September 19, 2023

Punjab Department of Agriculture plans to use drones to combat stubble burning

During the rice and wheat harvest seasons, the Punjab Department of Agriculture intends to use drones to undertake aerial surveys to map fields where crop residues are burned in violation of official rules. .

71,246 agricultural fires were documented in the last rice harvest season (of 2021)

During the paddy harvest, at least 120 million tons of straw are set ablaze in Punjab to prepare the fields for the next harvest, resulting in a heavy blanket of pollution as far as Delhi in October and November.

The State Department has requested 53 crore in grants under the Center’s contribution to agricultural mechanization, as per the proposal made to the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare (SMAM).

According to a senior Agriculture Department official, the money would be used in part to purchase at least 70 multi-purpose drones, which will help spray agrochemicals on pest-infested crops and boost research efforts.

The drones would also be provided with a 50% discount to Custom Recruitment Centers, as well as the Punjab Agricultural University in Ludhiana and the State Directorate of Agriculture.

“The farm fires just don’t stop, especially during the paddy season,” the official said. “71,246 agricultural fires were documented in the last rice harvest season (of 2021), up from 76,590 in 2020 but still far more than the 52,991 occurrences recorded in 2019.”

Paddy is sown on 29 to 31 lakh hectares in Punjab with an average yield of 180 lakh tons every Kharif season. Paddy stubble, unlike wheat straw, cannot be used as animal feed due to its high silica concentration. Farmers choose to burn it to prepare the field for the next planting of rabi (wheat).

Although the Center has disbursed cash to the tune of 1,145 crores for subsidized agricultural machinery and equipment for in situ management (mixing of straw in the ground) of the remaining crops during the paddy season, the problem still persists. The state government has requested 474 crore for the upcoming season to deliver this subsidized equipment.

First published on: 09 July 2022, 09:57 IST