Rajni Shaleen Chopra-Indian Express
10th February 2010
Sarpanches and panches in four districts of Ferozepur district are part of a new pilot project launched by the district administration. They are being trained in a technology that deals with pollution caused by burning of paddy straw— by sowing wheat in standing paddy stubble.
Farmers who have been part of this programme are increasingly realising that by not burning the paddy straw in their fields, they will also save on huge amounts of water. This is because the fields, left parched after days of burning, have to be watered for hours to make the soil ready for wheat.
Even as wheat sowing takes place in the second half of October and November, Ferozepur DC Kamal Kishore Yadav said it was essential to educate farmers about the benefits of not burning straw. "For one, this is a zero-tillage option, which saves farmers days of work. In addition, it retains the fertility and the rich bio-mass of the soil, which is lost by burning," he highlighted. "This is also a major step towards water conservation," Yadav added. With an alarming fall in the water table, conserving water is a major issue for the state.
Of the 10 blocks of Ferozepur district, the pilot project has been started in four— Fazilka, Jalalabad, Guruharsahai and Mamdot. "The response is highly encouraging. We now plan to educate farmers in other blocks too," he pointed out.
The district administration is also arranging field trips for farmers where wheat was sown in paddy straw late last year. "As farmers are aware of the pollution caused by burning of rice stubble, many of them are ready to explore this new option," said District Development and Panchayat Officer (DDPO) Baljeet Singh.
The farmers are being educated by Zamindara Farmsolutions, a blended value business, along with a team of the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA), funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Dr H S Sidhu, Project Coordinator of CSISA Punjab, said their team, comprising agronomists, soil scientists and agricultural engineers, talked to farmers about the benefits of sowing wheat in paddy residue. "We have developed farms in various parts of Punjab. We will take batches of farmers to farms nearest to them to educate them. Our focus is to reduce the cost of production and save natural resources including water and soil," he pointed out.
Punjab has seven million acres of land under paddy cultivation.
One acre of paddy results in approximately 25 quintals of crop residue. The aggregate crop residue comes to approximately 175 mn quintals. Of this, over 90 per cent is burnt, which leads to massive pollution.