The yield is stagnated for years, thanks to farmers' illiteracy and lack of agricultural training.
Small holdings and traditional way of growing paddy and cotton in kharif (summer) leave farmers with only one option to boost yield-use fertilisers and chemical insecticides, pesticides, and fungicides. However, they have done it in excess.
In the race to increase yield, farmers have disregarded the consequences. The recommended dosage of urea (110 kg) in normal circumstances (nitrogen 46%) for paddy is satisfies farmers hardly. In the district, they put 125-kg to 150-kg urea in each acre of paddy. "Some farmers in my village grow the PUSA-44 variety," said Jaswinder Singh of Dhilwan Kalan village. "They have increase the urea dose to 175-kg an acre."
The farmers have started putting in many small nutrients and growth substances on the advice of shopkeepers who can never make so much profit out of selling fertilisers. Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) recommends that paddy doesn't require di-ammonium phosphate (DAP), if the soil has received its recommended dose to the wheat crop. However, many farmers still put at least 25-kg DAP into the field before planting paddy.
This year, the fertiliser being very expensive, farmers preferred not to go for it.
Farmers have given the crop double or even triple the dose of pesticides and fungicides on the advice of shopkeepers who only want to sell most of the product. Only a handful of farmers follow the recommendation. The cheaper the salt, the greater is the dose.
Kaur Singh Dhillon, chief agriculture officer of Faridkot, agreed that farmers did not believe the recommendation. "Excess nitrogen attracts many insects and fungi to the crop, which may lead to heavy damage during maturity," he said. "Farmers then have to use more insecticides and fungicides to control diseases. It also spoils the soil quality."
The timing of the fertiliser and insecticide input is also important. "Insecticide spray before the insect attack and fungicide spray after the attack have little effect," said agriculture expert Baljinder Singh Brar. The excess dose leaves reside in the grains, vegetables, and the other farm products, it is proved in many field experiments at the PAU. Yet, ignoring the long-term consequences, farmers poison the fruits of their labour.
Impact on health
The overdose of insecticides, fungicides, and fertilisers has a serious impact on the environment and human health. "The poisons harm the plant and human tissues," said Umender Dutt, executive director of the Kheti Virasat Manch (KVM), an organic farming mission. "The agriculture department has the duty of educating farmers."
Farmer Gurmeet Singh Mann of Bukan Singh Nagar near Kotkpaura has seen cauliflower growers put 8 bags of urea, three times the right dose, to see the crop mature before its time. "Imagine the impact on consumers," he said.