Punjab mulls growing soybean, arhar to replace paddy crop

Chandigarh, Jan 27 (PTI) Punjab government today said itis looking at the possibility of growing soybean and pigeonpea (arhar) crops in order to replace paddy crop in the wakeof fast depleting water table in the state.

"We are looking at soybean and arhar crops which can begrown in 120 days (during paddy growing season)," PunjabDirector (Agriculture) B S Sidhu said, while speaking aboutcrop diversification and steps being taken to save waterresources in the State Credit seminar organized by NABARD heretoday.

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

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

However, he asserted that there was no need to curtailarea under wheat in view of depleting water table. "We do notwant to divert area under wheat," he asserted.

Notably, Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar had saidlast month here that the Centre intended to procure less waterconsuming oilseeds or pulses over rice from Punjab and Haryanastates in wake of fast depleting water table in both states.

Pawar had said that final decision would be taken aftertaking the state governments and farmers in confidence.

Even Nabard has also strongly recommended the state forpromoting alternative cropping pattern-based on ground waterlevel in the state. It has also asked to grow horticulturecrops more in the state.

Present farm cropping pattern in Punjab is dominated bywheat-paddy rotation, causing degradation of soil fertilityand fall in underground water table. Wheat and paddy covermajor portion of gross cropped area which has increased to 72per cent in 2008-09 from 47 per cent in 1970-71.

The intense cropping pattern in Punjab has led toover-exploitation of 107 blocks out of 141 blocks in thestate. Farm experts pointed out ground water level in has gonedown to 100-120 feet from 50-60 feet three decades ago.

Paddy was introduced in mid 1970''s in Punjab and Haryana.

Paddy crop requires 20-22 round of irrigation and it needsabout 3,000 liters of water for producing one kg of rice. PTICHS

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