As the state's department of agriculture along with Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) is trying hard to foster crop diversification, the district agriculture offices (DAO) are on their toes to promote maize cultivation which is yet to receive popularity among Punjab farmers. The maize cultivation, according to experts, offers several benefits to the farmers.
In comparison with wheat and paddy cultivation, the area, yield and production of maize stands nowhere. However, according to crop diversification plan of the state government, 4 lakh hectares of additional area (than 2011-12) will be brought under maize cultivation in the next two years.
For promoting maize cultivation, all the DAO's are currently offering subsided maize seeds along with free trainings in groups to the farmers. In Ludhiana office too, different maize variety seeds are available for Rs 64 per kg. According to officials, farmers interested to begin with maize cultivation should not delay the sowing of seeds beyond August 15.
"Maize cultivation saves a lot of water and helps recharging the ground water table to a great extent as compared to paddy which needs a lot of water. It matures within four months and just requires six or seven irrigations and if there are rains, the irrigation cycle can be decreased to three or four times. Secondly, it can also suit those areas where there are no proper irrigation facilities or where farmers feel the pinch of spending too much on diesel for running tube wells as this crop does not require too much water as compared to paddy. Thirdly, as no puddling is done while preparing field for maize or sowing its seeds, it enhances life of the tractor and saves lot of labour,"said Ludhiana's chief agriculture officer Sukhpal Singh Sekhon.
As maize matures, farmers can also use it for animal fodder, especially at dairy farms or feed for the poultry birds, said Sekhon, adding arrangements have been made in Ludhiana district to distribute maize seeds for 6,000 hectares of area. Last year, 4,000 hectares under maize was covered.
Agriculture development officer (ADO) Jagdev Singh stressed that all the farmers must understand that considering the depleting ground water table, there is a need to cultivate those crops that can save water. Cultivating crops other than wheat and paddy will also bring diversification which can help the farming sector to survive, he added.
Different maize seed varieties available are Monsanto Rashi, UPL Adventa, Shriram Pharbhat, Yoganti to name a few which have also been recommended by the PAU. For sowing these seeds, officials say, "Each seed has to be sensitively sowed at a distance of two feet and for any doubts, both PAU and agriculture office is available."
Agricultural economic experts revealed that for the last several years, area under maize has failed to increase on a good note. The state government needs to play an active role to galvanise farmers to go ahead with maize and other crops that can bring diversification.
Year Area (000 heactre) Yield (Kg/heactre) Production (000 tonnes)
2009-10 139 3414 475
2010-11 133 3693 491
2011-12 126 3981 502
2012-13 129 3680 475
2013-14 130 3898 507