Tejbir Singh Sandhu of Budhmor village in Patiala district, bordering Haryana, provides a silver lining amid the thick smoke emanating from paddy stubble burning in the fields. He has not set the stubble on fire. Instead, he drew inspiration from an old agricultural practice and sowed wheat seed in the paddy crop itself, even before he harvested it.
“In the old days, farmers allowed animals like goats to eat germinating wheat plants. This helped the plant in sprouting several more branches and thus increased the yield. So, when the combine harvester chops the paddy plant, it crushes the wheat plant, allowing it to germinate more,” he says.
“This practice has increased the yield of wheat from 10 quintals per acre to more than 23 quintals now. This is the yield in clay land typical of a flood-prone area which is inundated often by the Tangri and Ghaggar rivers,” he adds.
Tejbir has to spend around Rs 1,700 per acre, but the savings on fertilisers and spray, coupled with double yield, make the end result a win-win situation. “The environment is saved and so is money. The paddy straw is strewn around in the field and serves as a nutrient throughout the year and helps to bind the soil. I never need to use fertilisers and insecticide spray and save at least Rs 1,200 per acre,” he says. Tejbir appreciates the government schemes but wants Punjab’s farmers to rise to the occasion.
“It is time to find your own solutions and your way to make profit. We have to sustain ourselves and not be dependent on the government,” he adds.
Gurbachan Singh Burj of Burj village in Tarn Taran is a national name now for not burning paddy. He has been sowing wheat in standing paddy stubble for the past several years. He has received numerous awards and runs a social media campaign peppered with quotes against stubble burning and other environmentally hazardous farming practices. Apart from not burning paddy residue in his fields, he motivates others to follow suit. “When we break the law of the land, we can be sentenced, can we be pardoned when we break the laws of nature?” he asks.
“The burning of crop residue kills lakhs of species dependent on your fields. You are killing nature by your act.” He calls for the importance of doing one’s duty as a cultivator. “Worship your religion but do not forget worshipping your nation also,” reads one of his posts. Burj claims that his village had 100 per cent record of not burning stubble, but this year, about 10 per cent of the farmers resorted to the damaging practice. “We will also motivate them not to do so,” he says.
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