In a bid to shift a chunk of area under water-intensive paddy cultivation in Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh to maize, oilseeds and poplar-based agroforestry, the government has allocated more than R450 crore in the current fiscal for their promotion.
Sources told FE that agriculture ministry has allocated R224 crore to Punjab, while Haryana and western UP have been provided with R98 and R124 crore, respectively.
Under ?crop diversification in original green revolution states? programme, finance minister P Chidambaram had provided around R500 crore for the current fiscal in the Union Budget (2013-14).
The key focus of the programme, taken up under the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, was on encouraging farmers to take up alternative crops and restoring soil fertility through technological inputs. The scheme is being implemented through state departments of agriculture in identified districts via a cluster approach.
?We intend to shift about 5% of paddy area in these three states to alternative crops through demonstration via clusters,? an official said.
While 60% of the R450 crore has been allocated to promotion of alternative crop cultivation, 23% of the total amount has provided under improving farm mechanisation. The remaining funds have been earmarked for site-specific activities.
The programme is being implemented in 20 districts of Punjab and nine districts of Haryana and 15 of western UP. It aims to provide an assistance of R10,000 per hectare for maize, kharif pulses, oil seeds and poplar-based agroforestry. Also, financial assistance of R5,000 per hectare is being given to farmers for inter-cropping of pulses and wheat.
Gurcharan Singh Kalkat, chairperson, Punjab State Farmers Commission, in a recent interaction with FE, had said: ?Through cultivation of wheat and rice, we are pumping out too much groundwater. This is much more than annual recharge from rivers, canals and rainfall.?
Kalkat had said paddy cultivation over 28 lakh hectare can?t be sustained. ?We have to replace at least 12 lakh hectare with other crops. If we get an assurance from the government on the procurement of maize and better soyabean variety, we can reduce the area under paddy by next 5-6 years,?.
A scientist with the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) said concerns relating to diversification of rice-wheat cropping system in NE came to fore when yields of these two critical crops stagnated and net profit accruals showed a diminishing trend.
?The problem got aggravated due to depletion of the water table in northwest plains. Dwindling groundwater resources due to excessive withdrawal for irrigation led to impurities in water, which adversely impacted crop health,? the scientist said.
A committee of secretaries appointed by the Centre had stated that the original green revolution states were confronted with stagnating yields and over-exploitation of ground water resources, ?which call for immediate diversification in crops through promotion of technological innovation to enable farmers to improve soil fertility and arrest depletion of groundwater, besides increasing farm income?.