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Current Affairs

Decomposer fungi to tackle stubble burning

Date: 09 October 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

Paddy stubble-burning season has arrived, and satellite remote sensing data from the Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI) show a five-fold increase in the number of farm fires in Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh.

 

Background

The burning of paddy stubble left in the fields after harvest has been a cause of concern for the past several years as it contributes to air pollution in the northern Gangetic plains and its already polluted cities like Delhi.

 

Details

  • It is a common practice in October and November across North West India, but primarily in Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh to quickly clear crop residue from their fields before planting the rabi wheat crop.

  • Several solutions have been proposed over the years to tackle the issue. The most recent one, which has been billed as a game-changer if found successful, is the ‘Pusa Decomposer’ capsule developed by IARI.

  • It is essentially a fungi-based liquid solution that can soften hard stubble to the extent that it can be easily mixed with soil in the field to act as compost.

  • This would then rule out the need to burn the stubble, and also help in retaining the essential microbes and nutrients in soil that are otherwise damaged when the residue is burned.

  • The window of time required for the solution to work, which is currently the main concern of farmers, is around 20 to 25 days, as per the IARI.

  • Farmers argue that this window is too long for them, as they ideally wait about a week or 10 days after harvesting the non-basmati variety of rice to sow the wheat crop.

  • There are seven strains of fungi that IARI has identified after research which help in rapid breakdown of hard stubble.

  • These seven strains of fungi are packed into four capsules, which cost about Rs 20 per pack of four. But there is a process for developing the liquid solution from these capsules which can take about four to five days.

  • It starts with boiling 25 litres of water mixed with 150 grams of jaggery, which scientists say has properties that help in multiplication of fungi.

  • After this mix has cooled, 50 grams of besan (or gram flour) is added to it along with four ‘Pusa Decomposer’ capsules.

  • This solution is then covered with a thin piece of cloth and left in a dark room for four days. On the fourth day, a thick growth of fungi will be seen on top of the solution. This has to be mixed well, and thereafter the solution is ready for use.

  • The results from trials this year would give an answer to the effectiveness of the technology and decide whether its use would be scaled up in the future.