate change. In this case, it has to do with the early arrival of summer.
  • All the more reason, then, to breed wheat varieties that can tolerate terminal heat stress or are amenable to harvesting by March-end.


What is the solution?

  • The Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) has developed a variety, HD-3385, suitable for sowing in the second half of October, as against the usual time from early to late November.
  • While the normal varieties are prone to premature flowering when planted early, HD-3385 has a longer window not only for grain development, but also for vegetative growth of roots, stems and leaves.
  • IARI scientists claim that its grain yields, too, are 1-1.5 tonnes per hectare higher than the existing varieties. The good thing is that the institute has licensed the new variety to a private company for seed multiplication and commercialisation.
  • It should help in faster lab-to-land adoption, even while fully protecting IARI’s intellectual property rights.



Sowing wheat in October would, of course, present a challenge in Punjab and Haryana, where farmers have a short window after harvesting of paddy. They resort to burning stubble in order to sow wheat even in November.



If there are demonstrable benefits from early sowing, varieties such as HD-3385 may actually induce farmers to cultivate wheat using happy seeders and other non-burn residue management technologies. While that is welcome, it is equally clear that agriculture scientists have a lot of work ahead. At the core of it will be breeding for climate change.


SourceThe Indian Express


QUESTION – Wheat crop is becoming exceedingly vulnerable to climate change and global warming. Discuss the potential solutions that we have found recently and examine if they are viable or not.