At a time when onion prices are soaring across the country due to a supply squeeze, a recent survey by Pune-based Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the Directorate of Onion and Garlic Research (DOGR) has revealed that farmers employing better technology were able to contain onion crop damage.
The survey, monitoring the effect of erratic monsoon on kharif and late kharif crops in major onion-growing districts of Maharashtra — Pune, Ahmednagar and Nasik — showed: “Heavy rains affected the entire kharif harvest, late kharif standing crop, and rabi nursery. The intensity of kharif crop damage could have been up to 80 per cent in Baramati and Purandar, where the crop was under waterlogged conditions, as farmers practised the flat-bed system of planting, with a poor drainage.”
In some areas, heavy infestation of diseases damaged late kharif crop by up to 60 per cent. Besides, rabi onion nurseries suffered up to 50 per cent damage, with heavy rainfall drastically reducing the rabi planting area.
According to Major Singh, a director in DOGR, “farmers who employed better technology incurred much less damage”.
Singh said in the survey report that some farmers in Purandar who followed the ICAR-DOGR recommendation of raised-bed plantation along with drip irrigation in onion crop suffered only 20 per cent to 30 per cent damage, despite erratic rains. “We observed that the main cause for kharif onion yield loss was poor drainage in main fields exposing plants to prolonged periods of waterlogged stress. Under a climate-change scenario, similar unprecedented rainfall events might recur, so we need to create awareness among farmers about the kharif onion production with raised-bed planting, as recommended by ICAR-DOGR,” he added.
On price analysis, the survey report said: "Usually kharif onion produce hits the market by October. But, due to heavy rains in 2019, its arrival was delayed to November. According to information from Lasalgaon APMC, kharif onion arrivals this year fell to 2,818 quintals from 50,824 quintals in November 2018. This resulted in an onion shortage in the supply chain, and a price hike thereby."