Can Solar Water Pumps Save India this Monsoon?

Story this year

This year the states of Punjab and Haryana, one of India’s top states in terms of agricultural contribution, face deficit of 59% each, while in western Uttar Pradesh the deficit is 43% and 55% in J&K. While Gujarat faces 62 % deficit, it is 60% in Marathwada and 48% in central Maharashtra. The seasonal rains have been playing truant in plains of northwest and central area in the sowing month since the beginning of June, a pre-cursor to the first drought in five years. Experts fear that northwest and central parts are likely to end up with a massive deficit even if the monsoon revives. In short the picture looks grim even though the rains show some signs of revival. But this is a blog about solar power, and installing solar won’t get us any more rains. So how are the two related? As we understand that, when monsoons are weak, agriculture will depend more on ground water, the application of solar power starts making sense. Let’s have some background before moving further.

Quick Crop Background

The agricultural crop year in India is from July to June. The Indian cropping season is classified into two main seasons – Kharif and Rabi based on the monsoon. The kharif cropping season is from July –October during the south-west monsoon and the Rabi cropping season is from October-March (winter). The crops grown between March and June are summer crops requiring the least amount of water. The kharif crops include rice, maize, sorghum, pearl millet/bajra, finger millet/ragi (cereals), arhar (pulses), soyabean, groundnut (oilseeds), cotton etc. These crops are totally dependent on the quantity of rain water as well its timing. Too much, too less or at wrong time may lay waste the whole year’s efforts . The rabi crops include wheat, barley, oats (cereals), chickpea/gram (pulses), linseed, mustard (oilseeds) etc. The seeds are sown after the rains have gone and harvesting begins in the dry season in India. Rabi crops require water from sources as underground water tables, wells, lakes and rivers. Rabi crops have the potential to pick up the Kharif slack especially in cases where, due to delayed monsoon, kharif crop fails but ensures that water tables are high enough to feed a bumper Rabi crop minimizing or even eliminating the impact of the unusual monsoon on the overall GDP.

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