Breaking wheat-paddy cycle a must to save groundwater: CSSRI study

Flood-based irrigation in Haryana, Punjab a threat to groundwater which is depleting over 3 feet every year
Published on May 14, 2020 11:19 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Chandigarh | By, Karnal

Breaking the traditional wheat-paddy cycle is the need of the hour to preserve groundwater for the future generations, reveals a research conducted by scientists of the Central Soil Salinity Research Institute (CSSRI), Karnal (Haryana).

Asserting that the rice crop alone consumes about 50% of the total irrigation water, the researchers have suggested radical changes in the agricultural use of available water.

‘OPT FOR ROOT ZONE IRRIGATION’

With five million hectares under rice cultivation in the country’s Indo-Gangetic plains of north west, including Punjab, Haryana and parts of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, it is the most important production area for India’s two staple cereals -- rice and wheat. The crops in this region are harvested on the cost of natural resources that leads to groundwater depletion and deterioration in soil and environmental quality, the scientists said. They have also advised the farmers to adopt root zone irrigation (RZI) over flood irrigation to save the groundwater.

The research has suggested that RZI not only saves about 50% water, but also improves yields up to 20% by eliminating surface water evaporation with similar management practices over flood irrigation.

OVER 3FT DECLINE IN GROUNDWATER EVERY YEAR

The report also reveals that the decline of about 3-feet every year in the groundwater table between 1973 and 2001 has accelerated by five-fold between 2000 and 2006 in central Punjab and parts of Haryana. Moreover, during 2008-2012, the total freshwater withdrawals in India were about 761 billion cubic metre of which about 90% was used for agriculture. By 2050, the share of water for agricultural use will be less than 50% of the total water from the present share of 70%, the report read.

‘MAIZE A GOOD ALTERNATIVE’

Director of ICAR-CSSRI, Karnal, PC Sharma, said, “There is an immediate need to break the wheat-paddy cycle to save groundwater for the future generations.” He said that maize could be a better option for both wheat and paddy as it consumes 50% less water, but there is a need of assured marketing of maize such as wheat and paddy to divert farmers.

“Both rice and wheat need 20% less nitrogen-based fertilisers under a subsurface drip fertigation (injection of fertilisers) system. It can improve ecosystem’s health and cut the emission of greenhouse gases,” he said.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Neeraj Mohan is a correspondent, covering Karnal, Kaithal, Kurukshetra, Panipat and Yamunanagar districts of Haryana.

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