Punjab is way far behind Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann’s target of putting 20 lakh acres under Direct Sowing of Rice (DSR), a preliminary report of the state’s Department of Agriculture and Farmer’s Welfare has revealed.
The state’s aim to reduce the use of the Puddled Transplanting of Rice (PTR) method too seems to have failed. The report suggests that all districts started PTR much before the notified dates and have covered more area than DSR.
Till June 16, rice was sown on 1.29 lakh acres using DSR (approximately six per cent of the target) compared to the 3.48 lakh acres sown using PTR. Last year, DSR was used over 13.88 lakh acres in the state by the end of the sowing season, the highest area ever recorded under DSR.
Heat waves witnessed in late May and the first week of June – the ideal time to sow rice (apart from Basmati) using DSR – and a disrupted supply of electricity in rice-growing districts have been cited as reasons behind the low land coverage.
The report, submitted by the Punjab Remote Sensing Centre (PRSC) on June 21, also says that the data provided are initial estimates and will be modified after further mapping of the crops soon.
According to the report, till June 16, Muktsar district covered the most area – 18,285 acres – using DSR, followed by Bathinda which had 17,050 acres; Gurdaspur stood third with 11,366 acres.
As for rice sown through PTR, Firozpur recorded the highest area covered – 88,957 acres – which is 18 times the area covered by DSR in the district, as per data. Muktsar recorded 21,003 acres while Ludhiana stood third with 20,262 acres.
Interestingly, it takes 25-30 days to prepare saplings of paddy that are then transplanted in fields while using the PTR method. The Punjab government had notified four dates for all the districts to start sowing paddy using PTR, all after June 18. This means that the 3.48 lakh acres under PTR recorded in the report were all covered before the notified dates.
“The government had promised an 8-hour uninterrupted power supply from the notified dates only but this report says that farmers managed PTR even with 3-5 hours power supply to tube-wells which they usually get before PTR paddy sowing,” a senior agriculture officer said.
Sources in the agriculture department said that there was a delay in sowing of paddy with DSR because due to disrupted power supply and canal water during the sowing period. Before sowing the rice directly, the land needs to be moistened, which could not be done due to the lack of a proper supply.
Sources said that the late sown DSR were not captured fully in the satellite data as the crop stand was too low to be detected. The same will be picked up in the upcoming satellite data and acreage will be updated accordingly.
A statement issued by the Parliament early this year says that of the 150 blocks in the state, 117 are categorised as “overexploited” and DSR is aimed at reducing the impact rice cultivation has on the groundwater tables and also the cost of labour and production.