Despite ban, PUSA-44 paddy variety still in use - Hindustan Times
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Despite ban, PUSA-44 paddy variety still in use

By, Chandigarh
Jun 20, 2024 06:48 AM IST

According to growers, PUSA-44 variety gives higher yield of about 10-15% but also produces at least 20% more residue that has a high silica content which produces dense smoke when burnt.

Despite a ban imposed by the Punjab government, a section of the farmers are still opting for PUSA-44 paddy variety in the current kharif sowing season.

Farm labourers plant saplings in a paddy field on the outskirts of Amritsar on Tuesday. (ANI)
Farm labourers plant saplings in a paddy field on the outskirts of Amritsar on Tuesday. (ANI)

The Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), which had produced the variety decades ago, has discontinued it. The water-guzzling long duration variety with a crop life of 160 days, according to growers gives higher yield of about 10-15% but also produces at least 20% more residue that has a high silica content which produces dense smoke when burnt. The variety is liked by rice millers as it gives less broken rice when shelled.

PUSA-44 gives a yield of 35-40 quintals per acre. The short-duration PR 126 also delivers almost the same but the yield of other short varieties, such as PR131, is less by 5 quintals.

According to Jagmohan Singh Uppal, general secretary of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Dakounda), farmers in southwest Punjab still prefer the variety as they sow only two crops yearly and have sufficient time to cultivate this variety. “In Doaba or areas where potato crop is sown by farmers who take up three crops in a year have shifted to late and short duration of paddy varieties,” he said.

Agriculture director Jaswant Singh, while urging the farmers to stop using the variety, said, “Last year, the variety (PUSA-44) was sown over 17% of the total paddy area which was over 40% area two years ago. We will bring it further down further as instructions have been passed to the chief agriculture officers to dissuade farmers from taking it up.”

Ravinder Singh Cheema, who heads a group of rice millers in the state, said millers prefer PUSA-44 because it gives 67.5 kg from a quintal of paddy while short duration varieties give only 64 kg.

Punjab Agricultural University’s Vice Chancellor SS Gosal said, “In my opinion, farmers are avoiding PUSA-44. There are alternatives, such as PR 116, 124 and 132, which have a span of 130 days. The PAU has given 22,000 quintals of short-duration variety seeds to farmers which will cover 27.5 lakh acres.”

In Punjab, paddy is sown in kharif season over 80 lakh acres. Short duration varieties can be transplanted even in the first week of July (coinciding with the onset of monsoon) for best results, Gosal added. According to him, chief minister Bhagwant Mann has asked the farmers to stop growing the variety as it is an environmental hazard, consuming large amount of water and producing larger biomass.

The state government had recommended paddy sowing by direct seeded method (DSR) from May 15. According to agriculture director Jaswant Singh, farmers are adopting this method as there is a labour shortage and it is cost-effective.

As per state government’s orders, six districts started transplanting paddy from June 11. These districts were Muktsar, Faridkot, Bathinda, Mansa, Fazilka and Ferozepur while in the rest of the 17 districts, the transplantation began on June 15.

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