Amid several steps taken to reduce incidents of stubble burning in Punjab, Haryana, and other states, the Punjab Government is considering measures that include preventing cultivation of paddy varieties that take more than 150 days to mature for harvesting. Stopping such varieties could provide ample time for farmers to plant wheat, experts said.
Currently, Pusa 44 variety, having over 150 days duration and 8-10 tonne/hectare yield, occupies about 10 per cent of the total paddy area of about 29-30 lakh hectare in Punjab.
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“If farmers are given alternative seed with lower duration and same level of yield, they will definitely shift from Pusa 44,” said A K Singh, Director of Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI). PR 126, a short-duration variety, is at par with Pusa 44 in all parameters except yield, Singh said adding, IARI has taken it as a challenge to develop a short-duration variety with same level of yield as Pusa 44.
As done in the case of fixing the start date of paddy sowing through law to save water, a similar rule can be framed or to denotify those varieties that take more than 150 days, said a source in the Punjab Government. Even stopping seed multiplication of such varieties could be considered as withdrawal of certified seeds will reduce yield in a few years since farmers will not be able to maintain the same productivity from normal crop, said the source. Punjab and Haryana have legally restricted the commencement of paddy transplanting before a certain date (it is announced yearly based on monsoon progress) to save depleting groundwater table.
Singh said IARI had discontinued breeder seed production of Pusa 44 some years back. This has led to lower availability of foundation, certified and truthfully labelled (TL) seeds of the variety now. Only those seeds are in circulation, which farmers are saving every year from the crop.
Singh also said that paddy varieties with higher duration are required in low-lying areas of eastern Uttar Pradesh, so State-specific issues like stubble burning in Punjab need to be addressed differently. He advised farmers to spray Pusa decomposer even if they are using happy seeder as this will help the residues to get decomposed in the soil faster.
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Short-duration paddy varieties are ready for harvesting in mid-September or October-end, providing one month window to prepare the fields for wheat sowing. Whereas, the long-duration paddy varieties are harvested in October-end or the first week of November.