Read why farmers in other states don’t burn stubble on the same scale as Punjab

Read why farmers in other states don’t burn stubble on the same scale as Punjab

Every year, farmers in North India, especially in the state of Punjab, burn parali or stumps to get rid of crop residue. This practice has become common every year in October and November. Smoke from these burning logs reaches the national capital due to wind patterns and chokes Delhi.

Interestingly, paddy is grown all over the country, but farmers in other parts of India do not burn the stubble like farmers in Punjab and neighboring states, including Haryana, etc. Author Sanjeev Sanyal shared some insight into the root cause of the practice. In a tweet, Sanyal noted that the practice of crop burning has only recently picked up speed. Earlier, farmers in Punjab and neighboring states did not follow the practice with this dedication. So what has changed in the decade and a half since the chain of events that chokes Delhi every year?

He shared satellite images of Kharif crop cycle in 2005 and 2021 Economic Survey 2021-22.

The report readsFigures 6A and 6B compare the Kharif crop cycle in Moga district, Punjab, between 2005 and 2021. The images show that the Kharif sowing cycle has moved forward by about two to three weeks, leading to the Kharif harvest. almost coincides with rabi sowing in November. Gap closure is a likely factor encouraging farmers to burn stubble and may be related to early transplanting constraints in Kharif rice. These restrictions were introduced in 2009 to reduce groundwater pumping, but could have the unintended consequence of harming air quality.”

OpIndia in November 2019 published detailed report on why stubble burning has become a huge problem in recent years. Till 2009, farmers from Punjab and Haryana used to sow paddy in April and May. As shown in the above satellite images, harvest will be completed by September and October in those years. During these months, the wind patterns do not push the smoke towards Delhi.

However, things changed in 2009 when the Punjab and Haryana governments brought in regulations and advanced the sowing time by three weeks. The idea behind the move was to discourage farmers from tapping groundwater for paddy plants as the monsoon does not reach the North until April and May. Paddy requires a lot of water to grow and due to lack of rain, farmers use ground water without restriction.

Instead of encouraging farmers to use different varieties of rice or discourage them from planting cover crops at all, governments decided to extend the sowing period by three weeks. The move by the government changed the harvest period and pushed it to October and November. As of now, 40% of the paddy crop is standing in Punjab awaiting harvest. Farmers in Punjab have been burning paddy residues much more frequently than in previous years. There has been an overall 35%+ increase in burning incidents in the state. Unfortunately, the state has failed miserably to take measures to prevent villagers from burning the stumps.

Modern technology adds to the problem

Combine harvesters, the machines used to harvest the crop and separate the grains in place, harvest only the grain, leaving the stalks of the stalks standing in the field. When the crop is harvested by hand, the crop is cut very low and it is removed from the field to be cultivated, so there are not many stubbles left in the field.

Moreover, the bark is cattle feed, so farmers collect and store it in other states, particularly in the North-Eastern and Eastern states. Farmers in these states harvest the crop by hand and as floods hit these states during the monsoon, the collected husk acts as fodder for their cattle when pastures are flooded.

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