The language was technical and specialised, but the message was passionate at a technical workshop on ‘Challenges and solutions for Comprehensive Straw Management’ held at a city hotel on Sunday as part of CII Agro Tech 2016.Did you know that the much-maligned paddy straw, the burning of which is now a national topic of debate, can actually be given back to the soil using appropriate machines? There are other uses as well - straw from wheat and rice can be combined to grow button mushrooms. Likes of these practical and useful suggestions were discussed at this Conference.These and other novel solutions are available in the vicinity of famers, according to Dr Harminder Singh Sidhu, senior research engineer, Borlaug Institute for South Asia (BISA), Ludhiana. “Rice residue management can never be done in isolation, it has to be done in consonance with the principles of conservation management. The key criterion has to be no additional cost on the farmer. Some of the principles are no tillage and crop rotation. The results of the methods are visible very soon.” He added that at his institute BISA itself, there were machines available for around $2,000 (around Rs 1.4 lakh) that gave the break even due to increased productivity and time savings etc in about a year. “We really need to have an intimate knowledge of why farmers burn straw and then offer solutions. BISA is always there to help and has been continuously working in that direction. We offer demonstration of how the machines work to farmer groups. For us, the farmers should even be rewarded for not burning straw,” he said.
‘Size of stubble left behind critical’At the second session on the straw management Conference, Head of Department for agriculture and bio-energy, DEULA (Federal Association of German Training Centres for Agricultural Engineering), Nienburg, Germany, Ulrich Lossie, said, “The size of the stubble left after cutting must not be more than 10cm and machines applied must be used properly for this to happen. Germany is using Strip Till, where animal excreta is used to manage the residue.”As a rule, we need a chain of methods to manage straw and farmers’ education also plays a role.In his address on the issue, BS Dhillon, V-C, PAU, Ludhiana, said,“When I was child, we made ropes and other products out of the straw. Now, however high-yielding varieties give a large quantity of straw. 75% of straw is now burnt leading to problems.”
Four methods for straw management: Collection of straw to make bales is a solution like animal fodder etc. Mulching is an option for menthe, turmeric, potato and it leadsto water saving. Happy seeder has been promoted since 2006, but requires farmers to be aware of limitations under which it works.“PAU Happy Seeder is an option for farmers to explore. Tractor-operated loose straw chopper is also an option,” the V-C added.In situ retention as mulch in flat fields is also another method for better management of straw. He added that use of machines was a deterrent especially as farmers had the option of burning. He also touched upon the point that a mixture of straw of rice and wheat can actually be used to cultivate button mushrooms.
Under research methods: He added that a method titled In-Situ on surface degradation that involved spray application of a specific bacteria was under research.