Rabi Crops: How To Grow

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All the crops have specific requirements, and they require suitable climatic conditions to grow and yield a good harvest. Based on the different climatic conditions, the crops are classified into the Kharif and Rabi crops.

Rabi and Kharif are the two distinct cropping patterns prevalent in many countries. They are dependent upon the Monsoon, thus localized in the Indian sub-continent. Rabi cropping season starts with sowing when the Monsoon ends.

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Farmers harvest the Rabi crops  before the advent of the summer season. On the contrary, Kharif crops are grown in summer, i.e., sown when the Monsoon ends and harvested when the end of the rainy season.

Here, we explore more about the Rabi crops and how they are grown and harvested. 

What are Rabi Crops?

Rabi crops or Rabi harvest are crops that are sown in winter. Farmers  harvest the Rabi crops in the spring in South Asia. Rabi has been derived from the Arabic word for “spring.” It is also called the “winter crop .” These crops are harvested during the springtime. Usually, sowing starts between October-November or when the monsoon rains stop entirely. 

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Cold and dry environment is best for Rabi crops. Rainfall plays a vital role in yielding both Rabi and Kharif crops. Rain is considered suitable for Kharif crops, while on the other hand, it may spoil the yield of these crops. Few people know the two agriculture patterns and their differences.

However, knowing the difference between the Rabi and Kharif crops may help explain why some crops are available during specific times of the year. It becomes essential as the prices of fruits, vegetables, and food grains highly depend on the yield of these two cropping patterns.

When is the Rabi Cropping Season?

The cropping season for Rabi starts with the onset of the Monsoon in the Indian subcontinent. Rabi cropping season starts with sowing with end of  monsoon. Rabi crop is harvested before the advent of the summer season.  The harvesting season for these crops begins in April – May and ends before the beginning of the summer. Rabi crops are grown either with rainwater percolated into the ground or irrigation. Rains in winter spoil the these crops.

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Rabi crops are alternatively known as winter crops. They are grown in October or November and then harvested in spring. They require frequent irrigation because they are grown in dry areas. Wheat, peas, pulses, mustard, gram, barley, and rapeseed are some of the significant Rabi crops. The crops are grown with rainwater that has percolated into the ground or by using irrigation methods. In winter, a good amount of rain spoils the Rabi crops but is suitable for Kharif season crops.

Barley, gram, mustard, oats, cabbage, capsicum, and tomato are a few Rabi crops. 

Important Rabi Crops

Some of the critical Rabi Crops include

  • Cereals – Barley, Gram, Rapeseed, Mustard, Oat, Bajra
  • Fruits – Banana, Okra or Lady Fingers, Tomato, Grapefruit. Mangoes and Lemons
  • Vegetables – Cabbage, Capsicum, Onion, Potato, Tomato, and Spinach

Wheat is one of most common and important Rabi crop. It requires cool temperatures of about 14°C to 18°C during its growing season. Rainfall of about 50 to 90 cm is most ideal. During harvesting season in the spring, wheat requires slightly warmer weather and bright sunshine.

Wheat Cultivation

Wheat grown in India is largely a medium-hard or soft, medium protein, white bread wheat, somewhat similar to U.S. hard white wheat. On the other hand, Wheat grown in central and western parts of India is hard, with high protein and high gluten content. Wheat is grown in a variety of soil. Soils with a clay loam soil or loam texture, good structure, and moderate water holding capacity are considered ideal for wheat cultivation.

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You must take care to avoid excessively drained and very porous soil. The soil must be neutral and should not react. Heavy soil with poor drainage and poor structure are not appropriate as wheat is very sensitive to waterlogging. You can grow wheat successfully on lighter soils if their water and nutrient holding capacity are improved.

Mustard Cultivation

Mustard is a Rabi crop and is cultivated in a subtropical climate. Cultivation of mustard seed is done in dry and cool weather. The mustard seed tree requires temperatures in the range of 10°C to 25°C. The mustard crop requires 625 -1000 mm annual rainfall. Mustard farm does not tolerate a freeze. Thus it requires a clear sky with frost-free conditions.

he spacing of mustard plants should be about 45 cm x 20 cm. Farmers can do mustard farming in various soils ranging from light to heavy loamy soils. However, medium to deep soils with good drainage are best suitable for cultivating the mustard crop. Soil’s ideal pH range for mustard variety is 6.0 to 7.5. Sandy and loamy sand soils are most suitable for mustard farming.

