After celebrating a record wheat production,Punjab is lagging behind in paddy cultivation. According to the Department of Agriculture,the deficit is 33 per cent as of now almost two lakh hectares less than last year.
With a delayed monsoon staring at them,coupled with the fact that the state is facing a huge power crisis too,the farmers are forced to pump out groundwater using diesel power generator sets. Punjab,which topped the country in wheat production,now stares at a possibility of low paddy yield and high cultivation costs. The state has set a target of 27.8 lakh hectares of paddy,including both basmati and non-basmati varieties.
We are sowing PR 118,which takes a long time to mature. And in case we delay its sowing,we will have to face a lot of problems at the time of harvesting. However,with no rains in sight,we are left with no option but to stall the process of transplanting paddy. We need water to sustain transplanted paddy. I cannot sustain so much crop on water pumped by tube wells, says Dara Singh,a farmer in Faridkot.
Another farmer Jaswinder Singh points out: Each paddy season,the state government promises that we will get regular power. But the ground reality is very different. We have some eight hours of power cuts each day and moreover we do not know when power will come.
The labourers whom we brought after great efforts are now sitting idle. We cannot transplant paddy till it rains, adds Kamaljit Singh,a farmer from Ludhiana.
Agriculture Director Dr Mangal Singh,however,is still optimistic. Paddy can survive worst of conditions. No doubt we have reports where fields have cracked up due to extreme heat and no water. But we always advise the farmers to transplant paddy in phases so that maintaining crops is easier, he says.
We are hopeful that it will rain by next week and the situation will be back to normal then. Even now farmers are using gensets and diesel pumps to maintain their crop. But this will add to their costs,but a good yield will help cover the loses. For now,we have our fingers crossed, adds Sandhu.
To salvage the situation,experts at Punjab Agricultural University have meanwhile advised the farmers to go in for direct seeding of paddy. Taking into cognisance the depleting ground water resource and deteriorating soil health,coupled with severe labour scarcity in the state,PAU is laying emphasis on the development of resource conservation technologies for which the Government of India has accorded a scheme on direct seeded rice/mechanical transplanting of paddy on 15,000 hectares,following a 100-hectare cluster approach, says Dr M S Gill,Director Extension,PAU.
The process of direct seeding,according to Gill,not only saves labour and water (10-15%) but also enables the crops to get the best fit in different cropping systems on account of seven to 10 days early maturity. Gill explains that with direct seeding,rice seed is sown and sprouted directly into the field,eliminating the laborious process of manually planting seedlings and reducing the water requirement of the crops.