Punjab has been reporting around 2,000 stubble burning incidents daily for several days and the total number of farm fires has already crossed the 45,323-mark to date with burning of paddy residue
Despite providing 1.05 lakh subsidised machines by the Punjab government under the crop residue management (CRM) scheme of the central government to manage the stubble by using both in-situ (incorporation of stubble in the soil) and ex-situ (using stubble in some industries or for other purposes) methods, the state has been reporting around 2,000 stubble burning incidents daily for several days and the total number of farm fires has already crossed the 45,323-mark to date with burning of paddy residue on 15% more area than last year till November 5. What’s going wrong with the state’s stubble management, the Indian Express explains:
What are the 17 ways to manage and utilise stubble?
Former director of Punjab Agriculture Management and Extension Training Institute (PAMETI), Dr H S Dhaliwal, who was the principal investigator of the PAMETI-UNEP demonstration project for stubble management in Punjab, says that there are 17 different methods, including six under in-situ management and 11 under ex-situ management. In in-situ method, Happy Seeder, Super Seeder, Smart Seeder, Paddy straw chopper/Mulcher, Spatially modified zero-till-drill, and Zero-till-drill are used.
While in ex-situ method, the straws are collected manually and through baler and rake machines after chopping them with other available machines and can be used for 11 different purposes. The straw can be used as fuel in bio-mass/thermal plants, paddy straw-based biogas plants; as fuel in brick kilns through briquettes, ethanol/Bio-CNG production; as compost for mushroom cultivation; as cattle bedding material; for making cardboard and paper; as fodder for animals, he adds. Of the total 1.05 lakh machines there are 14 types of machines for in-situ and ex-situ which are mostly tractor-mounted.
“In in-situ method all the main machines incorporate the stubble at the time of sowing of wheat without clearing the stubble from the field after harvesting. Happy Seeder, a wheat sowing machine, which combines stubble mulching, sowing and fertiliser drilling operations into one machine, cuts the selected rice straw and sows seeds into the bare soil and places the straw over the sown seed as a mulch.
Super Seeder is for sowing wheat seed and simultaneous tillage and incorporation of whole straw in combined harvested paddy fields. The Smart Seeder is again for sowing wheat seed and simultaneous light tillage of selected row area only in combined harvested paddy fields. So all these machines do not require to clear the stubble after harvesting as these are sowing wheat directly,” Dr Dhaliwal says, adding that with ex-situ only straw collection and supply to different industries is required.
Then why is the government not getting the desired results when managing stubble? Or is it possible to manage stubble in the small window of 15-20 days between paddy harvesting and wheat sowing?
Experts say the stubble can be managed well. Last year there was late harvesting due to delayed monsoons. More than half of the stubble, that is, 120 lakh tonnes of the total of around 220 lakh tonnes was managed by not burning the crop residue on around 15 lakh hectares of the over 30 lakh hectares rice area.
Now the question of managing the remaining around 100 lakh tonnes is left.
“Punjab’s brick kiln industry alone can utilise nearly 50 lakh tonnes stubble but for that, the government must focus on establishing a good paddy stubble pellet industry,” says Hoshiarpur-based Tata Brick (brick kiln) owner, Shiv Walia. In kilns paddy straw can be used as fuel in the form of pellets and every kiln owner is ready to use them if they are made available because it is cheap compared to coal and environment friendly as well.
And the remaining 50 lakh tonnes can be used for making fodder, growing mushrooms and for cattle bedding. There are 65 lakh cows and buffaloes in the state. The bedding material also ultimately gets converted into compost and goes back to the fields. Compressed Bio-Gas industry can be set up in the state which is highly useful and environment friendly too. Experts say that if there is proper planning, then there is no need to burn even a single straw in the state despite the small window between paddy harvesting and wheat sowing. But for that the government must invite the industry to make use of every tiny straw available and educate farmers on its use in the industry.