The state agriculture department has decided to provide subsidies on paddy chopper-cum-shredder machines to farmers in an attempt to control the pollution caused by the burning of paddy straw.
In spite of a ban imposed by the state government, famers continue to burn paddy straw to prepare their fields for sowing of wheat. With the start of paddy harvesting, the air is now filled with smog.
According to the Punjab Agriculture University (PAU), Ludhiana, every year, 22 million tonne of paddy crop residue is disposed of by burning. This causes emission of smoke and toxic gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), methane and nitrous oxide (NO). These kill useful microbes in soil, leading to poor soil health and loss of soil fertility. This is in addition to environmental pollution and the serious health risks it poses to humans.
According to agriculture experts, when a tonne of paddy straw is burnt, about 3 kg particulate matter, 60 kg CO, 1,460 kg CO2, 199 kg ash and 2 kg sulphur dioxide are released. Other harmful hydrocarbons are also released.
Award-winning agriculture development officer (ADO) Jaswinder Singh Brar said, "It has been estimated that burning a tonne of paddy straw accounts for loss of 5.5 kg nitrogen, 2.3 kg phosphorous, 25 kg potassium and 1.2 kg sulphur. Loose paddy straw left after harvesting the paddy crop is being burnt along with stubbles after using stubble shaver or reaper. This is a bad practice being adopted by farmers."
He said experts from PAU and agriculture department were educating farmers about the ill-effects of the malpractice and also encouraging them to use use implements such as happy seeder, chopper, rotavator and zero til-drill which helps in sowing wheat without burning paddy straw.
State agriculture minister Jathedar Tota Singh also pointed out the ill-effects of burning the crop and highlighted that using a rotavator or a zero-tillage drill would also saved time.
"It reduces the cost of production, controls soil erosion, weeds, and conserves soil moisture," said the minister. "We advise the farmers not to burn paddy stubble. Otherwise strict action will be taken against defaulters. The government is providing subsidies on the paddy chopper machines also. For the benefit of small farmers, the government has decided to provide these machines to the co-operative societies across the state," said Tota Singh.