High temperatures hovering between 42 and 46 degrees Celsius have wreaked havoc on subsoil water saving plans in Punjab during the ongoing paddy planting season, raising concern among agricultural experts and environmentalists, who are hoping for a good period of rain to ease the situation.
The sowing of paddy by the conventional method of transplanting young trees into the swampy fields started on Tuesday and due to the severe heat wave, the water consumption will increase by 10-20%, according to university experts. Punjab Agriculture (PAU).
The state agriculture department, PAU and Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) pinned their hopes on a rainy spell, forecast by the state meteorological department for three to four days from from Thursday, for an easy start of paddy transplanting.
“Under such weather conditions, evaporation and transpiration are at their maximum, leading to increased water requirements. It is not of concern for the crop but for the subsoil water,” said Makhan Singh Bhullar, Head of Department of Agronomy, PAU.
Historically, whenever there was drought in the country, Punjab had bumper paddy crops, he added.
About 75% of irrigation water in the state is supplied by groundwater through 14.5 lakh agricultural tube wells and the rest through canals. The average annual underground water fall in Punjab is more than one meter and out of 138 blocks in the state, 109 are in the “overexploited” category, which means that the use is greater than the recharge.
Gurvinder Singh, Director of Agriculture, said, “It is a real test for paddy planting this season. The available energy is limited, the water in the subsoil is also under pressure and the canals can also supply part of the rice field. Diesel is also very expensive, so unlike past seasons when farmers used to run the tube well on diesel when electricity was not available, this time high fuel prices pose a challenge of pruning to farmers. »
“If we don’t get good rainfall this week, we’re heading for a big problem. The fight is against nature,” he added.
A total of 29 lakh hectares (71 lakh acres) is planned for cultivation of paddy in the state, of which 6 lakh tons are expected for cultivation of premium aromatic basmati rice.
Unconventional DSR method
To conserve subsoil water, the state agriculture department had planned in May to bring 12 lakh hectares under the unconventional method of directed seeding rice (DSR), but it did not received the expected response, because only 80,000 hectares could be sown under this method. technical.
The State Department and UPA attribute the poor response to the adoption of the DSR technique to the lack of availability of water for irrigation and power supply to farmers between May 20 and May 31, the schedule set by the government to sow paddy using this method.
“Due to the low response to the DSR, all the load will be on the unconventional method and this would add to the load on the power system when farmers depend on the conventional method,” an agriculture department official said. .
With the unconventional method, growing one kilogram of rice consumes 3,367 liters of water. Due to the heat wave, the dependence on water use is all the greater as on the day of the opening of paddy sowing on Tuesday, the day’s demand exceeded 12,000 MW and is expected to reach 15,000 MW.