While the Punjab Agriculture Department claims to have already exceeded its target of direct sowing of rice this year, a number of farmers are ploughing DSR sown rice back and are going back to transplantation through traditional method. RAAKHI JAGGA explains why:
What is DSR? How does it work?
DSR is direct seeding of rice in which seeds are sown in the field rather than by transplanting seedlings from the nursery. It aims to sow short duration and high yield varieties. It is done through DSR machines which are used for planting seeds of rice directly into the fields.
Why did DSR find favour with farmers this season?
To cope up with labour scarcity amid Covid- 19 outbreak, Punjab’s Agriculture Department had sanctioned 4,000 DSR machines and 800 paddy transplanter machines to farmers at a subsidy ranging from 40 to 50 per cent. Sowing with this machine had started after May 20 in various parts of Punjab and against a target of 5 lakh hectares farmers had shown enthusiasm and had sown it on 7 lakh hectares in the entire state — which is 25 per cent of the total area under paddy in Punjab.
This technique reduces cost by Rs 6,000 per acre and uses 30 per centless water. Kahan Singh Pannu, Secretary Agriculture, said that as per research of Punjab Agriculture University experts, the yield of paddy from DSR is at par with paddy crop grown by conventional technique.
Then why are farmers ploughing it back?
Labh Singh, from Gowara village of Malerkotla said, “I had sown paddy through DSR technique on 8 acres of land on May 22. But it rained and after that, I could not see much growth till June 10, hence I ploughed it back and I will get it transplanted through labour following conventional technique.
In Mangewal village in Barnala district, 100 acres sowing done through DSR has been ploughed back while in villages Jodhan and Mansuran of Ludhiana too, farmers are ready to plough it back and follow conventional method. Most farmers had followed DSR technique in a part area of their total farm land and had spent around Rs 5,000 per acre as cost for doing so.
What do farmers fear?
As DSR technique is being followed for the first time by farmers in Punjab fields extensively, they have fears of less yield. Abhjinder Sangha, a progressive farmer, said: “Farmers are getting no support from PAU experts. There is no page on PAU’s website which can resolve problems of farmers related to DSR. They never conducted any Facebook live sessions to dispel the fears of farmers.”
Gowara Singh, another farmer, said, “Growth in 15 days after DSR technique indicated that its yield will not be more than 25 quintals an acre while conventional method gives not less than 35 quintals an acre and in some cases up to 40 quintals an acre as well. So we are confused and in fear. We are getting no advice from PAU or Agriculture Department.”
What do the authorities say?
Sutantar Kumar, Director Agriculture, Punjab said, “As this technique is new for them, a few are getting confused. Otherwise majority are continuing with DSR sown rice. We are guiding them wherever needed, but we cannot force anyone to follow one particular technique. Earlier, farmers were apprehensive that labour will not come, but as they have now started coming back from UP and Bihar, they are going back to conventional method and hence are wasting their own money. This way, they are also wasting water which they used during DSR sowing.”
What are farmers likely to do next?
As farmers have started ploughing it back in four districts of Punjab, the trend can spread to other parts as well, if department does not come out to clear the fears of farmers regarding yield. Most farmers had followed DSR as experiment on a part land of their farm. Jeet Singh, farmer of Mangewal village of Barnala district. said, “Experiment seems to have failed. So we are following old method yet again.”
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