PUNJAB TOLD TO STOP CULTIVATION OF OLDEST RICE VARIETY
ge old PUSA-44 variety of paddy in Punjab, which is cultivated over majority of area in Punjab has received marching orders; meaning that its cultivation should be discontinued. Punjab, One of the three key states in north India that brought green revolution in the country, alongwith Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have been growing PUSA-44 since early 1960s. It is said that the variety is still grown over large areas of state under different names and discontinuing it would not be easy.
The paddy variety is farmer delight for being high yield giving, it is a 140-day crop, and is sown early, before the onset of monsoon leading to high consumption of ground water. It matures late, hence leaves a very short window for wheat sowing in the rabi season, after paddy harvest. Experts say it is feeling varietal fatigue and should be put to rest. It is water guzzler and is said to be consuming 3,370 litres of water for growing a kilogram of rice.
The orders for putting curtains on the variety came from the department of agriculture research, of the Government of India, which has asked has asked Punjab to stop cultivating the variety, from the current kharif season. The orders were also issued to Food Corporation of India (FCI) which is government of India’s agency for public distribution system, for not procuring the paddy variety after harvest.
It also produces whoppingly large quantity of chaff which is major reason to withdraw the variety from sowing list. In a high level sitting which had top officials of the Government of India to discuss policy to make chaff subsume at the places where it was harvested, so that it is not burnt and emissions of harmful gases is saved.
FARMERS SAY VARIETY GIVES MORE YIELD
Inspite of the recommendations by expert for stopping cultivation of PUSA-44 rice variety farmers are still in its favour, as it give 2-3 quintals per acre more yield than the other varieties. They are of the view that farmers are already facing the problem of falling profits and they do not want more losses, so they would not stop growing this variety.
The variety is also liked by the rice millers like it because of good output, low brokerage and low discolouration. It is also said other varieties available to the farmers do not match the oldest variety. In Punjab paddy is grown on more than 3 million hectares and PUSA-44 variety is on 15% of the total area and in coming years the area is expected to further fall.
“The variety, is seven inches taller than other indigenous varieties of our university and produces 15-20% more biomass (stubble), leading to severe environment degradation, when burnt after harvest,” said Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) vice-chancellor BS Dhillon. He added that he was all for discontinuing PUSA-44, as there were better varieties such as PR-126 and PR-121 (of PAU) which mature in the much shorter time of 100-110 days. \
“Farmers have a different perspective. We, as researchers, have to consider all aspects. PUSA-44 is water guzzler. What would farmers grow when there is no water left under our farms,” said Dhillon, adding that stopping stubble burning remained a challenge.