Moving away from traditional practice, more paddy farmers in Punjab taking to DSR technique

The yield and quality of the crop are good. It saves a lot of ground water and is pocket friendly, say farmers

The Punjab Agricultural University’s upgraded technology of direct seeding of rice — ‘Tar wattar DSR’, (good soil moisture) seems to have caught the fancy of the paddy farmers in Punjab as the rise in the area planted under the novel DSR technique indicates that farmers are moving away from the traditional practice of puddle transplanting.

The Ludhiana-based PAU introduced the DSR technique in 2020, an improved version of earlier DSR (Dry) technique. In the new technique, pre-sowing irrigation is applied in a levelled field and the primed seed is then sown immediately.

Shortage of labour

“Last year, the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent lockdown had led to the exodus of labour. There was concern among the farmers on timely completion of planting due to shortage of labour. However, the in-hand availability of viable DSR technology came to their rescue. Rice was directly seeded on about one-fifth area in the State. The successful adoption of the technology has even found an echo in Haryana as well. In 2020, rice was sown through DSR in about five lakh hectares in Punjab, against just 23,450 hectares in 2019,” Makhan Singh Bhullar, principal agronomist at the PAU, told The Hindu.

“This year, the rice cultivation area under the DSR has so far reached five lakh hectares. And we are hopeful that it may go slightly up after the final data is compiled,” he said.

Mr. Bhullar says the acceptable yield levels after large-scale adoption of the DSR technique in 2020 have convinced the farmers about its viability. “Last year farmers were in a dilemma about the DSR’s success, and many simultaneously established rice nurseries [traditional method) as well. This year, however, there has been a change in their mindset; farmers are raising DSR for retaining the crop and not for ploughing. The fact that the area under DSR this year has reached five lakh hectares despite no labour shortage indicates that the farmers have developed confidence in the new technology,” he said.

Farmers and agri-experts are upbeat as the apprehensions surrounding lower productivity, weed management etc. have faded away and the technology has resulted in saving water besides being labour and energy (power) effective in contrast to puddle planting.

Better weed control

Amreet Inder Dhillon of village Mehtabgarh in Ludhiana, who uses the DSR technique, said: “I started the direct seeding of paddy in 2015. That time the recommendation of the PAU was to sow paddy in dry field and irrigate it immediately so that the seed could germinate. That method had its own shortcomings such as difficulty in weed management, water stress on seedlings, less root development etc. Now, the PAU has improvised the technique leading to better weed control and more climate tolerant plants. I have experienced less fungal attack on the paddy sown in this way. The DSR method saves a lot of ground water as the crop does not need frequent irrigation as in the case of puddled paddy field. The DSR is also pocket friendly as the manual transplanting is getting costlier with each passing season. This method also addresses the shortage of farm labour.”

Gurpreet Singh (35) of Mejraj village in Bathinda said planting rice through DSR has helped in saving water. The yield and quality of crop are also good compared to the traditional method.

“In comparison to the traditional method, I save around ₹3,000 per acre by using the technology as it is less labour intensive," said Harvinder of Kothe Gobindpura village in Dhanaula district Barnala.

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