Punjab farmers adopt direct seeding to save water, cut costs in rice cultivationJuly 18th, 2012 - 7:01 pm ICT by IANS
Barnala (Punjab), July 18 (IANS) Farmers in Punjab are increasingly using the direct seeding method of rice cultivation that reduces water consumption by almost 30 percent and labour and costs substantially.
Over 2,000 farmers in the state have used the method on nearly 10,500 acres this year.
In neighbouring Haryana and distant Karnataka also, this method is becoming popular.
The water table is depleting fast in many areas of Punjab as a result of cultivation of the water-intensive rice crop. Keeping this in view, global food and beverage maker PepsiCo has been supporting and promoting the use of direct seeding method as part of the company’s agenda to help save water and reduce greenhouse gas emission.
“Our efforts are bearing fruits. We started with a small area in 2006. This year it has crossed 10,000 acres mark in Punjab alone,” said Jaideep Bhatia, vice-president, agronomy, at PepsiCo India.
PepsiCo provides financial and technical support to farmers to encourage the use of the method.
Traditionally, paddy is grown by planting seeds in a small nursery and then the saplings are manually transplanted after four to five weeks to the main cultivation area. Under this methodology puddling of soil is done to kill weeds and make transplantation easy. This requires at least three to four inches of standing water in the cultivation area.
With direct seeding, rice seed is sown and sprouted directly into the field. This substantially reduces the requirement of water. Labour cost comes down substantially because transplantation is not needed in direct seeding.
“Almost 400,000 million litres of water is used annually for paddy cultivation. If direct seeding is done across the country, we can save over 100,000 million litres of water,” Bhatia told IANS.
Direct seeding, Bhatia said, cuts overall cost of cultivation by an average around Rs.1,500 per acre and water consumption by 30 percent, and in the whole process the requirement of labour is reduced by over 50 percent.
“Labour is a big problem these days. Most of the farmers in Punjab are dependent on migrant labour from Bihar and other states. For the last few years they have not been coming. So we are relying on direct seeding now,” said Mohkam Singh, a farmer from Mansa district.
Singh, who has been using direct seeding methodology for the last five years, said output under both the methods was almost the same.
Balwinder Singh, another farmer from Barnala district, said under the direct seeding technique requirement of fertiliser is less and rice quality is better.
“Initially I was apprehensive. I started with a small area. But now I am convinced that direct seeding is a good method. This year I have done direct seeding in majority of the land I own. Many other farmers in my village are also using this method,” said Balwinder.
India is the world’s second-biggest producer of rice. Almost 110 million acres of land is used for rice production, the largest in the world.
Direct seeding methodology is used over a very small fraction of the total area under paddy cultivation.
Bhatia said PepsiCo was trying to popularise direct seeding by giving farmers free access to direct seeding machines. The company also provides technical and logistics support to farmers in Punjab, Haryana and Karnataka.
Bhatia said governments and other private firms need to help popularise the environment-friendly direct seeding method that has been vetted by the Indian Agriculture Research Institute and the Manila-based International Rice Research Institute.
(Gyanendra Kumar Keshri can be contacted at email@example.com)
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