Punjab | Farm fires set to rebound as rain delays paddy harvest

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As the region experiences overcast skies and a drop in temperature amidst the paddy harvesting season, concerns from the Punjab Department of Agriculture over farm fires have grown.

Unfavorable weather conditions would delay the ripening of the paddy crop, hence a delay in harvesting.

“A shorter window between harvesting paddy and sowing wheat would mean that farmers would opt for the easiest method of clearing their fields, i.e. stubble burning,” a department official said. Agriculture National which monitors weather conditions and paddy harvest.

According to the state weather department, overcast skies and drizzle will continue for a few more days in the state.

Angej Singh, a farmer from Patiala, said: “This is the second rainy spell in the past two weeks. Our harvest was delayed by at least 10 days. Now I have no choice but to burn the paddy straw.

Another farmer, Resham Singh from Nabha, said: “The rain has already done damage. The moisture content of our crop has increased, which means that we will have difficulty selling the crop. I will not be able to afford the extra expense of renting a happy seeder or any other machine, for which we also have to buy diesel to run it.

Ministry of Agriculture officials say that in some pockets the crop is ripe but the moisture content reaches 22-25%, so farmers have to wait before cutting the crop or they won’t be able to get the best price. for their harvest.

“According to the cultivation cycle, the paddy harvest is expected to be completed by October 25, and the wheat cultivation is to start simultaneously and continue until the first week of December, but this time the whole schedule has been delayed. “, said the director of agriculture, Gurvinder Singh.

Can expect 3,000-4,000 farm fires per day by the end of October

Although the number of farm fires (until October 10) this year is comparatively lower than in the past two years (see box), experts say it could reach around 3,000 to 4,000 in late October and early November, which is considered the peak. time for thatch problems.

The burning of paddy residues starts initially in the Majha region, where harvesting takes place early.

“Maximum farm fires are generally reported in Sangrur, Barnala, Mansa, Patiala and Ludhiana, the epicenter of the farmers’ movement. Thus, no civil servant dares to act against the burning of stubble, fearing a backlash from the farmers’ unions,” reveals an official from the Ministry of Agriculture.

Stubble management

The state government, for its part, is making every effort to stem the threat. “We are encouraging farmers to make the best use of machinery for in situ management of paddy stubble,” Agriculture Minister Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal, who was seen driving a tractor to collect paddy straw, said on Sunday. the purpose of urging farmers.

“We have developed a mobile application that displays information related to the availability of each paddy stubble management machine so that farmers can make their choice. They can also rent the machines easily through this app,” Agriculture Minister Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal said.

Apart from this, about 50,000 volunteers and staff from revenue, agriculture and rural development departments have also been deployed to carry out sensitization activities and convince farmers not to burn the paddy residues.

According to a State Department officer, extension officers have been delegated to expedite the harvest wherever the crop is at full maturity. “We are motivating farmers to make best use of the machines given to them for in situ paddy straw management,” the official informed, adding that this season, 32,100 machines for stubble management would be given to farmers. of which at least 10,000 machines have been shipped to the end user.

No less than 76,000 machines have already been donated to farmers over the past four years (from 2018 to 2021). Despite this, there is no thaw in the number of farm fires – last kharif season 71,246 cases of stubble burning were recorded in the state.

Punjab Pollution Control Board Secretary Krunesh Garg, however, is hopeful that thatch problems will see a decline this year. “According to the data, the area under fire has decreased by 15% per year over the past three years. This time the government is proactive and the chief secretary is personally monitoring the situation to use the in situ machines for straw handling. We hope farm fires will decrease this year,” he said. He said that this year, due to the increase in coal prices, many companies are collecting stubble for fuel, and in addition, farmers are also cooperating.

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