Punjab: Rampant use of weedicide on ‘moong’ has experts worried

Published on Jul 18, 2022 01:24 AM IST

BATHINDA: Rampant use of weedicides on the standing crop of green gram or summer ‘moong’ to speed up its thrashing and reduce time to prepare fields for paddy sowing has experts worried

Weedicide sprayed to dry ‘moong’ crop in a field at Naruana village in Bathinda on Sunday. Photo: Sanjeev Kumar/HT
Weedicide sprayed to dry ‘moong’ crop in a field at Naruana village in Bathinda on Sunday. Photo: Sanjeev Kumar/HT
ByVishal Joshi

BATHINDA: Rampant use of weedicides on the standing crop of green gram or summer ‘moong’ to speed up its thrashing and reduce time to prepare fields for paddy sowing has experts worried.

Officials of the state agriculture department confirm that farmers are using paraquat dichloride (one of the most widely used herbicides) to kill plants of the short-duration legume. This method to expedite harvesting is not recommended by farm experts, they say. Experts say the use of a weedicide on the edible crop nearing maturity is a cause for concern and it requires detailed laboratory testing if residue of paraquat is traced in bean pods.

Jump in ‘moong’ cultivation

Buoyed by chief minister Bhagwant Mann’s announcement of MSP for green gram, farmers in Punjab took up ‘moong’ cultivation and the state witnessed sowing on about 1.25 lakh acres, a jump of 80% in its sowing acreage, the highest in the last five years.

Boost to legume cultivation was aimed at enhancing farmers’ income and the private players and the government is buying the legume.

Saves time, say farmers

During a visit to various villages of Bathinda, Mansa and Muktsar, several ‘moong’ bean fields appeared to be burnt. On inquiring, it was learnt that ‘moong’ growers are using a highly toxic weedicide to save on time before sowing paddy or other crops.

A farmer from Fazilka’s Abohar said the use of paraquat is common among pulse growers.”Weedicide starts killing the plants within a few hours of the spray and after 2-3 days, fields are cleared by using a harvesting-cum-thrashing machine. The best method of manual harvesting ‘moong’ bean and then thrashing is no longer in practice as by using chemicals we save 8-10 days,” he said.

‘Not recommended by agri experts’

Manjit Singh, chief agriculture officer of Mansa, where about 10,000 hectares is under ‘moong’ cultivation, said using any weedicide in the legume crop is against the best farm practice. “We have learnt that many farmers are using paraquat for leaf shedding. Weedicide is meant only to get rid of unwanted growth of plants and its use on an edible crop is worrying,” he said.

Block agriculture officer of Phul in Bathinda Gurpreet Singh said the recommended method is to keep harvested ‘moong’ pods to dry under shade for almost a week before thrashing the crop. “Since farmers have a limited window before sowing paddy, many are using weedicide to dry plants and clear fields immediately,” he said.

A top agronomist at the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) stopped responding to calls when asked for his opinion on farmers using weedicides and the possibility of an impact on the pulse, soil or environment. But PAU’s district extension scientist (agronomy) in Bathinda Navneet Kaur said it is for the first time that summer ‘moong’ was sown in such a large area thus the use of a weedicide is being noticed.

“Cotton is the only crop where weedicides are recommended but in that too, plants of the natural fibre should be covered with a hood. I will write to the PAU authorities for in-depth testing to determine if the use of weedicide has any impact on the edible produce or the soil,” she said.

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