The Punjab government has set an ambitious goal of sowing five lakh acres of direct seeded rice (DSR) this kharif season, compared to the 71 to 74 lakh acres intended for paddy cultivation. Thus far, 25,000 acres have already been planted, marking a 2.5-fold increase from the 2.12 lakh acres planted using DSR in the prior season.
Adopting DSR for paddy cultivation is lauded as a key strategy for preserving underground water and reducing stubble burning during October and November’s harvest months. By comparison, conventional paddy methods consume a massive amount of water. According to the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP), one kilogram of rice produced through traditional techniques necessitates a whopping 3,367 liters of water.
The Punjab government’s incentivization of DSR adoption through ongoing outreach efforts and subsidy programs has been met with enthusiasm from farmers, who have expressed a preference for DSR due to its sustainability and cost-effectiveness. As the government seeks to expand DSR’s reach and encourage its large-scale implementation, it is optimistic that these initiatives will continue to gain traction and promote sustainable practices in the region.
Punjab Agricultural University’s Vice Chancellor, SS Gosal, stated, “By using the DSR method, at least 20% of the total water usage is saved.” He further explained that while efforts are being made to conserve more water, peak summer (May-June) planting seasons for crops by this method pose constraints due to the maximum evaporation levels during this time.
Short-duration varieties such as 126, 128, and 131, are recommended by Makhan Singh Bhullar, Head of the Department of Agronomy at PAU, for DSR cultivation. These varieties produce less crop residue and mature early, allowing for a more extended delay before wheat cultivation in the subsequent rabi season.
Farmers, as Bhullar added, will have a greater amount of time to clear crop residue from the fields, resulting in a reduced amount of paddy residue burning. These measures will further benefit the environment and contribute to sustainable agriculture in the region.
In 2018, the government launched a program aimed at in-situ management of paddy stubble, which allotted Rs 1,370 crore for subsidized machines to paddy crop cultivators. Vice Chancellor Gosal emphasized that utilizing the DSR method can save farmers roughly Rs 3,000 per acre, as transplantation of saplings in manually puddled fields is no longer necessary.
In Punjab, paddy is cultivated across 29-30 lakhs hectares (approximately 71 to 74 lakh acres), with approximately 5 lakh hectares (12.5 lakh acres) used to produce premium aromatic basmati rice. This variety is a primary export to countries like Europe, the Middle East, and North America where rice is a staple food, and consumers prefer high-quality grains.
Sowing via the DSR method, which involves directly planting paddy seeds in wet soil, began on May 25th, while planting by conventional methods in puddled fields with water accumulated up to 6 inches began on June 10th.
“We are optimistic about meeting the target this season since we have taken all necessary steps to promote DSR,” stated Additional Chief Secretary of Agriculture KAP Sinha.
The state government has also provided farmers who utilize the DSR technique with a sum of Rs 1,500 per acre, which was first offered in the previous season.
The transplantation of paddy via conventional methods will be carried out in four phases, with the first phase starting on June 10th and covering 25,000 hectares across the border fence.
The second phase will commence on June 16th and span the Majha belt before proceeding to the Doaba and Malwa regions. The Punjab government created this mechanism in the previous kharif season, when the Aam Aadmi Party assumed power in 2022, to ensure that all 14 lakh agriculture tube-wells receive adequate power supply for paddy transplantation.
“We have selected 14 blocks throughout the state where we think DSR is most suitable,” stated Director of Agriculture Gurvinder Singh. These blocks include Suman, Barnala, Moga-I, Patiala, Bassi Pathana, Sultanpur Lodhi, Phool, Raikot, Mansa, Patti, Ajnala, Kotkapura, Ghal Khurd, Fazilka, Gidderbaha, and Dera Baba Nanak.