Basmati to be sown in over one-fourth of paddy fields,farmers not keen on direct seeding
The monsoon is nowhere to be seen yet dark clouds loom over Punjabs paddy crop. A delay of nearly one week in the onset of rains and virtually no pre-monsoon showers has put Punjab Agriculture Department in damage-control mode with officials advising farmers to opt for water-economical and late-sown basmati.
Though the department says that this years target of 27.8 lakh hectares under paddy can still be met,it also adds that over one-fourth will comprise basmati which is not procured for the central pool. Last year,the area under paddy crossed the target of 27.5 lakh hectares to touch 28.18 lakh hectares. This years target of 27.8 lakh hectares will be met but over one-fourth of it – 7.5 to 8 lakh hectares – will comprise basmati owing to delay in onset of rains, joint director Gurdial Singh said.
According to departments estimates,the total paddy area sown so far is between 60 to 65 per cent. The next two to three days are crucial for both transplanted paddy and areas that remain to be sown. If the monsoon arrives in the next 48 to 72 hours,it will be the sown crop. But on the remaining area that has yet to be sown,we are focusing on basmati as late-sown paddy will suffer yield loss, Singh added.
Though area under other major kharif crop cotton is likely to be same as last year at 5.15 lakh hectares,that area under gaur and maize is expected to rise. Maize,which was sown last year in 1.26 lakh hectares is likely to go up by 12,000 to 15,000 hectares to touch 1.5 lakh hectares while guar,a high-value crop with low cost of cultivation will cover around 10,000 to 15,000 hectares,the department said.
Despite the departments efforts at popularising direct seeding method which consumes water economically,a majority of farmers continue to burn diesel to run their tubewells for transplanted paddy which requires several inches of standing water. Punjab Farmers Commission senior consultant P S Rangi cited problems associated with direct seeding,Firstly,it has to be sown early but the Punjab Sub-soil Water Conservation Act stipulates that paddy can only be sown after June 10. Also it suffers from problems of weedicide and its yield too is not high as that of transplanted paddy.
In the absence of eight-hour power supply,farmers are incurring anywhere between Rs 2,000 to Rs 4,000 per acre on diesel to run their tubewells in a bid to save their transplanted crop. Cost of production has further escalated with a considerable jump in farm labour charges. However,the worst casualty says agriculture department will be the fast-depleting groundwater level of the state. In absence of rains and free power for farmers,tubewells are digging deeper into the water table in central districts which are already in the danger zone, Gurdial Singh said.