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Fertiliser, seed dealers speak for missing agri officials in Punjab, push input costs higher

🔴 According to the Punjab Agriculture department most of the land in Jalandhar and Hoshiarpur district, which is the part of seed potato growing belt of Punjab’s Doaba region, has high phosphorus in the soil but still farmers overuse fertilisers.

Written by Anju Agnihotri Chaba | Jalandhar |
Updated: November 28, 2021 9:18:35 am
In Punjab, fertiliser including urea, DAP, MOP, SSP etc. consumption is 232 kg per hectare.

Farmer Paramjit Singh from village Kang Sahibrai has been growing ‘seed potato’ for decades on 300 acres, including 30 acres of his own land. Despite his soil carrying the required amount of phosphorus, he still uses 50 to 75 kg Diammonium Phosphate (DAP), which is required as basal fertiliser at the time of sowing of potato crop during Rabi season.

According to the Punjab Agriculture department most of the land in Jalandhar and Hoshiarpur district, which is the part of seed potato growing belt of Punjab’s Doaba region, has high phosphorus in the soil but still farmers overuse fertilisers. Paramjit says he does that under his dealer’s guidance.

“I have got soil of my fields tested some years back and that time the amount of phosphorus was higher, but now I am putting this as per the recommendation of my fertiliser dealer who is also an agriculture graduate. He told me that it is required because I grow three crops in a year,” he argued, adding that he puts all fertilisers, micro nutrients under his dealer’s guidance.

Paramjit grows potato in October and then grows ‘Spring Maize’ (March to June), followed by paddy from June to October.

“When we grow three crops, fertilisers are needed,” he insists.

Another farmer Amrik Singh of Kapurthala, who grows wheat, paddy and vegetables on 6 acres said that his area’s fertilisers, pesticide and seed dealers guide farmers about the usage of all these and also tell about new seed varieties.

“They are easily approachable whenever we call them or go to their shop in case of any problem,” he said, adding that agriculture officials need to be chased.

According to PAU, in Punjab around 14 per cent land has high organic matter which is more than .75 per cent and there is hardly any need to put any fertiliser except some nominal amount. This, PAU experts say, can lead to huge savings in input cost.

In Punjab, fertiliser including urea, DAP, MOP, SSP etc. consumption is 232 kg per hectare against the national average consumption of 133 kg per hectare.

Apart from this, around 8 per cent of the country’s consumption of pesticide, insecticide/fungicide is also in Punjab which has 1.53 per cent of the total land of the country.

The state has reached this situation of overuse of the fertilisers and pesticides by the farmers because of the collapsed Agriculture Extension Services where the department has inadequate staff coupled with lack of motivation to work in the fields.

In such a scenario, private companies of fertilisers, pesticides and seed have been exploiting the situation by pushing pseudo facts as agri-science for monetary gains.

‘DEALERS HAVE STRONG NETWORK’

The state has 10, 823 licensed pesticides dealers, 8,736 fertilisers dealers and 6,753 seed dealers. And many of them have the licences for all the three things. Collectively the state has in 27,000 such dealers across around 13,000 villages of the state.

A pesticide dealer in Bathinda said that they have the record of each and every farmer of their area along with their contact numbers and they are in regular touch with them and guiding them. “We have also appointed an agriculture graduate as manager of our store so that he can tell farmers what to spray on their respective crops and at what time,” said another fertiliser dealer in Jalandhar.

The agriculture department officials said that the number of these dealers has increased manifold in the past few decades and every year 40-50 new dealers are entering the market.

“Their network is so strong that the farmers listening them more than us and they end up incurring huge loss as they spray pesticide or insecticide even when they don’t need to,” said a senior officer in the department.

Dr Baldev Singh, Joint Director, Fertiliser, Department of Agriculture Punjab said that they have been teaching farmers that soil testing is very important and they should use the fertilisers and pesticides only after getting the tests of the soil every 4-5 years and use pesticides/insecticides under the guidance of the Agriculture Department officials instead of visiting any other person.

“Now, every farmer has a phone and they can contact us on phone but still large number of farmers instead of calling us, ask their fellow farmer or local dealers,” Dr Singh said, adding that he was moving around Barnala recently and he saw that a farmer was spraying something on his wheat crop.

“I stopped my vehicle and asked about the spray and learnt it was not required at all at the moment. The cost of this was Rs 1,000 per acre and with 50 acres land he is spending Rs 50,000 total and it was not needed,” said Dr Baldev Singh.

He said that farmers who are connected to the department never take a step without the guidance of the agriculture officials, but others are under the influence of dealers. “It is a big challenge for the department to connect them with us,” he said.

In Punjab the usage of fertilisers was 1.1 kg per hectare in 1960-61, which increased to 10.4 kg during the Green Revolution in 1966-67 and stands at 232 kg now.

Agriculture Officers (AO) said that there should be prescription for usage of fertilisers as per the soil health and it should be mandatory for dealers to sell after seeing the soil health card.

Madan Lal Khurana, soil expert and retired deputy director of Agriculture Soil Testing, Karnal (Haryana), said that he had done land mapping for the Punjab state and found that around 50 per cent farmers do not require to use DAP in Punjab and they can use other alternatives and that too in the low quantity.

DEPENDENCY FOR SEEDS TOO

Similarly, farmers are highly dependent on private players for their seed requirement. Several times spurious seeds are sold to them. In Malerkotla, several farmers purchased wheat seed from a private dealer recently but its germination could not take place on time as the seed was spurious. Several farmers are fighting legal battles in the court after getting spurious seed of various crops but farmers hardly have any say when they are contesting against big seed dealers.

The state has PUNSEED (Punjab State Seed Corporation Limited) which produces certified seeds and provides it to farmers but this amount is highly insufficient to cover all farmers.

“But under the guidance of PUNSEED and PAU, farmers can produce their seed but here too there is need to train them,” said Khurana.

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