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Thursday, August 05, 2021

Punjab seeks to bring 10 lakh hectares under direct seeding, one quarter of target achieved

Paddy (non-Basmati) sowing will continue till July first week as several short varieties with high yield potential are available to farmers now.

Written by Anju Agnihotri Chaba | Jalandhar |
June 24, 2021 5:07:01 am
Punjab seeks to bring 10 lakh hectares under direct seeding, one quarter of target achievedThe state agriculture department plans to bring around 1 million hectares under DSR this year. (File)

AFTER GETTING good results from ‘Direct Seeding of Rice’ (DSR) last year, Punjab farmers are adopting this technique this year too, and may bring large areas under it if initial trends are taken into account. The state agriculture department plans to bring around 1 million hectares under DSR this year — a huge target to achieve, and double the area that came under DSR last year.

Though the chief agricultural officers of various districts of the state say that due to availability of migrant labourers for paddy transplanting this year, DSR is being used a little less as compared to last year. However, until June 14, 2.23 lakh hectares (around 5.51 lakh acres) area has already been covered under DSR in the state this year. Last year too, by this time, almost the same area had been brought under DSR, which had finally covered over 5 lakh hectares.

Paddy (non-Basmati) sowing will continue till July first week as several short varieties with high yield potential are available to farmers now. Following this, Basmati sowing will start, which will continue till July-end. Several farmers adopt DSR technique for Basmati sowing too.

Area covered under DSR is being recorded by the Punjab agriculture department through satellite, with the help of Punjab Remote Sensing Centre (PRSC), Ludhiana.

The state also achieved the highest productivity of paddy last year in its history with 6631 kg per hectare. “After getting huge area under DSR last year, if the state’s paddy productivity increased, that means that DSR, if adopted properly under the guidance of agriculture experts, it will not only provide at par or even more yield to farmers against the traditional method of paddy transplanting, but also save a huge amount of groundwater,” said an agricultural expert.

Last year, 31.49 lakh hectares were under rice cultivation, which included 4.06 lakh hectares Basmati and 27.43 lakh hectares under paddy (non-Basmati), out of which over 5 lakh (16 per cent) hectares was under DSR.

Last year too, DSR area as recorded by PRSC was over 5 lakh hectares, not only an all-time high in the state but also much higher than the decade’s total area under DSR. From 2010 to 2019, only around 3,87,000 hectares (95,580 acres) area could be brought under DSR.

Punjab Agriculture University (PAU) experts said that around 6,000 machines were available in Punjab and a couple of 100 each of Happy Seeder machines, which are mainly used to sow wheat, and PAU developed Lucky seeder machines, which are mainly used to sow wheat, are also used after modification.

DSR is recommended in medium to heavy textured soil like sandy loam, clay loam, silt loam, and loam, and Punjab has 87 per cent soil of these types.

Punjab Agriculture University (PAU), Ludhiana, had recommended the DSR technique in the state, with effect from June 1 in ‘tar wattar’ conditions – that is in fields that have high moisture content without any additional expenditure, which results in saving groundwater and therefore reduced power consumption.

Dr Balwinder Singh Sidhu, agriculture commissioner of Punjab, had said recently that this time, over 1,000 camps have been organised in a cluster of five villages each across the paddy transplanting districts of the state to train and educate farmers in the DSR technique.

DSR was recommended in the state in 2010 but only a handful of progressive farmers had adopted this technique for the first four years. Then some more farmers came forward and showed interest, but again they lost interest in it because of lack of proper knowhow and problem of weeds. But now, a large number of camps are being organised at the village level to make farmers aware of how, when and in which soil it should be adopted and availability of effective weedicides in the market.

In normal transplanting, farmers prepare nurseries which are then uprooted and replanted 25-35 days later in the main “puddled” field by 3-4 labourers. In the first 3-4 weeks after transplanting, the plants have to be irrigated almost daily (if there are no rains) to ensure water depth of 4-5 cm. Even for the next 4-5 weeks, when the crop is in the tillering (stem development) stage, farmers continue to irrigate every 2-3 days. Water prevents the growth of weeds by denying them oxygen in the submerged stage. Water, in other words, acts as an herbicide for paddy.

In DSR, paddy seeds are directly drilled into the field by a tractor-powered DSR machine. Here water is replaced by real chemical herbicides and it does not need flood irrigation, and the first irrigation is done 21 days after sowing.

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