Govt.'s solution to end stubble burning is too costly for farmers
How many happy seeder machines are currently available in Haryana and Punjab? Against the backdrop of a recent advisory issued by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare in response to the dense smog that engulfed the entire NCR since October this year, the above question seems pertinent. The happy seeder machine is considered as a magic bullet to curb the menace of stubble burning during the wheat-paddy cropping cycle, which is predominant in the above two states.
The press release of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare dated 10 November, 2017 mentions about happy seeder. The ministry has issued an advisory to the state governments of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan to create awareness among the farmers about the harmful effect of straw burning on environment and human health.
Among other things, the ministry has advised farmers to use happy seeder machines for sowing wheat in the crop fields, without burning the leftover stubble of the rice crops that is harvested in the previous round. The advisory says that the state governments should create awareness about (and also promote sales of) residue management machines like Happy Seeder, Zero Till Seed Drill, Straw Baler, Rotavator, Paddy Straw Chopper/ Mulcher, Gyro Rake, Straw Reaper, Shredder, etc. among farmers through Custom Hiring Centres or village level Farm Machinery Banks.
Happy seeder machines are in use in Punjab and Haryana since the past few years. However, the use of these machines as a scientific solution to end the problem of stubble burning is not so popular among the farmers.
A Times of India news report says that the agricultural department of Haryana had 28 happy seeder machines in October, 2016, whereas the state government made available 65 such machines to farmers on subsidy. Similarly, a news report of the The Tribune says that in March last year, Punjab had 700 such machines, whereas Sangrur district alone had 261 happy seeder machines.
It is worth noting that the state governments of Haryana and Punjab announced subsidies of Rs. 50,000 and Rs. 48,000 respectively on happy seeder machine last year. Despite the promise of subsidies, these machines are not popular among the farmers because of their high market price. A happy seeder machine may cost between Rs. 1.15 lakh to Rs. 1.30 lakh.
With the help of happy seeder machine, one may sow wheat directly in the crop field with pre-existing rice stubbles. Hence, there is no need to burn stubble. On top of that, the use of happy seeder machine enhances soil fertility and moisture content.
According to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE, 2009), nearly 500 million tonne (MT) of crop residues are generated every year. Among the states, the crop residues generation is the highest in Uttar Pradesh (60 MT) followed by Punjab (51 MT) and Maharashtra (46 MT) in a year.
It is worth noting that stubble burning adversely impacts soil fertility. According to some experts, stubble burning leads to yearly losses of 3.9 million tonnes of organic carbon, 59,000 tonnes of nitrogen, 20,000 tonnes of phosphorus and 34,000 tonnes of potassium in Punjab alone.
Stubble production is mainly due to cropping of rice and wheat. If we leave aside pulses, oilseeds and sugarcane, then cereal production (including wheat, rice, maize, millets etc.) alone contributes to generation of 352 million tonnes of stubble/ straw/ crop residue. The percentage share of rice (34 percent) and wheat (22 percent) in total stubble/ crop residue generated is almost two-third.
Farmers burn that part of crop residue, which cannot be used for animal feed or in the construction of huts.
Press release: Crop Residue Management, Ministry of Agriculture, 10 November, 2017, http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=173377
To Breathe Fresh Air, Opt For Better Agricultural Technology, Inclusive Media for Change news alert, dated 10 November, 2016, please click here to access
Combine Harvesters Set To Thicken Delhi's Smog, Inclusive Media for Change news alert, dated 10 November, 2012, please click here to access
Delhi Air Pollution crisis: Miracle THS is the solution to stubble burning problem, but there is a catch, The Financial Express, 10 November, 2017, please click here to access
Advice for India’s rice-wheat farmers: Put aside the plow and save straw to fight pollution -Mike Listman, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), 28 November, 2016, please click here to access
Happy Seeder: A solution to agricultural fires in north India -Ridhima Gupta & E Somanathan, Ideas for India, 12 November, 2016, please click here to access
Haryana to take help of 'happy seeder' to fight stubble burning problem -Sukhbir Siwach, The Times of India, 25 October, 2016, please click here to access
Sangrur tops state in use of happy seeder machines, The Tribune, 14 March, 2016, please click here to access
Management of Crop Residues in the Context of Conservation Agriculture (2012), Policy Paper no. 58, National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, December, please click here to access
Image Courtesy: Himanshu Joshi