The area under basmati in Amritsar this year will cross 1 lakh hectares, an increase of 13,500 hectares over last year, while the area under paddy will fall from 97,000 hectares to 81,000 hectares. Amritsar, Tarn Taran and Gurdaspur are major basmati growing areas not only in Punjab, but also in the country.
Under the new agriculture policy prepared by the Punjab Farmers Commission, the area under paddy is proposed to be cut down by about 12 lakh hectares in the state. This proposal was mooted taking into consideration falling groundwater table, with paddy being targeted as it requires a huge quantity of water, which is met, mostly from tubewells.
The two varieties which are expected to occupy almost 80 percent of the area under basmati, not only in Amritsar district but also in the entire state, are Pusa – 1121 and Pusa – 1509. The traditional aromatic varieties like Punjab Basmati 1, Punjab Basmati 2 and Basmati 386 are also expected to occupy some of the area as these are in great demand by rice millers for export. PUSA-1509 is being introduced for the first time in the country.
PUSA 1509, is long grained like 1121, the earlier popular variety, but it will give a higher yield, which will touch 23-24 quintals per acre. In such a scenario the farmers are expected to go in for the new variety.
Being a short duration variety, PUSA-1509 will mature early and require less water. It will require at least six irrigations less than the 1121.
All India Rice Exporters Association and the union ministries concerned have also approved PUSA 1509 and the necessary notification on according it the basmati status has been issued, so that farmers have no doubt in their minds about the status of this variety.
To promote and popularise maize cultivation, the state agriculture department has tied-up with the muli-national company Monsanto India Ltd. As part of the tie-up, the company has supplied a fixed amount of hybrid maize seed free to identified farmers and is also providing details about sowing and upkeep of the crop.
A total of 1,000 acres in the state will covered under the Monsanto --- agriculture department tie-up programme. The Punjab Farmers Commission in its new agriculture policy report to the government had laid stress on maize, soya bean and pulses for diversification and as a replacement for paddy.
Amritsar chief agriculture officer Dilbagh Singh Dhanju said that Monsanto had supplied maize seed free of cost to 50 farmers, some of whom did sow the crop.
Each grower received 8-9 kg of seed for the demonstration plot of one acre.
The expected yield should be between 24 quintals to 28 quintals per acre. Maize is a crop that needs far less water as compared to paddy. While maize requires around 6 irrigations, paddy requires around 25-30 irrigations.
"Besides the 50-acre through the Monsanto tie-up, we are targeting an area of 1,000 hectares to be brought under maize. It was just a couple of acres last year," said Dhanju.