Tackling crop residue burning:Moga farmers improving soil health by ploughing stubble back into soil

The farmers of Moga district are ploughing crop residue back into the soil to increase its fertility. Shunning the practice of stubble burning, the new technique is paying rich dividend to these farmers as not only health of soil has increased but is also helping them improve their crop yield.

When stubble burning was a common practice among farmers in 2006, Jaideep Singh from Sadda Singh Wala village was among the first few farmers in the district to have experimented with managing paddy residue by ploughing it into soil.

Jaideep, who owns over 40 acres of land, says that while he was resorting to stubble burning back in 2006, the health of the soil had deteriorated with high pH value recorded at 9.9 and organic matter in the soil merely at .30. Soil pH is a measure of the acidity and alkalinity in soil, and the pH range between 7.5 and 8.5 is considered optimal for most of the crops.

“Despite using best fertilisers, I was not getting desired result. Following the advice of an agriculture expert, I stopped burning stubble and started ploughing paddy residue back into soil. After two years, the result was extraordinary and everyone to see,” he said, adding that the soil test of this year shows pH value of 8.2 while the organic matter of .75, which is considered favourable for growth of crops.

Setting an example for other farmers, Preet Inderpal Singh, who was elected youngest sarpanch of Ransih Kalan village in Moga district, has also stopped burning stubble since 2013.

“Being the youngest sarpanch of the village, I wanted to create a healthy environment for the villagers, so I decided to stop the practice,” he said.

He said with soil in his fields now having surplus nutrients, he has also reduced the urea dose by half. The yield of wheat crop has also increased from 15-16 quintals to 20-21 quintals now, he said.

“Stubble burning deteriorates the quality of soil. Though it is a cheap solution, but it causes severe damage to the health of soil by killing nutrients and organic carbon of soil. Adding these residues back into the soil increases its fertility. Long-term straw application not only brings organic matter level and nitrogen reserves to normal, but it also helps in maintaining right pH level of soil,” Vijay Kumar Singla, divisional soil conservation officer, said, adding that once farmers stop burning crop residue, the organic carbon content of the soil will improve in three years.

Moga chief agriculture officer Dr Balwinder Singh said that the state agriculture department is providing agro-machines and farm equipment at very subsidised rates and farmers should make optimum use of the scheme to do away the practice of stubble burning.

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