Punjab mulls soya, arhar cultivation

Written by Press Trust of India | Chandigarh | Updated: Jan 28 2011, 06:26am hrs
The Punjab government on Thursday said it is looking at the possibility of growing soyabean and pigeon pea (arhar) crops in order to replace paddy crop in the wake of fast depleting water table in the state.

We are looking at soybean and arhar crops which can be grown in 120 days (during paddy growing season), Punjab director (Agriculture) BS Sidhu said, while speaking about crop diversification and steps being taken to save water resources in the State Credit seminar organised by Nabard.

Asserting that there was a need to break the wheat-paddy rotation in the state, Sidhu said before replacing paddy crop, farmers were required to be assured of same level of returns what they were getting from paddy crop.

We have not been able to give that much return to farmers which they are getting in paddy crop...like farmers are getting Rs 60,000 of return per hectare from paddy crop, he said.

However, he asserted that there was no need to curtail area under wheat in view of depleting water table. We do not want to divert area under wheat, he asserted.

Notably, Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar had said last month here that the Centre intended to procure less water consuming oilseeds or pulses over rice from Punjab and Haryana states in wake of fast depleting water table in both states.

Pawar had said that final decision would be taken after taking the state governments and farmers in confidence. Even Nabard has also strongly recommended the state for promoting alternative cropping pattern-based on ground water level in the state. It has also asked to grow horticulture crops more in the state.

Present farm cropping pattern in Punjab is dominated by wheat-paddy rotation, causing degradation of soil fertility and fall in underground water table. Wheat and paddy cover major portion of gross cropped area which has increased to 72% in 2008-09 from 47% in 1970-71. The intense cropping pattern has led to over-exploitation of 107 blocks out of 141 blocks in the state. Farm experts pointed out ground water level in has gone down to 100-120 feet from 50-60 feet three decades ago.