From Delhi farmers who tried the Pusa spreader for the first time, a tip for Punjab | Pro IQRA News

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Touted by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is in power in both states, as an alternative to stubble burning in Delhi and now in Punjab, Pusa biodegradable, while promising, is not a magic bullet for farmers who have used it in national capital for the last two years.

Krishan Dabas, 42, a farmer from Ladpur village in northwest Delhi, was in a hurry to prepare part of his field for the upcoming mustard crop on Monday. Besides mustard, he has about 10 acres of paddy. He sprayed the biodecomposer in 2020 and 2021, but is unlikely to apply for it this year.

“The decomposer needs time, about 20-25 days, and the farmer cannot wait. If we harvest around the end of October and we wait, the wheat harvest will be delayed and this could lead to losses. Farmers in Punjab will also say this. The problem is the same everywhere,” he said.

K. Annapurna, former head of the microbiology department at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, said that about 80% of the stubble could take 20-25 days to decompose, allowing farmers to sow the next crop.

“It didn’t do much good. Last year, they came here independently (officials from the block). Then we did it. If they come again this year, we will cooperate. But I did not apply,” Dabas said. Instead, he will hire laborers to clear the land.

Earlier this week, Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai acknowledged the problem when he said, “It is being sprayed in Punjab on a pilot basis. The time between harvest and sowing is short, and scientists say that unless the time it takes to operate the decomposer is reduced, farmers may not be able to use it on a large scale. It may take about 15-20 days. Now scientists are trying to shorten this period of time.”

Dabas added that for him, the solution is not a composter, but for the government to collect the straw for use and give the farmer something in return. Harvesting and clearing the land can take Rs 4,000-5,000 per acre, with workers mainly coming from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

In Hiranki village in Narela, Umesh Singh, whose field was sprayed first in 2020, wants to hand-harvest this year to sell the cleaned straw. He also applied for a spreader spray. “Straw is now being purchased for packaging. It is bought locally and then supplied to Azadpur Mandi or near Lal Kil for packaging of utensils. This year, sales have picked up, so if there is labor and the weather permits, we will cut the straw and sell it. There are not too many machines in Delhi to help with thatch,” said Singh.

If you harvest with a combine harvester, you cannot sell the straw, he explained. He was pleased with last year’s composter results on about 20 acres. It took about 20-22 days for its complete decomposition.

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Parveen Sehrawat, 45, who grows rice on 45 acres in Daryapur village, will not use the spreader this year either after trying it last year. “It takes a long time to work… at least 20 days. We cannot leave the land for so long as another crop can be grown. Now there is a car in the village that someone bought. He harvests and cuts the straw in such a way that the straw can be used as cattle feed or sold at Ghogha Dairy Farm for Rs 5,000 per acre. With the machine, you won’t need a decomposer,” he said. “If we don’t think it’s useful, how will it be useful in Punjab?”

Sahdev Mann, 57, of Holambi Khurd, and Devinder Mann, 45, of Nayaban, are among those who applied for the spreader spray for the third year in a row. “There is a difference when the spreader is sprayed, but it’s not a magic bullet. It takes time,” said Sahdev. “What takes 30 days to turn into compost can take 20 to 25 days when the compost is sprayed.” Without the composter, he would use water and a plow to clear the field and turn the stubble into compost that could be mixed into the soil in about a month, he said. 35 acres of Mann paddy will be harvested in the first week of November. “If there’s the labor to cut the crop by hand, and if the straw can be sold, I might not need a stacker,” he said.

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