Eying maize as the 'future crop', the Punjab government has decided to promote its cultivation in the state. Keeping in view the increasing demand of maize by different industries and the low farming inputs involved to grow the crop, the agriculture department has issued special directions to the district agriculture officers to promote its cultivation.
The department has set a target of at least 40% increase in the area under maize in the next three to four years.
In Patiala district alone, the agriculture office plans to add one thousand-hectare area under the crop to the existing 959 hectares.
In a special scheme to promote maize farming from this Rabi season (mid-June), the government has decided to provide a subsidy of Rs 500 per acre on the seeds of maize. The seeds can be procured by the farmers from four manufacturing agencies: Pioneer, Adventa, Monsento and Segenta.
"The hybrid-variety seeds of these four companies have been tested by the department and the Punjab Agriculture University. The department is advising the farmers to use these seeds," said Patiala district agriculture officer Balwinder Singh Sohal.
He said as per instructions from the state agriculture office, experts would be holding special demonstrations to farmers in the coming two months.
Maize is used in several industries including manufacturing plastics, packing materials, insulating materials, adhesives, chemicals, explosives, paint, paste, abrasives, dyes, insecticides, pharmaceuticals, organic acids, solvents, rayon, antifreeze and soaps.
The demand for the crop in Punjab has increased manifolds in the recent years as several of these industries have come up in the state.
A sudden spurt in the use of maize products like cornflakes and baby-corn in the cities have also added to the demand.
Agriculture experts also see the crop as a strong diversification alternate to paddy.
"Maize is more soil protective because it involves lesser use of fertilizers and chemicals. Also, it has shorter ripening period, 90 days, as compared to paddy, which takes 145 days," said an expert.
As compared to paddy, maize requires less labour thus making it more farmer-friendly.
"Keeping in view the shortage of migrant labourers in Punjab in the recent years, it makes sense to focus on cultivating more maize," said a farmer.
At present, maize is cultivated in 1.40-lakh hectares of land in Punjab.
Despite many subsidies already available to the farmers for growing the crop, the area under maize has increased only marginally in the recent years.