As the labour shortage is imminent owing to the exodus of the migrant labourers, the farmers in Punjab are all set to go for direct seeding of rice (DSR) this khairf season, moving away from the traditional practice — of sowing nursery and transplanting it.
The farmers and agri-experts told The Hindu that they are hopeful that this technology — recommended as an alternative method of paddy planting — will save irrigation water, labour and energy in contrast to the conventional method of raising rice nursery and then transplanting the seedlings in a puddled field.
“The DSR technique is less time consuming and labour intensive than the conventional practice. The technique called ‘tar-wattar DSR’ has been developed and successfully tested on a good scale. It also helps in lesser weed problem, besides reduced incidence of nutrient deficiency, especially, iron owing to lesser leaching of nutrients and deeper root development,” said Makhan Singh Bhullar, principal agronomist, at the Ludhiana-based Punjab Agricultural University.
Mr. Bhullar said the technology has a wider adaptability as it is suitable for medium to heavy textured soils including sandy loam, loam, clay loam and silt loam, which account for 87% area of the State.
“Not only this, the DSR offers avenue for groundwater recharge and prevents the development of hard pan just beneath the plough layer. It matures 7-10 days earlier than the puddle transplanted rice, hence it gives more time for the management of paddy straw, for the timely sowing of the next wheat crop. Results from research trials and farmers’ field survey have also indicated that wheat grain yield, after DSR, is 1.0-1.2 quintal per acre higher,” said Mr. Bhullar.
“The DSR involves precision in timing and greater accuracy in the operations compared. It gives the best yield and quality when sowing is done in June. Early sowing in May results in higher use of irrigation water and higher incidence of weeds. Pollination may coincide with high temperature leading to partially filled grains. Added together, these factors may contribute to lower yield and quality.”
Punjab is likely to see paddy cultivation in around 20 lakh hectares this season against nearly 23 lakh hectares in 2019-20. “We are encouraging farmers to adopt the DSR. Last season around 60,000 acres were planted under DSR and this year we are expecting it to go up to 4 lakh hectares,” said Sutantar Airi, Director, Punjab Agriculture department.
Bhartiya Kisan Union (Lakhowal) general secretary Harinder Singh said sowing under DSR will increase this year. “I am myself all set to do so. It’s cheap, less time consuming and saves water. Besides, this year we are facing labour shortage as many migrant labourers have gone back to their native places. So, the DSR is a viable option for me. I, however, demand the government to start uninterrupted supply of electricity for eight to 10 hours immediately so that farm operations can be carried on swiftly,” he said.