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Friday, September 24, 2021

Less water, better yield: Paddy without puddling experiment in Punjab yields encouraging results

Puddling is a traditional method of flooding paddy fields with running water, whereas in non-puddling technique, 'ridges and furrows' are formed in soil to let water store in spaces and let it stay, thus reducing irrigation frequency.

Written by Divya Goyal | Ludhiana |
October 24, 2018 12:00:47 am
Dr Rakesh Sharda, senior water and soil engineer, PAU who visited Chehlan on October 9, says, “We just went to see experiment after getting to know about it. We cannot comment on it’s viability yet.”

A try-out of the technique to grow paddy without puddling at village Chehlan of Ludhiana has resulted in higher yield in comparison to puddled fields, while saving water in the process. The crop was ready for harvest days before expected time, saving irrigation water otherwise to be used for another fourteen days. This trial was funded and supervised by ATMA, a central government scheme under the Union Ministry of Agriculture.

Puddling is a traditional method of flooding paddy fields with running water, whereas in non-puddling technique, ‘ridges and furrows’ are formed in soil to let water store in spaces and let it stay, thus reducing irrigation frequency.

” Not paddy but puddling is the enemy of waters of Punjab. It is wastage of water to puddle fields as most of it just evaporates. We have saved 45-50 per cent of water in non-puddled fields. Our yield has been almost 30 per cent more from fields where crop was not puddled. Also, non-puddled crop matured very early, saving at least ten days of irrigation water,” says Rupinder Singh Chahal (43) who along with his brothers Jasvir Singh (48) and Kulwinder Singh (52) experimented with ‘non-puddling’ technique on four acres this year.

Asked about stubble management, the farmer said,” After chopping stubble with Super SMS, we further chopped it finely using a chopper and then mixed it within soil.”

PR-126 variety of PAU gave a yield of 35.36 quintal/acre when grown without puddling against 26.88 quintal/acre grown with traditional puddling method- an increase of at least 30 per cent in yield, confirmed Dr Jaspreet Singh Khera, district project head, Agricultural Technology Management Agency (ATMA). The average yield for PR-126 is 30 quintal/acre. Similarly, another variety PR-121 gave a yield of 34.80 quintal/acre when grown without puddling against 29.57 quintal/acre grown with puddling. The average yield for PR-121 is 30.5 quintal/acre.

The state agriculture department has now written to Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) to study experiment in detail and give comments. Kahan Singh Pannu, secretary agriculture, Punjab speaking to The Indian Express, said, “I had sent a team from Chandigarh to study the experiment at Chehlan and results have been very positive. It is a very good experiment. We have already written to PAU to study in detail and give their comments on it.”

Explaining the experiment, Rupinder Singh Chahal said, “It is a kind of rainwater harvesting system in paddy fields. In puddling, we flood our fields with water but in non-puddling we have to create ridges/beds (locally called battey) using potato planters and then transplant paddy on ridges (battey). Then we need to fill furrows with water. So these furrows are the crux of entire technique. Here water will stay and percolate in soil instead of getting evaporated as in puddled fields. With water staying longer in furrows, you don’t need to irrigate every two to three days. It can be done after gap of 8-9 days in fact, thus saving almost 50 per cent water,” he says.

PR-126 variety has given yield of 35.36 quintals/acre in non-puddling which is way more than varsity’s estimates of 30 quintal/acre. According to PAU, this variety matures in 125 days but the non-puddle crop was ready in 111 days only (including nursery time). Similarly, PR-121 was also ready in 124 days (including nursery times) against varsity’s estimated time of 140 days.

Asked about stubble management, the farmer said,” After chopping stubble with Super SMS, we further chopped it finely using a chopper and then mixed it within soil.”

Dr Daler Singh (74), retired district agriculture information officer who is the brain behind the experiment wants PAU and agriculture department to recommend this ‘bina kaddu ton battan tey jhoney di bijaayi’ (sowing paddy on ridges without puddling) technique to the farmers. “Had this non-puddling technique been promoted among farmers in Punjab decades back, we should not have reached where we are. Out water table should have in fact gone up because non-puddling makes water reach depths of ground and help recharge water table,” he claims.

Khera from ATMA added, “The experiment results have been overwhelmingly good. Non-puddled fields help in recharging ground water. Also, it helps in bettering soil structure and better movement of earthworms. We have no idea that why PAU is not recommending this technique for farmers. We want PAU scientists to conduct experiments and see results at their own.”

Dr Rakesh Sharda, senior water and soil engineer, PAU who visited Chehlan on October 9, says, “We just went to see experiment after getting to know about it. We cannot comment on it’s viability yet.”

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