Gurdeep Singh is a recognisable name in this area.
It was only four years back that this farmer from Bukan Khanwala village here sought to experiment with making cardboard out of the paddy stubble remaining in the fields after combine harvesting, rather than just burning it as was the established practice.
Gurdeep started his trials from 24 acres of his own land. Today, farmers across 400 acres are giving him stubble that he stocks for the whole year to run Supreme Cardboard, as the unit in his field is called and which has even attracted scientists from the Punjab Agricultural University.
“I was earlier like all other farmers burning the fields after combine-harvesting (which leaves behind 14-15 inch stalks) that was also reducing the fertility of the soil. But in 2011, I decided not to burn and after gaining some knowledge started this small cardboard unit in my field with the help of my sons, Jagjit and Sukhdev”, says Gurdeep.
The three initially used straw reapers to cut the straw from their own 24 acres for use in the unit. But the very same year, more farmers volunteered to supply stubble from around 100 acres. They gave it free of cost, though Gurdeep had to bear the entire cost — around Rs 135 per quintal — of harvesting and transporting the straw from their fields.
Today, apart from Bukan Khanwala, farmers from neighbouring Jhok Harihar are also supplying the left-over paddy stubble from their fields. Gurdeep has his own straw reaper and baler machine, used to compress the harvested straw into compact bundles that can be easily transported from the field. Besides regular farm income, he now also nets over Rs 40,000 a month from the sale of cardboard to traders in and around Ferozepur. The cardboard made by his unit contains 95 per cent paddy straw and 5 per cent gunny bags that are added mainly for fine grinding of the stubble.
“The usage of urea and di-ammonium phosphate in my fields has reduced to a third because of improved overall soil fertility from no burning of stubble,” claims Gurdeep. Punjab farmers produce an estimated 20 million tonnes of paddy straw every year that has few takers, as it — unlike wheat straw — is not fed to cattle. The bulk of it is, hence, simply burnt to clear the fields for planting the next crop. Farmers like Gurdeep are, perhaps, making a small difference — by making cardboard.