At a time when Punjab has been receiving much flak over failing to check stubble burning, which is being blamed for the astoundingly high levels of pollution in the national capital, engineers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Ropar, have developed a stubble management technology that they say is a low-cost solution to the problem.
The institute has also filed for a patent for the technology. It plans to showcase this project in New Delhi at an exhibition where prominent institutes shall showcase their projects to control paddy stubble burning and clear the air.
Professor Sarit K Das, director, IIT Ropar, said the institute stepped up to provide this solution to the government for implementation as it will contribute to significantly address the national capital’s air pollution woes, combating the severe consequences for public health.
“Around 80 per cent of paddy straw and 50 per cent of wheat straw produced is being burnt in fields. This causes high air pollution and reduces quality of the soil,” said Professor Harpreet Singh, principal investigator of this project.
He added that since the advent of mechanised farming and growing labour shortage in the region, combined harvesters are used to harvest paddy, but leave large quantities of stubble and straw as residue on the fields. He added that rice straw does not have any nutritional or commercial value, so it is burnt. Given the time constraints, problems with storing, in-field use and off-field disposal of the residue, farmers burn it to clear the field quickly and inexpensively.
The new technology removes stubble instantly and can be used just after harvesting with a combine. It can be operated with any tractor and cuts and collects stubble. It can be used both for removing rice and wheat stubble, he further said.
Professor Das said, “It is very fast and requires only one person to operate. The cost of the system is about Rs 5-6 lakh. It is powered by a tractor and installed between the tractor and trolley. The header part of straw reaper is used to cut the straw. The revolving reel pushes straws towards the auger (a drilling device used for making holes in the ground). The auger sends the straw to the conveyer chamber, which takes the straw to the trolley for easy transportation. The collected straw is then taken out of the field and can be used to make manure.”
He further said that the institute shall provide the technology if the government is ready for production.
Explaining further, Dr Prabir Sarkar, another principal investigator of the project, said that the machine can be mounted on a tractor trolley and shall chop the stubble up to a few centimeters from the ground and automatically load it into the trolley without any manpower, thereby saving labour and cutting down extra expenditure on diesel, which are the two main concerns being raised by Punjab’s farmers.
To address this problem further, IIT-Ropar developed the stubble management system; an active self-sustaining system through which each district can have avail the required machines in a co-operative.
The system also involves the use of an Android app and Interactive Voice Response System (IVR). Routing and scheduling of the machine will be done automatically by the app. The orders can be given either by phone call or through the Android app. Farmers just need to give details of their field size and location and the app will allot the date and time of service.
The machine can be sent to various places to remove stubble as per the request of farmers. The stubble collected can be used to make fertiliser, burnt in boiler to generate electricity or create acoustic/ply boards.
Asked about the cost, Dr Prabir Sarkar said that if the machine comes into production, one will cost around Rs 3 lakh, adding that the cost can decrease with increase in production.