Punjab sows 20% of land under paddy with direct seeding. Farmers overcome the labour shortage issue with direct seeding.
Increase in Direct Seeding of Rice in Punjab
Direct seeding of Rice technique has proved a boon for the farmers in COVID times. They claim that the method not only decreases the cost of cultivation, but it also saves water. Kahan Singh Pannu, Punjab’s Agriculture Secretary, said that farmers had saved almost 70% of the price through this technique. Besides, it saves water as the fields require only moistening before sowing rather than flooding in the traditional method. Though several farmers used this method in Punjab, some of them ploughed back their field due to fear of infestation. However, they regret it when they see paddy shoots growing in other areas. Barnala saw the maximum use of direct seeding technique with 20,050 hectares. The method cuts cost by nearly Rs 4,000-5,000 per acre.
Pandemic Leads to Shortage and Paves Way for Direct Seeding
The technique covered around 52000 hectares till July 11 in Punjab. Officials expect 2,000-3000 hectares more to be covered by the end of the season. Despite the availability of the mechanical transplantation in Punjab, the state never saw above 3000 to 4000 hectares planted with this technique. However, the shortage of labour amid the pandemic encouraged farmers to take advantage of the machines. As a result, 700 paddy transplanters were sold this year against 313 of the previous year.
Saving Money and Water
The data from the Punjab Agriculture department revealed that the state sowed only 3,87,000 hectares (9.55 lakh acres) from 2010 to 2019. However, this year, the land under DSR has witnessed an increase of 34% of the cumulative area of a decade. Experts state that if farmers had chosen the traditional rice planting method, it would have required 1.25 lakh labourers. This year, labourers are charging Rs 5,000-6,000 per acre, up from Rs 3000-Rs 3,600 last year. That apart, each acre requires Rs 1,000 to 1,500 for preparing paddy nursery and puddling of the field. On the other hand, the cost of cultivation using DSR does not exceed Rs 2000 to 2,500 per acre. This means that farmers have saved around Rs 500 to 600 crores, given 5.3 lakh hectares sown with DSR.
Farmers May Adopt Direct Seeding in Future
Cost and water-saving may attract farmers to adopt direct seeding in the future. India, one f the major exporters of rice, is not the only country to fully utilize the DSR. Vietnam and Thailand have also not yet fully adopted the method. Officials state that the shortage of labour amid the coronavirus pushed the price of available labour which thereby increased the cultivation of rice through DSR. Farmers also claim that along with water and cost-saving, DSR also saves time and effort as compared to the tedious old method. However, the management of weeds becomes a challenge that can be solved by an adequate spray of herbicides. Researchers and officials expect a jump in the use of DSR next year if the yield turns out well this year.
In all, the usage of DSR depends on productivity as good yield will fully convince farmers to give up the traditional method of paddy cultivation.