Punjab to Ban PUSA-44 Paddy Variety
Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Singh Mann recently announced the ban on the cultivation of the PUSA-44 paddy variety in the state, effective from the next year. PUSA-44 was once popular among Punjab’s farmers due to its high yield, covering a significant portion of the paddy cultivation area. However, the state government has decided to prohibit its cultivation.
The Rise of PUSA-44
- PUSA-44 was developed by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) in 1993 and initially gained popularity in Punjab during the late 1990s.
- Farmers were drawn to PUSA-44 due to its remarkable yield, and its cultivation area expanded rapidly, eventually covering around 70 to 80% of Punjab’s paddy cultivation area.
- The Agriculture Department and Punjab Agricultural University have began discouraging its cultivation.
- In 2018, the Punjab government reduced the area under PUSA-44 to 18%, but it rebounded to 22% in the following year.
- In the last agricultural year, approximately 7.74 lakh hectares (19.12 lakh acres) of paddy in Punjab were PUSA-44, out of a total non-Basmati paddy area of 26.61 lakh hectares.
Yield and Income Gains
- Farmers have reported that PUSA-44 yields significantly higher than other paddy varieties, with potential yields of 36 to 40 quintals per acre compared to the average of 28 to 30 quintals per acre.
- This increased yield could potentially add Rs 15,000 to 22,000 per acre to a farmer’s income, given the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for paddy.
Reasons for the Ban
- PUSA-44 has an extended maturity period, requiring about 160 days to mature, which is approximately 35 to 40 days longer than other paddy varieties.
- This extended cultivation period necessitates 5-6 additional cycles of irrigation, which exacerbates the issue of groundwater depletion in Punjab.
- The state has been grappling with a severe decline in groundwater levels, leading to concerns about water scarcity.
- Additionally, PUSA-44’s late harvest coincides with the ideal time for wheat sowing. Farmers have a limited window to manage stubble disposal between the two crops, often resorting to stubble burning due to time constraints.
- PUSA-44 generates approximately 2% more stubble than shorter-duration paddy varieties, contributing significantly to the problem of stubble burning in Punjab.
- The burning of stubble from PUSA-44 in various districts of Punjab has been a major environmental concern, leading to high levels of air pollution during the winter months.
- The ban on PUSA-44 aims to address the challenges of groundwater depletion, stubble burning, and the unsustainable use of water resources.
- While the ban may promote sustainable farming practices, it could pose challenges for farmers who have relied on PUSA-44 for its high yield and income potential.
- The transition to alternative paddy varieties and more sustainable agricultural practices will be essential to mitigate the impact of the ban and promote environmental conservation.
Category: India Nation & States Current Affairs