In Punjab and Haryana, about 23 million tones of paddy straw is burnt in the field as an easy and quick method of disposal. Burning straw cause’s phenomenal pollution problems and huge nutritional loss and physical health deterioration to the soil. Actually, the time available between the rice harvesting and wheat sowing is very narrow, around 20-30 days. So, appropriate strategies for in situ crop residue management are planned for effective implementation to enable zero burning. Besides, reducing air pollution, and also enhancing quality of soil, it will lead to financial gain in the longer run owing to reduced nutrient input. Initially investment in machines and cost of cultivation for sowing the next crop will be higher. At present, in Punjab, area under rice-wheat cultivation is 2.1 million ha and under rice-potato it is 0.9 million ha. In Haryana, the area under rice-wheat cultivation is 1.0 million ha and under rice-potato it is 0.35 million ha. After harvesting rice by combine, the farmers sun-dry the straw for a few days (4-5 days) and then burn them in the field before preparing the field for next cropping by using disc harrow, cultivator and planker and sow the wheat/potato by seed drill/planter. This practice has aggravated the air quality issues vis-à-vis human and soil health. It is estimated that from 23 million tonnes of rice residues in North West India about 3 million tonnes of C may be improved per year and save about 1.4×105 t of N (equivalent to ` 200 crores) annually. Benefits to soil includes, soil microbial biomass carbon, dehydrogenase and alkaline phosphatase activity, and heterotrophic population will be increased about 2.5 to 3 fold in incorporated field than burning of crop residue. From residue incorporation, farmers’ can save about 1600 kg C, 20-30kg N, 4- 7 kg P, 60-100 kg K, 4-6 kg S in addition to micronutrients, which is equivalent to ` 1500-2000/ha for plant nutrients with yield advantage of 1 tone/ha.
An attempt was made by the Council to assess the requirement of machines for straw management such as, super straw management system (super SMS) that is an attachment to the combine, Happy seeder, paddy straw chopper-cum-spreader, reversible Mould board plough to enable effective in situ crop management in the years to come. These machines are being fabricated by local manufacturers in Punjab and Haryana. Keeping coverage area and days available for residue management between two croppings, it is estimated that a total of 6500 and 2800 super SMS units would be required for the state of Punjab and Haryana, respectively. Incidentally, Punjab has already 1000 SMS units, whereas Haryana state does not possess any. Similarly, happy seeder requirement for the state of Punjab is 15100 (2100 already available) and for Haryana, it is 6550 (50 available). The number of paddy straw chopper-cum-spreader units required for Punjab is 6150 (550 already available) and for Haryana it is 2500. Apart from this, 6150 (150 available) reversible Mould board plough units are required for Punjab state and 2800 for Haryana. Over all, the initial cost for one set of all four requisite machines would be Rs. 6.5 lakhs and to enable zero burning in the entire state of Punjab and Haryana, the estimated cost worked out to be ` 71,390 lakhs only. It has been proposed to utilize the machines for straw management in place of burning in both rice-wheat and rice-potato systems. For rice-wheat system, it is advisable to attach super Straw Management Systems (SMS) in all existing combines for paddy harvesting and spreading of straw in situ for facilitating the subsequent operation of Happy seeder for sowing wheat crop, that is operated through tractor. In case of ricepotato system, the paddy straw chopper-cumspreader, again an attachment with tractor will be operated in fields after harvest using combines (with or without SMS units). Subsequently, the chopped residue will be incorporated in to the field using reversible Mould board plough, again operated through tractor. After this process, the field can be prepared with rotavator and then, potato can be sown with a planter.
Capacity Building and mass awareness among all stakeholders is a must. General awareness on ill effect of residue burning and laying out field demonstration on machinery options in particular is a powerful way to convince the farmers about the successful management of residue. The implementation of proposed model will also depend on the capacity development of farmers, machine operators, custom hiring centres etc. Involvement of KVKs in the capacity development: 35 KVKs (22 in Punjab and 13 in Haryana) in association with Agriculture Department, and other line departments, Farmers’ Clubs, Cooperative societies etc. will be conducting various capacity development programmes to reach out at grass root level. Several programmes have also been planned to strengthen the capacity development of all stakeholders for 2 consecutive years as well.
In order to effectively implement this program towards achieving zero burning of crop residues in these two states, effective production, procurement and distribution plan for machines is required. For instance, the machines could be fabricated and supplied by already existing manufacturers in Punjab and Haryana. To enable this production process, the Government (Centre/State) should evolve a mechanism to place indent and procure requisite numbers of the aforesaid machines.
After hastening the process to achieve the target of zero burning of crop residues within a year or so, we can exercise other options. The first option is Mass awareness campaign for manufacturers, buyers and farmers regarding straw management and machineries to highlight various advantages (tangible/intangible) of crop residue management; (ii) ICAR Institutes, KVKs and State Agricultural Universities a key role of providing end-to-end facilitation, and (iii) Campaigns under the overall supervision of DCs at Block levels to the policy, scheme and technology. The second option could be to roll out the proposed plan of action, the existing combine owners may be encouraged to buy super SMS as a fitting attachment to combine, and the tractor owners be encouraged to buy Happy seeders, Paddy straw chopper-cum-spreader and Reversible Mould board plough; however, this could be facilitated by giving back end subsidy to the purchasers by State/ Central Government. Option 3 shall be that the State Government could procure the machines and distribute to farmers, Farmer Producer Organization (FPOs) and CHCs by auction. Further, the State Government making it compulsory that the existing combines should have SMS and followed by happy seeder (75% subsidy could be recommended). The existing CHCs should have all the four machines suggested for in situ crop residue management. Establishing new custom hiring centres could be the 4th option, while the existing CHCs would also procure happy seeder and other equipments to enable zero straw burning. It has been estimated that one CHC can handle 4 happy seeders, 3 chopper-cum-spreader and 3 reversible mould board plough units.While exploiting the benefits of all these options, a vigilant monitoring mechanism should also be put in place in all districts of the Punjab and Haryana under the chairmanship of District Collector with other members (District Agriculture Officer; Block Development Officer; KVK Scientist; Agriculture cooperative society; FPO) who will monitor the implementation process on war footing. Along with, a strategy for redistributing the combines and tractors across the state for better coverage. Over all, at policy level, a mechanism is being worked out quickly to roll out this plan of action as a centrally sponsored scheme providing 100% subsidy in national interest.