The technological innovations played a pivotal role in advancements and transformation of the agricultural sector in either in the terms of increased farm production or enhanced farmers’ livelihood. The Rice-Wheat Cropping System in the vast tracts of Punjab and Haryana attracted the scientific community not only to think over improved efficiency of inputs, but also to make available the alternatives in terms of resource conservation technologies (RCTs) like direct seeded rice, laser land levelling, to encounter environmental issues due to monoculture.
During the last decade, the Rice-Wheat System has witnessed a number of technological innovations and advancements. Due to its impact on improved production practices and economic viability, the mechanical transplantation of Rice considerably drew critical attention of the stakeholders.
The problems of labor scarcity posed due to the lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19 Pandemic lead to the emergence of the mechanical transplanting as a viable option for paddy transplanting. But, the mat type nursery is a prerequisite for mechanical paddy planters. The commonly available two types of paddy planters are walk behind a paddy planter (which can transplant 2.5 acres per day with the help of 2 to 3 persons) and four wheel drive self-propelled paddy planter (which can transplant 8 to 10 acres per day with the help of 5 persons). The planters help in easy transplanting and also facilitate optimum plant population.
Being done in lines, the transplanting further helps in proper aeration to the plants and spraying to the crop easily. The mat type nursery can be raised on polythene sheets or in trays. After placing the frame on a polythene sheet, the soil from the sides is put in the frame. The seed is then placed in the frames by the nursery seeder. Two persons can sow seedlings for 3 to 4 acres in a day.
The tractor operated nursery seeders are also available which spread polythene sheet on the ground, lifts the soil from both the sides and puts on the polythene sheet and also spreads the seed on the soil simultaneously. The machine helps in saving labor and cost of cultivation by about 60%. The field capacity of the machine is 0.28 acre/hr. The prerequisite for the successful adoption of the technique is technical competence of the farmer in terms of how to raise a nursery, how to operate the machine (manual, semi automatic or fully automatic).
The Krishi Vigyan Kendra convinced the farmers for switching-over to mat type nursery raising and consequently, planting through machines. It also organized systematic Training Programmes on “Mat Type Nursery Raising and Mechanical Planting or Rice” for the farmers of Moga District. This made the farmers adopt the technology on a large scale. Seeing the farmers’ interests, the KVK also guided them in procuring the planting machines.
The KVK, Badduwal Village of Dharamkot Block, Moga District, Punjab emerged as a front runner in the adoption of Mechanical Transplanting of Rice. Comprising of 646 small and marginal farm families with total cultivable land of 2800 acres, the village has more than 90% area under the Rice-Wheat System.
Shri Gurjant Singh was the first farmer to purchase a mechanical planter and emerged as a role model in 2013. Under the KVK’s guidance, Shri Singh started planting his paddy with a machine planter by raising a mat type nursery. This acted as a turning point for him. Promoting him as a master trainer, the KVK also encouraged the other fellow farmers about the technology. Now, he is planting paddy of the other farmers on Custom Hiring Basis, and also earning by selling Mat Type Nursery.
As a result, the farmers have procured 26 Mechanical Planters (Manual, Semi-Automatic and Fully Automatic). They not only use them to transplant paddy in their own village, but also provide on rental basis to the surrounding villages. Now, more than 65% of the area (1,650 acres) under paddy is being planted through machines. The farmers of the village provide machines to the other villages on rental basis at Rs. 2,500/acre which is certainly lower than manual transplanting (Rs. 3,000 to Rs. 4,000/acre).
The model of Badduwal Village shows the pathway of out-scaling of the technology. The shift from labor intensive activity to mechanisation will play a crucial role in the Rice-Wheat System of the region. It also has a vast scope for Entrepreneurship development (self-employment) among the rural youths by providing the Custom Hiring Services to the farmers.
(Source: ICAR-Agricultural Technology Application Research Institute, Ludhiana, Punjab)