Despite labour shortage and high sowing cost in the traditional method, the cheaper “mechanised” paddy transplanting has recorded the lowest ever area under it this year as per records of the recent past, notwithstanding efforts from Punjab’s agricultural department.
This year, the “mechanised” paddy transplanting was done in around 2,000 acres of land, against an average of 10,000 to 11,000 acres for the past 7-8 years since the technique was popularised.
While agriculture department officials say farmers find raising a paddy nursery for transplanters a cumbersome process, farmers express ignorance and lack of training about this method. The technique saves a time, labour and cuts inputs costs by nearly Rs 2,500 per acre compared to the traditional method.
Under this technique, a nursery is raised either in plastic trays of 1×2 feet or on polythene sheets, each 20 feet long and 22 inches wide with soil layer of a thickness of one inch. After proper watering, nursery gets ready in 25 days and is transplanted in puddle fields with the paddy transplanter machine. The ready nursery is fed into the machine like cakes and machine transplants the same ensuring appropriate space between the plants. It takes just a few hours to sow one acre of field. Besides, using this method, 65,000 to 70,000 plants can be planted per acre against 35,000 to 40,000 plants if done manually. It costs farmer around Rs 4,500 to 5,000 per acre.
In the traditional method, the nursery is grown in the field itself 40 days before cultivation and then 5-6 labourers are required to transplant it in one acre of field, which takes a whole day and costs the farmer Rs 2,500 to Rs 3,000 towards labour alone. Under the traditional method, one requires to shell out around Rs 7,000 to Rs 8,000 for raising and transplanting nursery in an acre.
Farmers say since they do not have much training in the mechanised transplanting, they avoid it altogether. “We can adopt the method if the agriculture department shows us its proper use and results,” said Satnam Singh, a farmer from Jandhusingha, adding that they also find transplanters, which cost between Rs 3.50 lakh and 10 lakh, very expensive.
“We have been popularising this technique. Gradually, it will pick up. At the moment, it was used on around 2,000 acres,” said Manmohan Kalia, joint director (agriculture engineering) at the state’s agriculture department. “We have been giving them demonstrations and educating them to grow nursery for commercial purposes to supply to fellow farmers too. Training camps are also organised.”
There are around 300 transplanter machines, big and small, in use in Punjab, which are owned by both cooperative societies and individual farmers.