Context: Area farmers’ protest under the banner of the BKU Ugrahan in front of the Bhawanigarh police station for cancellation of FIRs registered against farmers for stubble-burning continued for the fifth day today.
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- The farmers announced to organise a state-level protest as they alleged that the authorities concerned were not serious to look into their demands.
- Farmers burn their fields to remove plants that are already growing and to help the plants that are about to come up.
- These burns are often called ‘prescribed burns’ because they are used to improve the health of the field.
- The short window between the harvesting of paddy and sowing of wheat along with the high cost of manual or mechanical management of straw forces farmers to set fire to their fields.
- Reasons for protest: Farmers do not want to burn stubble and they don’t have any alternative. However, the Punjab Government is taking legal action without providing any alternative
- The researchers collected data about farm practices, the costs involved and the yields of crops, from previous studies, field trials and surveys. They then calculated the net profit generated by burning and no-burning practices like baling, straw incorporation into the fields, and mulching, where the straw is spread on the field. Their analysis was based on the market prices, yields, labour and other costs incurred for land preparation and crop production.
- The researchers found that using the Happy Seeder led to a nearly 10-20% increase in farmer profits on average. Thus, farmers can, on average, reap a benefit of INR 11498 per hectare by switching from the most common burning practices to the use of a Happy Seeder for mulching. The machine can be mounted on a tractor, and it cuts and lifts rice straw, sow’s wheat into the bare soil, and deposits the straw over the planted area as mulch.
- The researchers also found that the use of Happy Seeder reduced agricultural greenhouse emissions per hectare by 78% or more relative to burn options. For each hectare, all the farming options considered that does not include burning showed a lower contribution to particulate air pollution. Such practices can reduce agriculture’s contributions to India’s greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to better health by reducing air pollution, say the researchers.
- However, not all farmers currently have access to equipment like Happy Seeder. The Happy Seeder is not affordable for everyone, and there need to be more available options for renting these machines.