Updated: October 12, 2021 7:55:17 am
The Delhi government said it will continue to accept requests from farmers who have not yet applied to get the Pusa bio-decomposer sprayed on their fields. The exercise was flagged off Monday by Environment Minister Gopal Rai at Fatehpur Jat village in North Delhi’s Narela.
First on the list was 10 acres of Johnny Pehalwan’s basmati rice field. A tank filled with the solution was placed on a tractor and driven around the field, where it was sprayed over the stubble.
4,140 acres to be covered
Of over 14,000 acres of land cultivated with paddy in Delhi, the decomposer is being sprayed on over 4,140 acres belonging to 844 farmers. It is mostly being sprayed on those fields harvested with a combine harvester, which leaves behind stubble that can be about half a foot tall, A P Saini, joint director (Agriculture), said. When paddy is harvested manually, the residue is shorter, he added.
Said Pehalwan, “We used to burn the stubble earlier. The solution was sprayed here last year as well, and we seem to have seen some increase in the yield of wheat this past season.” His paddy harvest, of which he made a profit this year, was sold at Narela mandi.
K Annapurna, former head of the Microbiology division at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute where the decomposer was developed, said a rotavator is a heavy implement that helps mix the decomposer with the straw and incorporates it in the soil. Moisture enhances decomposition, so the field would have to be irrigated after this. “These operations are a must for proper decomposition of paddy straw,” she added.
The government, however, has not made arrangements for farmers to access these. Rotavators are also not on the list of farm equipment eligible for government subsidy. “Farmers will have to make arrangements for one themselves,” said A P Saini, joint director (Agriculture).
Since small farmers have found it difficult to purchase farm implements, Pappan Singh Gahlot, a farmer from Tigipur village, has written to the district administration requesting help with procuring turning and baling machines and tractors. “Without basic implements how do you handle stubble?” he said.
Sahdev Maan, a farmer from Holambi Khurd village in North Delhi, whose tractor has been rented by the government for the spraying, said the decomposer is beneficial provided it is used correctly. Spraying began on 20 acres of his paddy field Monday.
However, he said most farmers are unlikely to have rotavators — the price of which starts at around Rs 90,000 — and added that some might make do with a harrow, a smaller implement attached to a tractor. Even borrowing rotavators can be expensive considering the use of diesel, he said.
Farmers also raised other difficulties. According to Gahlot, farmers in North Delhi often choose to grow a vegetable crop between paddy and wheat crops. Pehalwan concurred that spinach, which grows in about a month, is often grown after the paddy harvest and before wheat is sowed and said such farmers are unlikely to wait for the decomposer to work.
The decomposer can take around 15-20 days to convert the residue into compost, Dr Annapurna said.
Gahlot added that some farmers have already harvested the paddy, but others growing different varieties might be able to harvest only later, making it difficult to use the decomposer.
According to Saini, several farmers in Delhi continue to employ labourers to harvest their fields, since the straw left behind from the harvest can be sold. Wheat will begin to be sowed by the second week of November this year, he added.
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