The Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana, has unveiled a groundbreaking solution, the ‘Surface Seeding-cum-Mulching’ technique, to combat the persistent challenge of paddy residue management after harvest. Farmers in the region have long grappled with the short time frame between paddy harvests and wheat sowing. While various methods exist for paddy straw management, open burning prevails due to cost and energy concerns.
To address this issue and promote sustainable agricultural practices, PAU has unveiled the innovative ‘Surface Seeding-cum-Mulching’ technique. Shedding light on the premise for developing this technique, Dr Satbir Singh Gosal, Vice-Chancellor of PAU, mentioned that it aims to effectively manage paddy residue while ensuring timely and early sowing of wheat crops. This approach is both economical and easily implementable, requiring minimal machinery and tractors with less horsepower, he remarked.
Explaining the several steps involved in the process, Dr Gosal stated that, at first, the wheat seeds and basal fertilizer are uniformly broadcasted in a field where paddy has been harvested using a combine harvester. Subsequently, a cutter-cum-spreader is employed to cut paddy stubble at a height of 4-5 inches above the soil surface and evenly distribute it as mulch. Light irrigation follows to initiate wheat germination. He revealed that for an acre of land, 45 kg of wheat seed treated with recommended pesticides and 65 kg of DAP (Di-Ammonium Phosphate) as basal fertilizer are utilized.
Dr Ajmer Singh Dhatt, Director of Research, underscored the two primary methods to execute the ‘Surface Seeding-cum-Mulching’ technique. He informed that the first one uses PAU Surface Seeder, a cost-effective and simple machine, equipped with a seed and fertilizer box featuring a fluted roller metering system. Mounted on a cutter-cum-spreader, it sows wheat seeds and applies basal fertilizer while simultaneously cutting and spreading paddy straw. A 45HP tractor or higher can easily operate this machine, sowing 1.5 acres of wheat in an hour.
Dr Dhatt further disclosed that the second method involves attaching a seed and fertilizer box to a combine harvester. During paddy harvest, wheat seeds and basal fertilizer are sown, followed by a single pass of the cutter-cum-spreader and light irrigation. In cases where these machines are unavailable, manual broadcasting of wheat seed and basal fertilizer after combine harvesting, along with the use of a cutter-cum-spreader and light irrigation, can serve as an alternative.
Dr M.S. Bhullar, Head, Department of Agronomy, highlighted the advantages of ‘Surface Seeding-cum-Mulching’. Besides being environmentally friendly, it is easy to implement, ensures timely sowing and costs significantly less than other methods, he exclaimed. The sowing cost is Rs. 700 to 800 per acre which is even lesser than sowing of wheat after straw burning. Additionally, it doesn’t demand costly machinery or high horsepower tractors. ‘Surface Seeding-cum-Mulching’ promotes eco-friendly residue management, conserves water, protects crops from heat stress, reduces herbicide use, and effectively eliminates the practice of paddy straw burning, he maintained.
For successful ‘Surface Seeding-cum-Mulching,’ Dr Jasvir S. Gill, Agronomist, advised surface seeding from October 25 to November 15, avoiding alkaline soils with poor drainage, and small plots. Plan final rice irrigation based on soil type to avoid combine harvester sinking, he added. Use combine harvester with SMS or even loose straw spread before surface seeding. Treat the seeds with recommended insecticides and fungicides, maintain 4-5 inch height when operating PAU Surface Seeder or cutter-cum-spreader and keep optimal tractor speed for uniform seed and fertilizer distribution. Thoroughly cover seeds with paddy mulch, and post-sowing, initiate wheat germination with light irrigation, Dr. Gill stressed.
The ‘Surface Seeding-cum-Mulching’ technique presents a breakthrough solution for paddy straw management, facilitating sustainable and environmentally conscious agricultural practices while enhancing crop yields and soil health. Keeping in view its potential, the Punjab Government is providing subsidy of Rs 40000 for farmers and Rs 64000 for custom hiring centers on surface seeder for which applications can be sent on agrimachinerypb.com.