The Punjab agriculture department has failed to meet the target of doubling the area under direct seeding of rice (DSR) technique for paddy sowing this kharif season against the last year’s 5-lakh hectare mark even as the overall acreage increased slightly.

Pre-germinated seeds are directly drilled in the fields with a tractor-powered machine under the water-conservation technique with no nursery preparation or transplantation unlike the conventional methods of sowing.

The farmers have to level the land which has to be irrigated just once before sowing starts.

Agriculture department joint director (extension) Gurvidner Singh said of nearly 23 lakh hectare area under the PR (parmal) varieties this season, 6.5 lakh hectares were sown using the DSR method.

“For this kharif season, the department had set the target of sowing non-basmati varieties on 10-12 lakh hectares using direct seeding. Though the paddy growers surpassed the last season’s total area, we fell short of achieving our target. The lesser area under DSR means a gross loss to natural resources to irrigate water-guzzling varieties of non-basmati crop,” he said.

Till Saturday, rice had been sown on 28-lakh hectare area and the department expects another 2 lakh hectares will be covered under the basmati varieties in the next fortnight.

“Of the expected 30 lakh hectares for the kharif crop, nearly 23-lakh hectare land is under the PR varieties. The basmati varieties will be sown on the rest of the 7 lakh hectares,” said the joint director.

Farmers like Baldev Singh of Bathinda’s Bajak village are worried as scanty rainfall may impact the yield. “Paddy sowing begins in June and the first two months are quite crucial to the crop when transplanted paddy needs huge quantities of water. Delayed monsoon and poor electricity supply resulted in inadequate irrigation in the fields under direct seeding. Losses may be minimised if the state witnesses rain as predicted in the next week,” said Singh

Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) principal agronomist MS Bhullar said the paddy cultivation situation is not critical and field studies say rice cultivated through the DSR is standing firm even as irrigation was inadequate.

Bhullar said farmers who sowed paddy through the DSR after the recommended period of May 25 will hardly face any major challenge whereas the early sown crop may encounter problems. Even if some farmers experience marginally lesser yield their net income would not be affected as the DSR saves significantly on water and makes it less labour intensive, he added.

Source: 12 July, 2021, Hindustan Times