Why in news?
=>A joint exercise is being conducted by IIT Gandhinagar and the India Meteorological Department (IMD), for the first time, provides a country-wide soil moisture forecast at seven and 30-day lead times.
=>Soil moisture is crucial for agriculture since it directly affects crop growth and how much irrigation is required for the area.
‘Variable Infiltration Capacity’ model:
=>Researchers used the ‘Variable Infiltration Capacity’ model to provide the soil moisture prediction.
=>The product, termed ‘Experimental Forecasts Land Surface Products’, is available on the IMD website and has been developed using the hydrological model that takes into consideration soil, vegetation, land use and land cover among other parameters.
Why it matters?
=>Forecasting of soil moisture holds significance for the rabi season. As per official data, the total area sown under rabi crops is around 625 lakh hectares of which wheat takes up 300 lakh hectares. Timely soil moisture forecasts will help target interventions, in terms of seed varieties for better planning in agriculture.
=>At present, the IIT Gandhinagar team is using the IMD’s grid-level observations and forecast products of rainfall and temperature.
=>With the rabi season around the corner, a countrywide forecast prepared at the end of the monsoon season suggests deficit soil moisture conditions are likely in Gujarat, Bihar, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu and southern Andhra Pradesh. This means that if there is not enough rainfall in one or two months, these are regions which will demand heavy irrigation whether that comes from groundwater or surface water storage (reservoirs).
=>The analysis also indicates that soil moisture conditions in western Uttar Pradesh, Bundelkhand, and Chhattisgarh are likely to be normal or surplus at the start of the rabi sowing season.
=>In Gujarat, a look at the monsoon season rainfall this year shows rainfall deficit, while the Narmada basin also received inadequate rainfall. The Sardar Sarovar reservoir may not have received enough storage and since the catchment of the reservoir did not receive normal rainfall. In these conditions, the state may face water stress, which can result in excessive groundwater pumping for irrigation.
=>In Bundelkhand, most farmers keep their land fallow or just grow some fodder crop during the kharif season since the rains are unpredictable and there could be extended dry spells after sowing. They then mainly cultivate the rabi crop using the soil moisture left behind by the monsoon rains. It is a similar trend in Bihar, in low lying areas of Seemanchal and Kosi belt, where no crop is grown during Kharif because of inundated lands.
Pic courtesy:NRCS – USDA
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