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Monday, 27 July 2020

After scare, farmers hope to reap benefits of direct seeding

Ruchika M Khanna

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 26

Direct seeding of paddy has proven to be a milestone in the agrarian economy of Punjab during these times of the Covid-19. Promoted to beat the severe shortage of farm labour, 20 per cent of land under paddy (both basmati and non-basmati variety) has been sown through the direct seeding method this year.

Amid initial hiccups, when some farmers had ploughed back the direct seeded rice apprehending a fall in yield, almost 5.50 lakh hectares of land across the state has been sown using this novel method. The total area under paddy this year is 27 lakh hectares, which includes 7 lakh hectares under basmati varieties.

The Covid-induced change in paddy cultivation, caused by the scarce migrant labourers, is here to stay. Its benefits are two-fold, as per farmers in the state: It has brought down the cost of cultivation drastically and is a much less water consuming way to grow paddy, as fields have to be just moistened before direct seeding, against flooding as required in normal paddy transplantation.

Kahan Singh Pannu, Punjab’s Agriculture Secretary, said farmers who opted for this technique had saved almost 70 per cent cost of cultivation, while also ensuring that they save water. “Various studies have shown that 4,500 litres of water is required to grow 1 kg of rice in the traditional method of transplanting and flooding fields,” he said.

Harwinder Singh, a farmer of Rajgarh village in Barnala, has used direct seeding of rice technique on his 23 acres. “I was apprehensive initially as many said this technique led to rat infestation and termites in fields. But I was in touch with Agriculture Department officials and used the required insecticides in the recommended proportion. The shoots per bunch of paddy are more by 30 per cent,” he said.

Barnala is among the districts which saw maximum use of direct seeding technique. Baldev Singh, Chief Agriculture Officer, Barnala, told The Tribune that direct seeding had been done on 20,050 hectares in the district. “The area could have been much more, but some farmers who initially went in for direct seeding later developed cold feet because of pest infestation and ploughed back their fields. They then hired expensive labour and re-planted the fields. Now, when they see the fields of farmers who opted for direct seeding, they regret their decision,” he said.

from The Tribune

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