Differences Between Rabi and Kharif Crops

Some of the main differences between Kharif and Rabi crops are;

  • Kharif crops are monsoon or autumn crops. On the other hand, Rabi crops are  spring or winter crops.
  •  Farmers plant the these crops around the end of the monsoon or the beginning of the winter season. This is roughly around the months of September and October.  
  • Rainfall affects Kharif crops, as they require lots of water to grow. On the contrary, Rabi crops do not have any effects on Monsoon.
  • June and July are the favorable sowing season for the Kharif crops. March and April are sowing seasons for Rabi crops.
  • Farmers harvest Kharif crops in September and October and Rabi in March and April.
  • Kharif crops depend on rainfall patterns, whereas rainfall does not affect Rabi.
  • Rabi crops require a warm climate for seed germination and a cold environment for their development. Kharif crops require hot weather and a large amount of water for growth. 
  • Wet warm weather and shorter day lengths are favorable for flowering in the case of Kharif crops, whereas, in the case of Rabi, dry and cold weather and more extended day length are beneficial for flowering.
  • Major Kharif crops are Cotton, maize, Rice, Jowar, and bajra, whereas major Rabi Crops are Wheat, gram, peas, and barley.
  • In Kharif, crops flowering requires a shorter day length. While these crops flowering requires more extended day length.

Why are Rabi Crops Long-day plants?

The fundamentals behind the Kharif and Rabi crops is elementary. It is not just rain; Rabi and Kharif crops even depend on the sunlight/darkness during the season. The term called Photoperiodism means plants respond to darkness and light differently. The amount of darkness determines when the plants bloom and how many blooms are produced.

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Rabi crops require less darkness(more extended days). Rabi crops are called long-day plants. The flowers bloom in March- April when the days are longer. Sunrise is early, and Sunset is late, making the night smaller. So less darkness allows Rabi crops flowers to bloom.

Soil Requirements for Rabi Crops

Rabi crops grow best on well-drained fertile, clay loam to medium black soils. However, farmers can also raise a good harvest in sandy loam and black soils. Heavy soils with poor drainage are unsuitable because Wheat is sensitive to water logging.

The durum types express significant yellow berry problems when grown in light soils, resulting in poor quality grains. The ground should be neutral in reaction to Climatic requirements. The wheat crop has wide adaptability. You can grow wheat  in the tropical ,subtropical zone and temperate zone.

The most suitable for the these crops is the dry and cool weather. The optimum temperature required for ideal germination of the Rabi crop like Wheat ranges from 20 to 25ºC. Rains received immediately after sowing hampers germination and encourages seedling blight, while high humidity and low temperature are ideal for rust attack.

The high temperatures at the season’s starting and ending determine the duration available for wheat cultivation, ranging from 100 days down south to more than 145 days on northwestern plains and 180 days in the hills. The scorching temperature during the grain ripening period results in grain shriveling. 

Cultural Practices for Rabi Crops 

 (i) Land Preparation: The Rabi crops require a well-pulverized and compact seed bed for good uniform germination. Farmers should prepare the field under conditions by carrying one deep plowing with soil turning plow. They should then follow it up with two harrowing. Additionally, planking is desirable.

Recently sowing practices like zero-tillage and minimum tillage using a specially designed zero-till seeding-cum-fertilizer drill.  Dry wheat requires a friable seedbed for better germination and good crop growth. Farmers dry the accumulated rainwater from the fields completely. In the next step, farmers prepare the land by giving two to three harrowing. This operation helps in removing weeds and conserving more moisture in the soil.

 (ii) Time of sowing and varieties: Time of sowing is an essential aspect of obtaining a good wheat yield. Usually, farmers sow wheat when the average daily temperatures fall to around 22-23°C. This happens only in November in most wheat growing areas. 

Conclusion

Rabi and Kharif crops indicate the right time to sow, raise and harvest a particular crop. Apart from these two, one more type is the Zaid crop. Farmers cultivate Zaid crop in the summer season from March to June. It includes watermelon, muskmelon, bitter gourd, cucumber, etc.

Read related topics on contour ploughing, and more.

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