Agriculture Department has initiated a drive to provide over 25,000 agro-machines/farm equipment
to farmers for In-Situ Management of paddy residue with a subsidy component of rupees 250 crores during the current fiscal. “Punjab government plans to deliver state-of-the-art machines to farmers, including Super SMS,
Happy Seeder, Paddy Straw Chopper, Hydraulic Reversible Mould Board Plough and Zero Till Drill machines”, says Sukhdev Singh Sidhu, Director Agriculture.
Agricultural Machines for Straw Management
The government’s drive has increased demand for machines to manage the stubble of paddy in the states like Punjab and Haryana. This situation warrants comprehensive awareness among farmers and sustained government support.
Machines like Happy Seeder cuts and lifts the residue of the previous crop and sows a new crop in its place. It will eliminate air pollution caused by crop burning and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from on-farm activities by more than 78 per cent relative to all burning options. The Happy Seeder based systems are 20 per cent more profitable than the most common burnt systems and almost 10 per cent more than the most profitable burning options.
It is a direct sowing machine that is capable of seeding for the new crop even in the presence of the previous sown crop’s straw residues on the soil surface without any tillage. Also, they can deploy the system immediately after the harvest of the rice crop. It even deposits the straw over the sown area as Mulch.
Super Straw Management System, also known as Super SMS is another option that is widely used nowadays for Straw Management
. In Super SMS, additional equipment is attached with the combined harvester so that it can cut standing stubble into small pieces and spread on the soil surface. With the help of this machine, crop
harvesting and straw management are both done in a single operation through modified combine harvesters. This machine is currently considered as the ultimate solution of residue burning issues in the states like Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
Paddy Straw Chopper is a machine that is specially designed to manage crop residues. It is a very simple and reliable tool for chopping paddy straw left in paddy fields. The main point to notice about this machine is that it helps in maintaining soil fertility. It is an agricultural implement that works by connecting it with a tractor PTO. Paddy Straw Chopper was developed to chop and mix the paddy stalks left behind after harvesting of paddy crop by combine harvesters.
Challenges Involved in Straw Management
According to a study, on average, 2.0-2.5 tonnes of paddy straw is produced per acre. Burning the residue of crops causes immense pollution in the atmosphere, different kinds of deficiencies in the soil and huge nutritional loss. The paddy straw cannot be used as fodder for animals due to the presence of silica content in it. Paddy Straw can be incorporated into the soil using Mulchur and MB Plough, which requires additional cost and it may also delay the sowing of the next crop. In addition to this, some farmers also complain about problems while sowing and low germination, when sown with these agro machines.
Also, many small farmers in Punjab do not have the tools to deal with paddy straw. So, most of the time they have to access the equipment from custom hiring centres or co-operative societies. Another challenging factor is Rodents, which causes a huge loss every year. Because of straw, the population of rodents increases in fields as rodents find more space to hide in straw. The major concern for farmers who opted for In-Situ Incorporation in the last few years is worrying.
Even though farmers are willing to adopt machines to manage straw in their fields, the availability and sustainability of these machines for every individual becomes a challenge for the government. It is claimed that a single Happy Seeder is capable to cover an area of 10 acres in a day. The state of Punjab alone requires 50,000 Happy Seeders to clear its 75 lakh acres of paddy fields in 15 days whereas, the government is able to provide only 25,000 agro machines. Also, there are many machines which are not in good condition and require maintenance.
The Way Forward
Although every year government provides subsidies on machines to the farmers, still many small and medium farmers are not able to avail these benefits. Many farmers get a subsidy through Custom Hiring Centers (CHC). There are cases where CHC handovers the machines to farmers, without monitoring whether the machines are working properly or not. Also, the Happy Seeder machines have not been adopted widely due to the technical issues in operations, unavailability of machines and price issues. It is very early to say that these agro machines will provide the ultimate solution to residue burning issues throughout the country as its initial trials performed by a different group of farmers showed a mixed reaction.