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Explained: Are 74,000 subsidised stubble management machines enough for Punjab?

What are the types of stubble management machines available in Punjab? What is the role of these machines in managing stubble? The Indian Express explains the challenge facing Punjab and how it intends to tackle it

Written by Anju Agnihotri Chaba | Updated: September 8, 2020 12:44:05 pm
punjab, punjab stubble, punjab paddy, punjab harvest, punjab news, indian expressA farmer uses the Happy Seeder at his field in Ludhiana. (Express Photo: Gurmeet Singh)

To help Punjab farmers manage stubble after harvesting paddy in the coming months, the state government has arranged 74,000 subsidised machines. While some experts feel that the number is too small given that the task is to manage 20 million tonnes of stubble, others believe that the number is enough and the focus should now be on effective utilization of the available equipment. The Indian Express explains the challenge facing Punjab and how it intends to tackle it.

What are the types of stubble management machines available in Punjab?

According to Punjab Agriculture Department, the state has 15,000 Happy Seeders and 1,000 Super Seeders, currently. By September, 5,000 more Happy Seeders and Super Seeders will be added to the list which will take their number to 21,000 before paddy harvesting. Similarly, the number of Super SMS, which is attached with normal combine harvester, is 5,000 currently, while 2,000 are being added this year. So the state will have 7,000 Super SMS machines out of total 17,000 harvesters available. Apart from this, the remaining are around 5,000 Zero Till drills, 40,000 rotavators (most of which were owned by farmers before scheme) and remaining Reverse MB Ploughs, choppers, mulchers etc.

What is the role of these machines in managing stubble?

Stubble can be managed in three ways — by pressing the left over stubble under the earth; sowing wheat directly in the standing stubble in the fields and thirdly, by collecting it in bundles.

The role of three most sought after machines including Super SMS, Happy Seeder and Super Seeders is most crucial in managing stubble. Combine harvester with the attachment of Super SMS (Straw Management System) cuts and spreads the straw in uniform manner in the field at the time of harvesting of paddy following which Happy Seeder can sow wheat in directly in such fields in standing paddy stubble (the height of which remains around 18 inches after cutting with Super SMS). The Super Seeder is more advanced and it ploughs standing paddy stubble in soil and sows wheat seed simultaneously in a single operation after harvesting.

In the absence of these three machines, after doing harvesting with normal harvester, straw chopper or mulcher machine is run to cut the stubble in small pieces of one inch. Then sowing with Rotavator can be done and if it is not available then Zero Till Seed Drill is used for wheat sowing after removing the heavy stubble manually from the field. Such stubble gets mixed with soil and dissolves gradually.

If farmer is not going for wheat sowing after paddy harvesting and wants to grow vegetables or potato, then he needs to operate Reverse MB (RMB) plough, which is used for reversing the land upside down, to press the chopped stubble under the earth. A clean filed is suitable for sowing vegatables. Another machine — baler and rack — collects stubble and makes bales which can be supplied to power generation bio mass plants or to some other factories.

Why do some agri-experts feel that the machines are not enough for challenge ahead?

According to some experts, farmers get only 25 to 30 days between paddy harvesting and wheat sowing. With available number of Happy Seeders and Super Seeders, which cover 8-10 acres and 6-acres daily, respectively, around 17 to 17.50 lakh hectares can be covered in 30 days. They believe that more machines are needed as the task is to manage stubble on 27.50 hectares of paddy area, including 6.50 lakh hectares of Basmati.

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What is the immediate solution?

Around 17.50 lakh hectares can be covered with Happy Seeder and Super Seeder machines, and the remainign10 lakh hectares can be sown with the help of Rotavators, which are normally used for wheat sowing and can sow over 20 lakh hectares area because of wide availability and Zero Till Drill machines. Both these machines are more than sufficient to cultivate wheat but for that stubble must be cut and spread in field in uniform manner.

“We have provided improved modified latest equipments to the farmers under In-Situ Scheme and apart from these subsidised machines several farmers own their own personal machines and with this number machines now the focus of every one including our own, must be towards the proper utilisation of these machines. We are continuously creating awareness among farmers and even an App is also available to them which provides information about the availability of such equipment to them,” said Engineer Manmohan Singh Kalia, the nodal officer of farm machinery and Joint Director (Officiating), Punjab Agriculture Department.

Also in Explained | Why Punjab govt’s temporary ban on nine pesticides can’t put a stop on their use

What would it cost to manage stubble by using different methods?

According to prevailing rates of farm machinery, if farmers harvest paddy with Super SMS harvester and sow wheat with Happy Seeder or Super Seeder, it will cost Rs 3,200 to Rs 4,100 per acre.

“The charges of Super SMS attached harvester are Rs 1,900 per acre, Rs 1,300 is the rent of Happy Seeder and Rs 2,200 is the rent of Super Seeder,” said farmer Satnam Singh of Rajjian village in Amritsar’s Ajnala tehsil, who runs a centre of farm machinery of stubble management.

If these machines are not available to farmers then to manage stubble each of them has to spend around Rs 3,700 to Rs 6,500 per acre. In this case, farmers will have to pay Rs 1,500 for simple combine harvester, Rs 1,500 for chopper or mulcher machines to cut stubble into small pieces and Rs 1,500 for sowing wheat with rotavator or Rs 700 for sowing with Zero Till Drill machine.

But if a farmer goes for RMB plough operation, then he has to pay Rs 2,000 more and total cost will come to Rs 6,500 per acre to manage the stubble from harvesting till sowing.

How much does it cost farmers if they go for harvesting with simple harvester and sowing of wheat after burning stubble?

“I go for burning and spend Rs 3,400 to Rs 4,500 per acre which includes around Rs 1,500 rent for normal paddy harvester, Rs 400 for cultivator operation after burning field and Rs 1,500 for sowing with rotavator. If rotavator is not available then I need to do at least three operations of tractor-mounted disc harrow costing Rs 500 each and around Rs 1,500 on cultivator operation, two planking (Rs 200 each) and drilling that costs around Rs 700,” said a farmer who practises burning of stubble.

What is the need of hour then?

Farmers organisations say that they are also against burning but due to less time farmers can neither wait for machinery not they can pay the rent. So government must help small and marginal farmers by paying the rent of these machines. Experts believe that when almost sufficient machinery is available with the state to manage the stubble, the government and farmers both should work together as one.

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