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In a move that will likely thin down the air pollution of the Delhi-NCR region, a handful of Punjab farmers have started opting for ways to dispose of their crop residue sustainably. They are either selling the residue as fuel or using it as a natural fertilizer to increase the fertility of the soil.

The farmers are not only reducing their consumption of chemical fertilizers by mixing crop residue in the soil, but they are also earning by doing the same for other farmers.

Bhupinder Singh (59), is not burning paddy since 2018 on his 30-acre land and is mixing the crop residue as fertilizer with soil using tillage equipment called MB plow. After the process, his land is ready for the next crop- wheat.

He also informed that after burying, the stubble residue gets decomposed within a week.

"With the absorption of stubble in soil, the consumption of fertilizer has dropped. Earlier, we used to use potash for the wheat crop which we no longer do," he says.

"Farmers do not want to burn stubble. When a grower finds his next crop is getting delayed, he resorts to setting crop residue on fire. Otherwise, he is as much concerned about the environment as anyone else," he adds.

Bhupinder also claims that around 70% of farmers in his village have stopped burning their crop residue and are using the technique to naturally increase the fertility of their soil.

"With more and more people becoming aware of the harmful effects of burning paddy, they are managing it instead of setting it on fire," says Singh who has been awarded for crop residue management at state and national levels.

Amarjit Singh (48) is aware of the ill effects of burning paddy and he instead chooses to sell the crop residue to a nearby factory which coverts it into fuel. He and other farmers use machines such as happy seeders, super seeders, plows, mulchers, and so on to keep them from polluting the environment.

Some farmers are using machines called balers which compress crop residue into bales.

As the window of Rabi crop wheat is shorter, farmers prefer to burn the paddy straw in order to reclaim the lost fertility of the soil. Punjab alone generates around 180 lakh tonnes of paddy straw annually.

The burning of paddy straw by farmers of Punjab and Haryana is a major reason behind Delhi-NCR's unbearable pollution, especially during the months of October-November. Combined with firecrackers burning in the festive season, the air-quality index crosses the 999 mark in some areas of Delhi.

The government claims to work on the issue and is also providing several new technologies to farmers to prevent the burning. The increase in the level of awareness is also pushing farmers to look for alternate eco-friendly ways to increase the fertility of the soil.

 

With inputs from PTI.

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