How microbial treatment can help solve the stubble-burning problem

The microbial spray is an effective long-term solution to stubble burning and the pollution problem, that is economically viable for farmers as well.

 |  3-minute read |   21-10-2020
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The burning of parali – the dry grass left after paddy harvest – is again making headlines. In the last few years, the alarming pollution caused by fire over thousands of acres has led to severe air degradation in the National Capital Region during winter. The threat may be manifold during Covid times.

Various options to deal with the paddy straw residue are being discussed in Punjab and Haryana, the states which witness the maximum parali burning. Among these, the in-situ option of using a microbial consortium may be the most cost-effective solution for farmers.

The eco-friendly microbial consortium developed by Indian Council of Agricultural Research-Indian Agricultural Research Institute (ICAR-IARI) and Gujarat Life Sciences — an NGO headed by renowned agricultural scientist Padma Shri Dr MH Mehta — can rapidly degrade paddy straw in the field and convert it into compost. This will not pose any problem during the sowing of wheat as the Rabi season begins.

main_stubble-burning_102020104844.jpgVarious options to deal with the paddy straw residue are being discussed in Punjab and Haryana, the states which witness the maximum parali burning. (Photo: Reuters)

A major advantage of using the microbial consortium is that farmers will not have to shift the paddy straw anywhere for disposal or treatment. The microbial consortia spray can emerge as an effective long-term solution to the stubble or crop residue-burning problem. The microbial spray is also being viewed as an economically attractive solution for farmers. When sprayed on crop residue in-situ, it has shown faster decomposition and conversion of the residue into mulch.

After the conversion of crop residue into mulch, farmers can conveniently use the ‘Happy Seeder’ for sowing wheat. The ‘Happy Seeder’, a tractor-mounted machine, is a popular farm equipment in North India. It cuts and lifts rice straw, sows wheat into the soil, and deposits the straw over the sown area.

If parali is not set on fire, farmers can save significantly in terms of water used for irrigating the fields. In-situ treatment of crop residue through the microbial consortium will lead to improved and efficient use of water resources. It shall also improve soil health and eliminate the problem of air pollution.

Field demonstrations to check the efficacy of the microbial consortium have been jointly conducted by Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB), Gujarat Life Sciences, Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), Punjab Department of Agriculture, Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology, Patiala, Indian Paryavaran Sahayak (IPS) Foundation, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and progressive farmers in Punjab. Early results of the field trials have indicated that the use of the microbial consortium can be a practical solution for managing crop residue.

It is a matter of concern that while more and more cases of crop residue burning are being reported in the media, the states are still caught in procedural delays and have not addressed the problem squarely. If these critical weeks go in debates and blame games, by the end of November or December, the National Capital Region (NCR) will again struggle with highly polluted air. In Covid times, this can have alarming consequences. 

Also Read | Stubble burning in Covid times: Why Punjab, Haryana's apathy is worsening North India's air


Affan Yesvi Affan Yesvi @afanyesvi

The writer is a young social activist from Jammu and Kashmir.

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