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Impact of Paddy Straw burning during Covid19.

Updated: Jan 7, 2021

Recent satellite images show smoke from the burning of rice straw is spreading across northern India. Thick, dark smoke and soot are rising into the air, and smoke from crop residues burned in Punjab and Haryana is blowing through the country at a rate of about 1,000 tons per day, according to the Indian Meteorological Agency. In Punjab, farmers complain of a lack of alternatives, and the pollen season has given priority to the Hariesana stubble burning season, but in both cases, burning continues after a year.

The state has done everything to combat the problem of stubble burning by granting subsidies of between 50 and 80% to farmers. The application helps to monitor the combustion of plants in the region and the impact on air quality, water quality and soil health.

The problem of straw burning is indeed serious, and is related to the monoculture and mechanization that accompanied the Green Revolution, says Devinder Sharma, a well-known agricultural policy analyst. None of the organic farmers in Punjab and Haryana indulge in the practice of burning stubble in their fields. He adds that he has not yet figured out whether there is a sustainable solution to the problem. MUST researchers, organised in December 2016 by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), a non-governmental organisation in India.

To address the problem of rice straw incineration, crop residue management needs to be made cost-effective - which is effective for farmers. The Punjab government has been seeking 100 rupees per quintal from the center to allow farmers to farm straw without burning it. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has also sought an additional 1,000 crons ($2.5 million) per hectare per year from The Centre to encourage farmers to stop burning residues in their fields. The judiciary appears to have done this by ordering states to give farmers 100 quintals of rice and straw to prevent crop residues from burning.

Last week, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh appealed to farmers not to burn crop residues, a practice that could exacerbate the conditions that lead to the spread of COVID-19 through pollution.

With this view, a large number of agricultural research institutions have recommended a "no" position - the burning of farmland as a means of dealing with rice stubble and loose straw. Instead of burning stubble, tractors called Happy Seeder are lifting rice straw, sowing wheat on bare ground and laying the straw as mulch on the sowing, "reads an article by Ideas India. If a farmer has to sow wheat two weeks after harvest, he burns the straw to save time, labor and money instead of setting it on fire, "the article says.

Delhi's poor air contributes to the risk of acute respiratory infections, which trebles if you live in a district with intensive crop burning. High levels of air pollution are often attributed to agricultural fires, in which India's rice farmers burn their crops to contribute to an annual haze that damages the capital's health. The burning of straw that is left over from the harvest of kharif plants, such as rice, is called stubble burning and is often cited as the main cause of unhealthy smog.

Farmers in Punjab and Haryana burn rice stubble to prepare the ground for rabi crops, but most of the fires on alert have been discovered in rice fields. In most cases, stubble burns to prepare the fields for wheat cultivation immediately, and in most cases, most fires that are on alert are burned because of paddle fires, according to the Indian Ministry of Agriculture.

A large part of the rice residue is burned to clear the fields for sowing and planting, mainly for subsequent paddle harvesting, but some fields are also burned for other purposes, such as the burning of wheat straw, as seen in this satellite image.

According to a study published in August 2019 in the journal Science entitled "Burn crop residues in India," farmers in northwest India burn more than half of their rice residues to clear the land quickly for wheat sowing. According to a new study by the US Geological Survey (USGS), farmers in northern India burn an estimated 23 million tons of straw from their rice crops each year to sow wheat. Farmers in northern India are burning an estimated 22 million tonnes of rice straw this year and an additional 23.5 million tonnes of soybean straw to sow wheat. Farmers in northern India burned an estimated 23 million tonnes of straw for their rice harvest in 2016, on top of the estimated 3.4 million pounds of grain straw sown for wheat sowing this year.

Mr Singh lights his rice residue to remove unwanted straw quickly and cheaply and to prepare for the next sowing.

As he explains, there was traditionally a time when farmers burned crop residues, but not in India. The stubble left over from the rice plants harvested is burned to prepare the ground for the next harvest, which is usually wheat.

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