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Punjab Agriculture University Advises which Variety to Sow Rice (Paddy)

India has three rice farming seasons- summer, autumn and winter. However, the chief rice growing season is kharif  season also called ‘winter rice’. The sowing time is June-July and is harvested during November- December months. 84 percent of the country’s rice supply is grown in the kharif crop. Rice is the staple food of people from Southern and eastern parts of India. It is hence widely cultivated in India and other parts of Asia such as China, Japan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Thailand, etc. Cultivating rice is indeed laborious and it needs a lot of water. Therefore, rice cultivation is practiced in those places wherein the labor cost is less and rainfall is high.

While the farmer outfits in Punjab have been demanding from the State government to let them transplant paddy before June 20, the Ludhiana-based Punjab Agricultural University has suggested that they sow early maturing varieties which are immune to humidity.

With an aim to preserve water and check the fast depleting groundwater table in the State, the Punjab government had this year instructed farmers to start paddy transplantation not before June 20.

“Farmers should adopt PAU’s early maturing paddy varieties such as PR121, PR122, PR124, PR126, PR127. The sowing time of these varieties can be aligned with the onset of monsoon in the region that normally hits Punjab by June end, therefore its water requirement can be achieved through seasonal rainfall,” said PAU Vice-Chancellor Baldev Singh Dhillon.

Pointing out that these varieties mature in about 93 to 110 days after transplanting and are immune to humidity at the time of marketing of the harvested crop, Mr. Dhillon said that transplanting paddy after the recommended date would also cut down expenditure on pesticides.

Since rice can grow in a variety of climate and altitude it is cultivated in different seasons in different parts of the country. In areas of high rainfall and low winter temperature (northern and western parts) rice crop is grown once a year- during May to November. Two or three crops are grown in the southern and eastern states. Rice cultivated during rabi season is also called as ‘summer rice’. It is sown in the months of November to February and harvested during March to June. 9 percent  of total rice crop is grown in this season. Early maturing varieties are normally grown during this time.

The pre-kharif or ‘autumn rice’ is sown during May to August. The sowing time also depends on the rainfall and weather condition. Hence the timing may differ slightly from place to place. Generally, it is harvested during September- October months. 7% of the total rice crop in India grows in this season and short duration varieties which mature within 90-110 days are cultivated.

Rice is the seed of a grass variety called Oryza sativa and Oryza glaberrima. Paddy plant has a fibrous root with the plant growing upto 6 feet tall. It has a round jointed stem with leaves being long and pointed. The edible seeds which are sold commercially as ‘rice’ grow on the top in the form of separate stalks. Technically this is called paddy as the seeds are covered with a brown colored husk. The paddy is then harvested and dehusked resulting in the commercially important rice. Often people confuse rice and paddy. Rice fields are also called as paddy fields.

The pre-kharif or ‘autumn rice’ is sown during May to August. The sowing time also depends on the rainfall and weather condition. Hence the timing may differ slightly from place to place. Generally, it is harvested during September- October months. 7% of the total rice crop in India grows in this season and short duration varieties which mature within 90-110 days are cultivated.

Rice is the seed of a grass variety called Oryza sativa and Oryza glaberrima. Paddy plant has a fibrous root with the plant growing upto 6 feet tall. It has a round jointed stem with leaves being long and pointed. The edible seeds which are sold commercially as ‘rice’ grow on the top in the form of separate stalks. Technically this is called paddy as the seeds are covered with a brown colored husk. The paddy is then harvested and dehusked resulting in the commercially important rice. Often people confuse rice and paddy. Rice fields are also called as paddy fields.

Farmers are a conservative community, and may also lack knowledge of the agriculture science and its advancements. But that does not necessarily mean their protest is unjustified. In the present case, they claim the varieties most of them have been sowing in recent years will not be ripe for harvest in time for the next crop. That will also cause procurement issues owing to high moisture content in the produce.

The government’s claim is there are varieties recommended by Punjab Agricultural University that mature in a shorter duration, and are appropriate for transplanting on June 20. This is correct, but the complete truth is that the need for this variety has been suddenly sprung upon the farmers as well as the Agriculture Department, with neither prepared for it.

The move to shift the date from the earlier practice of June 15 to June 20 was initiated by a proposal from the Punjab Pollution Control Board, which had suggested June 25. It was a good idea, but perhaps this year could have been used to make the farmers aware, and also gear up the government’s own machinery to ensure adequate supply of appropriate seeds. None of that happened, but the government did take up the implementation of the prohibitory order with great zeal; therefore the agitation across the state.

The Opposition has been adding to the confusion by claiming the date has been shifted as the government was unable to provide sufficient power. That is not true, as the sequence of events leading to the decision shows. On a critical subject such as groundwater, the Opposition is doing a disservice by sowing distrust among farmers regarding a scientific issue.

As it is, there are reasons behind farmers’ distrust of recommendations of PAU, the strongest being the earlier fiasco of a variety that was made popular but not procured by the FCI because of colour issues. The Agriculture Department too has not covered itself in glory with a series of scams, especially in pesticides. Winning trust is a major issue here. And that does not happen with instant orders. Moreover, even the claim that the short-duration variety gives the same yield as the long-duration is also being challenged by farmers.

Dr Jasbir Singh Bains, Punjab Director of Agriculture, has warned of parts of the state going barren from over-exploitation of water. It is a serious issue that requires communication and trust between the scientific community, the government, and the farmers. As things stand today, how far we are from diversification from paddy is made obvious by the miserable failure to change even the variety of paddy. That is because the entire agriculture economy is part of a larger framework, in which the farmer has the least control.

If the present impasse has to be resolved, the government as well as farm leaders have to shed their confrontationist approach, and present their respective cases point by point, and make a genuine attempt at addressing the concerns. The water reserves found at the depths to which the state is plumbing are a one-time non-renewable resource.

As a step towards conserving depleting water level, Punjab government had issued an ordinance in 2008, declaring June 8 as the initiation date for sowing of paddy. Later, in 2014, this date was extended to June 15.

Chander Mohan

Krishi Jagran/New Delhi



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