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Innovative Viable Solution to Rice Residue Burning

KJ Staff
KJ Staff
all india map

NASA satellite images (November 03, 2016) showing intensity of rice residue burning (shown in red dots) in North-West India

The rice-wheat cropping system (RWCS) is a major food and agriculture production system in the Indo-Gangetic Plains of India covering nearly 10.5 million hectares including 4.1 million hectares of the northwestern (NW) states comprising Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand. The system produces about 34 million tonnes of rice residues. The mechanized harvesting and threshing of rice using combine harvesters is a common practice in NW India. In the process, residues are left behind the combine harvesters in a narrow strip (windrow) in the field. Disposal or utilization of the leftover residue in the short window of ten to twenty days for timely planting of wheat crop is a difficult task. Therefore, the farmers commonly opt for burning of rice residue in the combine-harvested fields due to lack of access to user-friendly, cost- and time-effective options, burning about 23 million tonnes of rice residues annually. This has serious environment, soil, animal and human health as well as economic implications due to loss of nutrients and medical costs of air pollutants jeopardizing the One Health Mission of the Government of India. Therefore, 

a concerted collective action to solve the problem of crop residue burning is urgently required.

residue Farming

Deeply concerned with this national problem, the Honorable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, Chairing a meeting related to Science and Technology issues on July 18, 2017, had underpinned “.. big problem of pollution in cities like New Delhi in Northern India on account of burning agricultural residue in northern plains”, and sought tangible solution. As we see today, the Prime Minister’s foresight had transcended the unprecedented air pollution crisis in Delhi during the past 10 days. We may recall that extensive crop burning resulted in Delhi air becoming the most polluted in the World in the first week of November 2016, compelling the Government to declare Delhi air pollution an emergency.

Immediately responding to the Prime Minister’s call, and considering the seriousness of the national concerns due to burning of the agricultural residue in the rice-wheat cropping system, the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS) had constituted an expert committee and had several rounds of discussions to identify suitable technology, which may address the problem of crop residue burning in shortest possible time, and developed a policy brief entitled “Innovative Viable Solution to Rice Residue Burning in Rice-Wheat Cropping System through Concurrent Use of Super Straw Management System-fitted Combines and Turbo Happy Seeder” to address the problem.

In preparing the brief, the Academy examined the various options suggested from different corners for achieving the desired results. It examined the economic feasibility, scalability, and sustainability dimensions and suggested an innovative solution which is compatible with the Government of India’s perspective of improved soil health, more crops per drop, doubling farmers’ income, reducing chemical load in agriculture, minimizing weather risks, and lowering environmental foot prints. Based on in-depth analysis and to provide immediate solution to the burning problem, the Academy came up with an innovative viable solution comprising the following six components, as contained in the Academy’s Policy Brief:

1. Attachment of super SMS (straw management systems) needs to be made mandatory for registration of all new combine harvesters in all the states affected by crop residue burning; this approach has already been initiated by the State of Punjab. Also, there is a need to encourage all the combine harvester operators to attach super SMS on the old combine harvesters through an appropriate mechanism and policy environment.

2. Promotion of manufacturing of good quality happy seeders to cover all the combine harvested rice acreage where residues are being burnt. It is estimated that a total of about 60000 Turbo Happy Seeders will be required. Fortunately, the manufacturing industry has the capacity to produce the required number of Turbo Happy Seeders and super SMS with in a year’s time.

3. Development of suitable mechanism to ensure availability of good quality happy seeders and SMS fitted combines to the farmers through promotion of Agriculture Service Centers: Since most farmers are small and marginal, purchase and owning Turbo Happy Seeder and super SMS by individual farmers is neither feasible nor desirable. Hence there is a need to promote ‘Turbo Happy Seeder Technology Package’ led self-sustaining business models through cooperatives (agriculture service centres), private service providers, farmer groups, young entrepreneurs etc. Suitable policy environments need to be devised to facilitate the agriculture service centers.

4.Training and Capacity Development: Training and capacity development is one of the core areas for out-scaling of ‘Happy Seeder Technology Package’. Therefore, there is a need for strengthening of capacity development of whole range of value chain actors involved in the process of Turbo Happy Seeder Technology Package (manufactures, operators, farmers, extension agents, civil society, policy planners, etc.). The SAUs, ICAR institutes and international centers like CIMMYT, BISA can play an important role in training capacity building. This needs to be linked with Skill India Mission.

5. Awareness Programmes: Large scale awareness campaigns at different stages of cropping season through range of activities including farmers’ fair, field days, exhibitions, traveling seminars, choupals, use of digital technologies (ICTs), social media, electronic and print media etc need to be launched and monitored for their efficacy in terms of implementation and adoption.

6. Convergence of relevant Government schemes and pooling resources: There are several Government schemes related to soil health, water saving, adapting to climate risks, reducing environmental footprints, doubling farmers’ income, food security, etc., wherein promotion of Turbo Happy Seeder technology package can contribute substantially. A mechanism therefore should be devised for incentivizing adoption of efficient management of crop residues and elimination of crop burning. Turbo Happy Seeder technology package therefore can also get a special place in such policy and incentive programmes.

7. Inclusion of technology of concurrent use of SMS-fitted combines and Turbo Happy Seeder for Certified Emission Reduction (CER) certification: A reduction in emissions entitles the entity to a credit in the form of a Certified Emission Reduction (CER) certificate. The CER is tradable and its holder can transfer it to an entity which needs Carbon Credits. This provision will not only accelerate adoption of this technology, but will also play an important role in increasing farmer’s income, to complement the Government’s policies in this direction.

The strategic combination of four zeros, integrating zero burn, zero interest rate, zero till, and zero hunger goals will go a long way in achieving comprehensive livelihood security. The Academy hopes that all stakeholders will vigorously promote the solution suggested in the brief as complementary approach to the ongoing efforts, to provide a sustainable solution to the problem of crop residue burning. The NAAS will be delighted to be a partner in implementing the recommendations for achieving this major national goal.

Source : NAAS

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