happy seeders also boost farm returns
An international study which reveals that use of happy seeder machines developed at the Punjab Agriculture University can yield up to 20% higher returns than the common harmful practice of burning crop stubble must prompt central and state governments to aggressively promote their use. In many states, but mostly Punjab and Haryana, farmers burn crop stubble to quickly prepare the ground for the next sowing to save labour costs. Linked to a spike in air pollution in neighbouring cities, especially Delhi NCR, stubble burning is being discouraged and even penalised but many farmers are reluctant to change course.
They must be persuaded that subsidies funded by a Rs 1,151 crore central package for purchase of happy seeders that sow seeds without removing previous crop stubble and associated straw management systems are not just about mollifying cities. The study’s findings of greater moisture retention in soil, reduced water requirement, improved soil quality, and greater resilience to climate stress translate into better yields and lower input costs – music to the kisan’s ears. The problem is, a 2017 survey revealed that only 11% of farmers use happy seeders though 86% have seen it in action. Obviously the benefits need more publicisation, to convince more holdouts to purchase the equipment.
The findings on happy seeders also suggest that states should focus their promotion efforts on this particular technology, rather than varied options. Marketing must gain pace now so that more farms access happy seeders by the end of the kharif season in October-November and before rabi cropping when the burning intensifies. The stumbling block to taking agricultural knowhow from laboratory to field is an incompetent bureaucracy. Governments must ensure that findings on happy seeders reach farmers. They will then choose wisely.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.