Critical stages for irrigation

Critical stages for irrigation

The stage at which the water stress causes severe yield reduction is also known as
critical stage of water requirement. It is also known as moisture sensitive period.
Moisture stress due to restricted supply of water during the moisture sensitive period or
critical stage will irrevocably reduce the yield. Provision of adequate water and fertilizer
at other growth stage will not even help in recovering the yield loss due to stress at
critical periods.

It general the mid season stage is most sensitive to water shortage because the
shortage during this period will be reflected significantly on yield. For most of the crops
the least sensitive stages are ripening and harvesting except for vegetables like Lettuce,
Cabbage etc., which need water upto harvesting.

Under scarce condition, in an irrigation project or in a farm, if mono cropping is
followed with staggered sowing or planting, it is better to schedule irrigation to crop
which has reached mid season stage since it is the most critical stage.
The sensitive stages vary from crop to crop as given below.

Sensitive stage of different crops cereals and millets

Crop           Critical stages / Sensitive stages

Rice – Panicle initiation critical staps. heading and flowering

Sorghum – Flowering and grain formation

Maize – Just prior to tasseling and grain filling

Cumbu – Heading and flowering

Ragi – Primordial initiation and flowering

Wheat – Crown root initiation, tillering and booting

Oil seeds

Groundnut – Flowering peg initiation and penetration and pod development

Sesame – Blooming to maturity

Sunflower – Two weeks before and after flowering

Soybean – Blooming and seed formation

Safflower – From rosette to flowering

Castor – Full growing period

Cash crop

Cotton – Flowering and Boll formation

Sugarcane – Maximum vegetative stage

Tobacco – Immediately after transplanting 


Onion – Bulb formation to maturity

Tomato – Flowering and fruit setting

Chillies – Flowering

Cabbage – Head formation to maturity


Alfalfa – Immediately after cutting for hay crop and flowering for seed crop

Beans – Flowering and pod setting

Peas – Flowering and pod formation


Coconut – Nursery stage root enlargement

Potato – Tuber initiation and maturity

Banana – Throughout the growth

Citrus – Flowering, fruit setting and enlargement

Mango – Flowering

Coffee – Flowering and fruit development

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