Farmers queued up at the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) early on Friday morning to buy seeds for a new variety of wheat introduced in the state. The WH-1105 variety, which has been developed by Haryana Agricultural University in Hisar, is a successor of the HD-2967 variety developed by the Indian Agriculture Research Institute in New Delhi.
Though HD-2967 recorded high sales during the 2012 and 2013 Kisan Melas at PAU and was believed to be resistant to the deadly yellow rust, it fell victim to the disease this harvest season. Experts claim that the WH-1105 is absolutely resistant to yellow rust and will yield the same produce as HD-2967.
The PAU Kisan Mela on Friday also saw farmers questioning why wheat varieties developed in Punjab were hardly seen in the state.
Bohar Singh from Ferozepur, who bought the seeds after waiting for four hours told The Indian Express, “I purchased WH-1105 seeds to see how it performs. But it has been years now that any of PAU’s own wheat variety has dominated Punjab. Now majority of the area is under HD-2967. PAU is now selling the Haryana variety.”
“PAU’s varieties offer nothing new. The seeds PAU offers for Rs 40 per kg are available for Rs 35 per kg. But we buy them from here as they are not adulterated,” said Avtar Singh from Thooteywala village in Mansa.
“PAU introduced PBW-621 in 2012, an early sowing which developed problems as it was prone to leaf burning disease. PBW-658 introduced in 2013 by PAU was a late sowing variety and, thus, the area covered under it is very less. PBW-644 introduced in 2013 was a rain-fed variety. This is why none of PAU’s varieties are dominating Punjab as of now,” explained a scientist from the university’s plant breeding department.
“Gone are the golden days of PAU research when its varieties dominated Punjab for almost 10 years. Another variety – PBW-343 – introduced in 1995 lasted for over a decade, but it was controversial as it was allegedly derived from Mexico’s Atilla variety,” said a senior PAU scientist.
Rain plays dampener
Heavy downpour during the Kisan Mela resulted in losses for farmers who purchased seeds. Joginder Singh Brar, director of PAU’s seed farm, said, “Seeds will be fine if they are not soaked in water. Wet gunny bags will not be a problem if seeds are dried later.”
The agricultural university also accepted wet currency notes from farmers on Friday as per orders from authorities. Sales of Rs 60 lakh were recorded till this report was filed.