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Explained: Why Punjab’s DSR push matters, how much groundwater will it save

Last year, 18% (5.62 lakh hectares) of the total rice area in the state was under DSR against government target of bringing 10 lakh hectares under it.

Updated: May 7, 2022 8:20:22 pm

The Punjab government recently announced Rs 1,500 incentive per acre for farmers opting for Direct Seeding of Rice (DSR), which is known for saving water. Last year, 18% (5.62 lakh hectares) of the total rice area in the state was under DSR against government target of bringing 10 lakh hectares under it. If this year Punjab manages to overwhelmingly adopt the DSR technique, then how much water will it help save? ANJU AGNIHOTRI CHABA explains:

How much area in Punjab is under rice crop?

According to Punjab Agriculture Department data for last Kharif season (2021-22), 31.45 lakh hectares (over 3.1 million hectares) was under paddy and basmati, including 26.60 under non-basmati rice and 4.85 lakh hectares under basmati. The figure was 31.49 lakh hectares in 2020-21 and 31.42 lakh hectares in 2019-20.

How much water is required to grow one kg rice?

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Paddy is non-shelled rice that farmers grow and sell in mandis and then after milling paddy rice is prepared. According to the studies by Punjab Agriculture university (PAU), Ludhiana, around 3,600 litres to 4,125 litres of water is required to grow one kg rice depending upon the paddy variety. Long duration varieties consume more water. In Punjab, 32% area is under the long duration (around 158 days) paddy varieties, and the rest comes under paddy varieties that take 120 to 140 days to grow. So, on an average 3,900 to 4,000 litres water is required to grow one kg rice in the state.

How much water is used in Punjab every year to grow rice?

In 2020-21, Centre procured 203 lakh tonnes of paddy from Punjab. After milling, this procured paddy resulted in 135.98 lakh tonnes of rice. Since PAU studies put average water required to produce one kg rice at 4,000 litres, so in one year – based on last year’s estimate – Punjab needed 5,4000 billion litres of water to produce 135 lakh tonnes rice.

How much water can DSR help save?

According to an analysis by the PAU, DSR technique can help save 15% to 20% water. In some cases, water saving can reach 22% to 23%. With DSR,15-18 irrigation rounds are required against 25 to 27 irrigation rounds in traditional method.

Since area under rice in Punjab is almost stagnant around 3 million hectares for the last three to four years, DSR can save 8100 to 1,0800 billion litres water every year if entire rice crop is brought under the technique, said experts.

Are there any other benefits of DSR tech?

According to experts, DSR can solve labour shortage problem because as like the traditional method it does not require a paddy nursery and transplantion of 30 days old paddy nursery into the main puddled field. With DSR, paddy seeds are sown directly with machine.

PAU experts said that DSR offers avenues for ground water recharge as it prevent the development of hard crust just beneath the plough layer due to puddled transplanting and it matures 7-10 days earlier than puddle transplanted crop, therefore giving more time for management of paddy straw.

A PAU study said that results from research trials and farmers’ field survey have also indicated that yield, after DSR, are one to two quintals per acre higher than puddled transplanted rice.

Experts said that with DSR technique, which is called ‘tar-wattar DSR’ (good soil moisture), farmers must sow paddy only after pre-sowing (rauni) irrigation and not in dry fields. Further, the field should be laser levelled. They said that spraying of herbicide must be done simultaneously along with sowing, and the first irrigation, which is done at 21 days after sowing.

Any word of caution about using DSR?

Experts said that suitability of soil is the most important factor as farmers must not sow it in the light textured soil as this technique is suitable for medium to heavy textured soils including sandy loam, loam, clay loam, and silt loam which accounts for around 80% area of the state. It should not be cultivated in sandy and loamy sand as these soils suffer from severe iron deficiency, and there is higher weed problem in it. Also, avoid direct seeding of rice in fields which are under crops others than rice (like cotton, maize, sugarcane) in previous years as DSR in these soils is likely to suffer more from iron deficiency and weed problems.

When should farmers sow paddy using DSR?

Though government has said that farmers can sow paddy with DSR after May 20, but PAU experts say that DSR varieties must not be sown before May 25 or yield will get impacted. According to them, June 1-15 is best time to sow DSR-friendly paddy varieties and second fortnight of June is optimum time for direct sowing of basmati.

Experts said that under agricultural extension services, farmers must train extensively at every stage from pre-sowing to harvesting so that they can develop confidence to adopt DSR without any hesitation.

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