With maize cultivation growing more popular each year, wheat cultivation in Rangpur agriculture region is seeing a significant decline.
The alarming trend of farming maize, primarily used to make animal feed, on larger areas in the region might result in reduction of wheat production and thus undermine food security for the country's population, according to agronomists.
Shorter winter and higher cost of cultivation against poor yield are main reasons behind the dwindling popularity of wheat as a crop of choice among farmers in the region comprised of five districts -- Rangpur, Nilphamari, Gaibandha, Kurigram and Lalmonirhat.
On the contrary, early arrival of warm weather, a favourable condition for maize farming, along with higher yield and lower production cost are helping farmers choose maize over wheat.
Sirajul Islam, additional deputy director (ADD) of Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) in Nilphamari, said cold weather is needed for bumper harvest of wheat. But due to consecutive shorter winters over past few years, wheat production has been on the decline.
This situation is making farmers lose interest in wheat cultivation, he added.
Mazedul Islam, Sadar upazila agriculture officer in Nilphamari, said the farmers prefer maize as they reap a harvest of approximately 80 maunds of maize at a cost of Tk 18 thousand from each acre of land, as opposed to only 26 maunds of wheat, costing Tk 15 thousand, from the same area of land.
Mohammad Rafiq, sub assistant agriculture officer of DAE for Rangpur region, said against targeted wheat cultivation on 24 thousand hectares, farmers this year cultivated wheat on only 20 thousand hectares of land.
“Gradual fall in area of wheat cultivation is evident. It was cultivated on 26.7 thousand hectares in 2017; 21.7 thousand hectares in 2018 and 20 thousand hectares in 2019,” he said.
Maize cultivation, in contrast, has been increasing year by year. It reached to 94 thousand hectares this year, while it was 83 thousand and 76.5 thousand hectares in 2018 and 2017, he added.
Farmer Abdul Gaffar of Balagram village in Jaldhaka upazila of Nilphamari, said he had cultivated maize and wheat on two acres of land each.
After harvest, he earned Tk 1 lakh at Tk 16 per kg of maize and Tk 52 thousand at Tk 25 for each kg of wheat.
“So, I curtailed wheat [cultivation] area to one acre and increased maize to three acres this year,” he said.
Hatem Ali, another farmer of Harialkuthi village in Taraganj upazila of Rangpur, said he cultivated maize on 20 acres of land as most other crops are not as profitable as maize.
Deputy Director of DAE for Rangpur region Md Moniruzzaman said, “Wheat cultivation is falling, which is alarming. But scientists at Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) are working on to develop a heat-tolerant and high-yielding wheat variety.”