Farmers intentionally burn down the stubble that remains after wheat, and other grains have been harvested. This is done to get rid of the residue left after harvesting, while also cleaning weeds from the fields. However, even though this is a financially cheap practice, it comes at a high price for the environment.
Burning down thousands of hectares of fields every year causes tremendous air pollution. It also puts organic content to waste. Happy Seeder is a system that does not need farmers to burn the stubble but makes optimal use of the organic matter for the next crop.
Punjab’s Agricultural University has now developed a system that complements the function of a Happy Seeder.
This machine is called a Straw Management System (SMS) and helps in spreading the straw evenly on fields. This optimises the use of the Happy Seeder.
Stubble burning is usually carried out by the farmers of Punjab and Haryana before winters begin. The stubble left back by rice crops are burnt down to prepare fields for the sowing of wheat quickly. This is estimated to be a massive contributor to the smog that covers the capital city during winters.
The system of Happy Seeders and SMS together can combat this grave danger. This machine, mounted on tractors, cuts and lifts the straw, sows seeds in the soil and places the lifted straw on top of it.
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Manoj Kumar Munjial is one happy customer of this method of farming. He hasn’t burnt the stubble for the past two years and seems quite satisfied with this product. “In two years, I have recovered the investment of ₹1.5 lakh I made on Happy Seeder,” Munjial told TOI. “Apart from my farm, I hired it out on 120 acres of other farmers’ fields this year. Last year, that figure was 80 acres. Each acre gives me a return of ₹800-900, after deducting diesel costs for running the tractor.”
Since Happy Seeders and SMS let the stubble rest in the fields, they are naturally converted to manure for the crops, thus reducing the waste and optimising the growth of crops in fields.
Research conducted by the Borlaug Institute for South Asia (BISA) estimates that the use of Happy Seeders has increased four times, as compared to last year. An estimated 75,000 hectares of area which utilises these systems are in Punjab and Haryana.
“The combination of SMS and Happy Seeders is a win-win for farmers and the environment,” ML Jat, a senior scientist at BISA told TOI. “It does away with stubble burning while increasing farmers’ profitability and promoting climate-smart agriculture.”
The results go beyond a reduction of air-pollution and usage of organic residue. “The spin-offs are significant- lower chemical load on soil, more crop per drop, reduction in CO2 emissions, better soil health, less weed and sturdier plants with deeper roots. These benefits are scientifically documented,” said Jat.