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Punjab's Rice Stubble Burning Problem Has An Ecological Answer

Chintu Das
Chintu Das
Stubble Burning

Large swaths of India's northern plains and the national capital area would be blanketed in a thick blanket of grey fog in roughly 45 days. The quality of the air is deteriorating, turning cities into virtual gas chambers. The smoke from Punjab and Haryana farmers' mass paddy stubble burning is not only a public health hazard, especially during the Covid-19, but also a global disgrace for India. 

Bio Enzyme for Stubble Burning

This year, there may be some respite. As an alternative to farmers burning rice stubble, the Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI) has developed a bio enzyme that can break it. IARI has partnered with nurture farm, an agritech firm, to provide the bio enzyme to farmers in these states for free. 

What is stubble burning?

Rice, followed by wheat, is the primary agricultural cycle in the northwestern plains (which encompasses Punjab, Haryana, and western Uttar Pradesh). Rice cultivars require around 160 to 165 days to grow on average. As a result, there isn't much of a gap between when the rice is harvested and when the wheat is sown. Wheat yields are reduced considerably if planting is postponed. As a result, farmers resort to burning rice stalks in order to prepare the fields ready for harvesting as soon as possible. This occurs towards the end of October and the beginning of November. 

Is this beneficial to the farmers? 

Burning does not assist farmers; it just pollutes the air. It is a health hazard not just to those who live in and around the farms, but also to those who live outside of them. 

For the farmer, though, there are several options. Baling is one approach. Machine balers can be used to collect straw from the field and produce bales. Farmers will have to use in-situ management of paddy straw if the straw is not removed. A happy seeder, a machine that is intended to take up sowing in the standing paddy, is also a possibility. When paddy strides are present in the field, another technique for aiding wheat planting is to employ a super seeder. We've created the Pusa Decomposer to help with this. 

Pusa Decomposer

Seven fungus species make up the Pusa Decomposer. The majority of these fungus reside in the soil and are renowned for decomposing paddy straw. Their efficacy is examined on decomposing paddy straw after isolating and purifying them. The seven species are then chosen depending on their effectiveness. After the paddy straw has been harvested, this is sprinkled on it. The decomposer is a supplement to machines, not a replacement for them. This is a long-term, long-lasting treatment for maintaining soil health. People must comprehend the long-term benefits. It is not miraculous because it takes 25 to 30 days for the straw to disintegrate. 

Role of Nurture Farm

Nurture farm was founded with a single aim in mind: to assist farmers become more resilient. Over a million farmers have already signed up for the platform. The goal was to find the best technology available, and it was discovered that the Pusa Decomposer is a fantastic bio-soil friendly option. 

Is the farmer obligated to pay? 

Farmers are not charged for anything; this is a completely free service. It is done so that we can achieve a long-term, effective transition to sustainable farming techniques. 

What are the goals and objectives in terms of the number of farmers and land areas for this year and in the future? 

Punjab has a rice-growing area of three million hectares, whereas Haryana has a rice-growing area of 1.2 million hectares. On three million hectares of land, 15 to 20 million tonnes of paddy biomass are generated, which is enormous. Since 2016, is is been measured on a regular basis. The quantity of fire pits has decreased. Because of government involvement through machine replacements, there was an almost 50% drop in 2018. Baling machines, happy seeders, and super seeders were given, yet paddy straw is still being burned in large quantities. It is critical that the farmer knowledge is raised and attain a long-term solution to this problem. 

Should Punjab and Haryana grow rice? 

Punjab's agriculture must be diversified. There are a few alternatives accessible, such as soybean and maize, which are both extremely feasible options throughout the kharif season. The problem of edible oil can also be solved by combining soybean and maize. Every year, India imports oil of around Rs 60,000 to Rs 70,000 crore. Soybean may be cultivated in Punjab for a little longer period of time and yields will be superior than those produced in Central India. This will tackle a number of issues at once, including the problem of burning, the labour issue in case of rice farming, and the water issue as each kilo of rice takes around 3000 to 4000 litres of water. 

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