In spite of claims by farmers in the state to go in for direct seeding of rice (DSR) in the ongoing sowing season, those in the region are reluctant to adopt the new method.
The government has been encouraging the DSR method, a technique that saves water and time. But, farmers feel that it would be ‘risky’, especially for those with smaller land.
Sangrur chief agriculture officer (CAO) Rajinder Singh Sohi said that till date 1,255 hectare (ha) of paddy had been sowed under the DSR method.
However, the agriculture office here has fixed a target of 2,000 hectare to be brought under the DRS method.
This would constitute only 10% of the total 2.75 lakh ha under paddy cultivation.
State secretary of Bharatiya Kisan Union (Rajowal) Niranjan Singh Dhaula said, “Farmers cannot adopt this technique as the production is with this relatively lower than that with the traditional method of manual transplantation of paddy seedlings. Also, the land holding has declined and most of the them own less than five acres of land, therefore they cannot afford loss in the yield of the crop.”
He added, “Soil has become used to the transplantation method, it will take years for it to adapt to direct sowing.”
Holding the state and central governments’ policies responsible for the depleting water table in Punjab, he said, “It was the government that forced the farmers to adopt paddy. Now the farmers have become dependent on the wheat-paddy cycle and the government is forcing them to leave paddy, which has become the lifeline of agriculture in the state.”
Another farmer from Sangrur said, “How can we switch to direct sowing until the government ensures production equivalent to the traditional method.”
According to agricultural scientists, direct paddy sowing would help reduce groundwater usage for cultivation by about 50% as the farmer irrigates his fields for the first time immediately after sowing paddy and then irrigates it like he would do for wheat.
“We have only 18 machines for DSR method, how can we increase the target to 2,000 ha as it is difficult even to meet the current target,” said an employee of the district agriculture department, on the condition of anonymity.