Punjab has completed wheat sowing on around 85 per cent of the targeted area as the state expects to bring around 34.50 lakh hectare area under the crop this year.
As per details, in previous years, the wheat area has either been close to 35 lakh hectares or above. This year, the state is expecting to enahnce the area under Rabi oilseeds because of which some wheat area will get diverted, officials said.
To date, wheat sowing has been completed on over 29 lakh hectares, with nearly 5 lakh hectares left for farmers who planted a third crop between paddy and wheat — like green peas — to sow the late wheat varieties.
Sources in Punjab agriculture department said that this year, super seeders and smart seeders were used on a vast area to sow wheat as both the machines do not require clearing stubble, which remains on the field after harvest.
Super Seeder sows wheat seed and simultaneously it tills and incorporates whole straws in combined harvested paddy fields. The Smart Seeder machines also sows the wheat seed and conducts simultaneous light tillage of selected row areas.
A third machine, Happy Seeder, has also been used at some places to sow wheat by farmers. A Happy Seeder machine combines stubble mulching, sowing and fertiliser drilling operations at a time. It cuts the selected rice straw and sows seeds into the bare soil and places the straw over the sown seed as a mulch.
Data, however, showed that a majority of farmers who have used machines to sow wheat crop this year have resorted to partial burning of paddy residue on their field before turning to the seeders, thereby defeating the very purpose putting acheck on stubble burning in the state completely.
After paddy harvesting, there are two types of residue left in the field — one is standing, which is called stubble, of around 15 to 18 inches and the other is loose straw of 2.5 feet. In partial burning, farmers burn loose straw, not the standing stubble.
For instance, at the time of harvesting, a harvester chops the upper portion of paddy plant up to 2.5 feet and after taking the grain portion it throws back the chopped stubble in the field. This loose stubble gets accumulated in several small dumps in the field, which farmers later set on fire.
Farmers argued that the partial burning of stubble helps in smooth running of machines, which experts do not completely agree with.
“All these machines are quite heavy and do not run beyond a month in the entire year. Farmers should utilise these instead of burning their fields just to smoothen the running of the machines. Super Seeder is a heavy machine and can bury the stubble inside the earth to give a clean look to the field after wheat sowing,” said a senior officer of the agriculture department, adding that there was a strong need to change the mindset of farmers.
Director of Punjab Agriculture department Dr Gurvinder Singh said that in a majority of districts of the state, wheat sowing has already taken place, with only 10-15% area left in a few districts where some farmers, who had opted for a third crop, would sow wheat. He said that this year they are expecting 34.50 lakh hectares to come under wheat crop.