Punjab to encourage farmers to switch to maize cultivation instead of less remunerative paddy

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Punjab’s Agriculture Department has launched a campaign to bring 2 lakh hectares of land under maize cultivation up from the current 1.08 hectares. The department hopes that it will lead to production of 7,60,000 metric tonnes of maize.

The Punjab Agriculture Department has also launched a programme to compensate some farmers in paddy dependent districts who will switch over from paddy to maize. The department believes that this transformation would also help arrest the problem of burning paddy stubble said Dr J S Chawla, Principal Maize Breeder & In charge – Maize Section PAU while addressing farmers at the Kisan Goshthi on Cultivation of Maize in Punjab: Status, Challenges & Opportunities at the CII Agro & Food Tech 2020 organised over virtual platform.

At the CII event, farmers were also apprised of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for maize crops through a combination of techniques such as chemical, biological, new cropping system, modification of cultural practices and use of resistant varieties and through mechanical methods.  The CII-sponsored Kisan Goshthi was attended by over 300 farmers from across the districts of Punjab.

However, farmers rued the fact that unlike wheat and paddy, crops like maize which have a Minimum Support Price (MSP) are not backed by bodies like the Food Corporation of India. Maize is thus often sold at much below the MSP in Punjab. The MSP for maize is Rs 1,850 per quintal but farmers are getting only between Rs 700 to Rs 1,000 per quintal. Presently, around 6 lakh tonnes of maize is grown in the state in 1.60 lakh hectares of area across the state mainly in Doaba.

Punjab’s depleting groundwater levels is another reason why the state government is trying to push for increasing maize cultivation in the state.  Unlike paddy, maize is not a water guzzler, particularly significant for a state like Punjab, where groundwater tables are categorised as “over-exploited”.  Paddy requires an average of 3,700 litres of water for 1 kg of rice. In contrast, winter maize requires only about 1,222 litres of water for the same quantity of crop.

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