he Ludhiana based Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) has asked Punjab farmers not to flood fields in which paddy is sown with the direct seeding rice variety.
“Apart from being a solution to the ongoing labour shortage, the direct seeding of rice (DSR) technology serves another, rather more important objective of saving irrigation water, in rice cultivation,” remarked Dr Makhan Singh Bhullar, who is principal agronomist and specialises in DSR technology. .
Due to labour shortage the farmers in Punjab has resorted to DSR variety on large tracts of land. Punjab Agriculture directorate has announced that his kahrif season paddy is expected to be sown over 60 lakh acres out of which about 15 lakh acres is DSR variety. In the absence of labour expert in transplantation, which left Punjab due to COVID-19 DSR variety has found favour with state farmers.
In this context, Dr. Bhullar further elaborated that the ‘tar-wattar DSR’ crop, sown during 1-15 June, and irrigated at around 21 days after sowing, makes good growth and consumes less water during hot and dry period.
As per an estimate of Government of India’s commission for agriculture costs and prices, a kilogram of rice consumers 3367 litres of water to grow. But the DSR variety consumes almost 30% less water, because this variety doesn’t require puddling.
This delay in first irrigation to 21 days, results in deeper root development which makes the crop hardy and capable of more tolerance to dry periods, as the crop becomes able to absorb soil moisture from lower soil depths. Hence, after first irrigation, there is need tomaintain the ‘wattar’ in the field, and, for this, apply light irrigations at 7 to 10 days interval depending on soil type and prevailing weather conditions.
Dr Bhullar cautioned against flooding the DSR field with water anytime, as it will not help the crop. Rather, the application of more frequent irrigation has negative effects on crop:
1.It causes leaching of mineral nutrients, particularly nitrogen, below the root zone, giving the crop a pale look,
2.It leads to more weed emergence and higher weed growth
3.It also leads to higher incidences of diseases
In DSR fields, ‘cracks’ do not form as in this technique there is no change in the soil structure (arrangement of sand, slit and clay); in puddled field, change in soil structure results in crack formation.
Keeping in mind the above Dr Bhullar reiterated the application of only need based irrigation to DSR which would be beneficial for the crop, reduce farm expenditure and, most importantly, it would save irrigation water which is the need of the hour.