Slow transplantation of paddy saplings during the first week of sowing has been a blessing in disguise for Punjab where depleting ground water table has become a major concern. Only seven per cent of the total crop target has been sown in the first six days since paddy transplantation began from June 13 and the department said that this is a good sign because with this over 90 per cent of the crop will be sown after June 20.
Earlier, department was expecting 25 to 30 per cent paddy sowing during the first week which could have extracted huge amount of water.
This year in the run-up of the Lok Sabha elections, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh had announced one week advance sowing of the crop. The date was shifted from June 20 last year to June 13 this year.
Experts said that June 20 is quite viable date for sowing because monsoon in the state starts by June end or early July and huge demand of water for the crop is met from rainwater.
Agriculture Director Punjab Dr Sutantra Airy said that in past six days only seven per cent paddy was sown, majorly in Malwa region and over 90 per cent would be sown only after June 20 now.
“Now we have short duration paddy varieties like PR-126, PR 127, which can be sown even in the early July because these take just 123 to 130 days including nursery period and we had decided to sow in July despite government notification for early sowing this year,” said farmer Gurbachan Singh of Mehatpur area in Jalandhar.
“It is not only government’s but farmers’ responsibility too to save Punjab’s ground water and we too had decided to sow our paddy with the start of monsoon,” said farmer Gurvinder Singh of Sultanpur Lodhi, adding that he will sow paddy in July.
According to Airy, “Monday night rain has brought big relief in state and three districts, including Bathinda, Fatehgarh Sahib and Faridkot, got 50 to 70 per cent surplus rain and there would be less pressure on ground water due to this heavy rain.”
Also, Punjab’s farmers have increased area under ‘Direct Seeded Rice’ (DSR), from nearly 5000 hectares to 8000 hectares this year. A little increase under DSR can save huge quantity of water, said a senior Punjab Agriculture University (PAU) officer, requesting anonymity. DSR can save 30 to 40 per cent ground water easily along with huge input cost.
In the traditional cultivation method, paddy seeds are first sown in a nursery. After about four weeks, the young saplings are uprooted and transplanted in the main field. Prior to that, the field is also puddled or wet-tilled using tractor-drawn disc harrows. All these consume lot of water. With DSR, there is no need for transplanting, puddling or raising of nursery. The paddy seeds are directly planted in moist fields using a DSR machine.
Dr. Amrik Singh, Block Development Agricultural Officer, Pathankot, said that due to labour shortage and depleting water table they are educating the farmers to go for DSR as it has the additional environmental benefits.