Despite acute shortage of labour, the area under paddy in Punjab has increased as compared to the corresponding period last year.
However, a closer look at the paddy sowing pattern revealed that the area under paddy nursery transplantation, which has been the prevalent method of sowing, stood at 9.39 lakh hectares (LH) — about 26 per cent less than 11.84 LH transplanted in the same period last year.
The shortfall here was more than compensated by a nearly thirteen-fold increase in paddy sowing through Direct Seeding of Rice (DSR) technique, which increased from merely 23,300 hectares to a massive 3,00,080 (3.08 lakh) hectares.
Till June 22, the data sourced from the Punjab Agriculture Department revealed that paddy has been sown on total 12.39 LH in the state — including 3.08 LH with DSR and 9.39 LH with paddy nursery transplantation — out of the targeted 27 LH this year. It was at 12.04 LH (35,000 hectares less) including 19,900 hectares with DSR and 11.84 LH with paddy nursery transplantation on June 22 in 2019.
Going by these figures Punjab is 2.45 LH hectares (6,05,150 acres) behind in transplantation this year as compared to last year when the transplantation was started even three days late against this year.
Paddy transplantation had begun on June 13 in 2019, but this year due to labour shortage the government had advanced this date to June 10 this year, but this could not make a visible difference since the Covid-19 related restrictions on inter-state movement of labour made it difficult for the specialised labour required for paddy transplantation in coming to Punjab.
Apprehending the labour shortage, the state government had already motivated a large number of farmers to go for DSR, which needs minimum labour because the rice seed is directly sown in the field through the machine and a single machine can sow paddy on 7-8 acres in a day.
While in nursery transplantation farmers need at least 3-4 labourers to transplant already grown paddy nursery in one-acre puddle filed in a day.
Out of 27 LH targeted area, Punjab has planned to bring 7 LH under Basmati this year. The DSR period for paddy is almost over by June 15 and Basmati can be sown with this technique by the end of this month.
The data revealed that most of the districts could only sow paddy through transplantations in around one-third of their total paddy area in past 13 days since June 10 to June 22. However, DSR sowing has compensated by bringing more area acreage under paddy comparing to last year.
For instance, in Amritsar, 30,000 hectares could be planted as compare to 47,000 hectares last year as the district has to bring around 1.80 LH area under paddy/Basmati sowing this year.
In Bathinda, paddy has been transplanted on 40,000 hectares against 1.05 LH last year, in Moga paddy transplantation took place on 48,000 against 75,000 hectares last year, and in Kapurthala, 42,000 hectares could be sown through plantation methods against 76,000 in 2019.
Similarly, in Faridkot transplantation took place on 39,000 hectares against 60,000 last year, in Fazilka too 43,000 hectares could be transplanted against 51,000 hectares last year. In Jalandhar and Ferozepur, 43,000 hectares and 60,000 hectares could be transplanted against 55,000 hectares and 84,000 hectares, respectively, last year.
In Sangrur 1.40 LH and in TarnTaran 48,000 hectares could be transplanted against 50,000 hectares (Sangrur) and 1.88 LH (Tarn Taran) last year.
But DSR thankfully has compensated for this shortfall area of paddy transplantation and helped cover paddy area either at par or little more as compared to last year.
The districts with huge area under DSR included Moga (34,000 hectares), Mukatsar (32,000 hectares), Bathinda (30,000 hectares) Kapurthala (29,000 hectares), Sangrur (22,000 hectares), Barnala (20,000 hectares) Ferozepur (20,000 hectares), Faridkot (16,000 hectares), Ludhiana (15,500 hectares), Jalandhar (15,300 hectares), Fazilka (14,700 hectares), Amritsar (14,000 hectares), Gurdaspur (10,000 hectares) and Tarn Taran (6000 hectares).
Director Punjab Agriculture Department, Dr Sutantra Airi, said that paddy sowing is at peak this time with the farmers getting both local and some migrant labour and they are hoping that sowing will be completed on time.
He, however, said that credit goes to DSR technique which has brought the huge area under paddy and saved farmers of the state from major inconvenience.
He again advised farmers to take DSR technique on medium to heavy soil textured land, adding that fields should be laser-levelled, weedicide must be sprayed along with sowing or within 24 hours of sowing, first irrigation must be given in the third week of sowing and in case of rodent attack, technical advice from the experts must be sought on time.
“If a farmer will adopt the technique as per the advice of the experts, he will get the same yield which is coming with traditional method and will save a huge amount of groundwater as well as money,” said the Director.
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