Punjab Farmers Rush to Early-Maturing Paddy: Sales Soar

by Parminder Singh Sodhi

In a decisive move to conserve water, the Punjab state government banned the cultivation of the water-intensive paddy variety PUSA 44 in October 2023. This ban has propelled the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) to advocate for short-duration paddy varieties, leading to a significant shift in the agricultural landscape of the region. Among these, the PR 126 variety has seen a remarkable increase in adoption.

This season, PAU has witnessed a surge in the demand for PR 126 seeds, selling over 10,000 quintals compared to just 4,800 quintals last year. The area under cultivation for PR 126 is projected to double from the previous year’s 33 percent, a direct result of the PUSA 44 ban.

Dr. Satbir Singh Gosal, Vice Chancellor of PAU, highlighted the popularity of four short-duration paddy varieties: PR 126, PR 131, PR 128, and PR 114. “PAU has sold 10,000 quintals of PR 126, 2,700 quintals of PR 131, and 1,000 quintals each of PR 128 and PR 114. Out of a total production of 22,000 quintals of seeds, which includes both rice and Basmati, 11,000 quintals were PR 126,” Dr. Gosal noted.

Dr. Rajinder Singh, Director of Seeds at PAU, emphasized the appeal of PR 126 to farmers due to its short growth cycle. “PR 126 is the shortest duration variety, with its nursery plantable in the first week of June and transplantable from June 25 to July 10. It matures in just 93 days, making it highly suitable for the multiple cropping system,” he explained.

The shift towards short-duration varieties like PR 126 and PR 131 not only conserves water but also aids in efficient straw management, facilitating timely sowing of wheat and reducing weed pressure. “PR 126 matures in 93 days and PR 131 in 110 days, escaping many abiotic stresses and incidences of insect-pests and diseases, thereby reducing cultivation costs,” added Dr. Buta Singh Dhillon, Rice Agronomist at PAU.

A survey conducted by PAU revealed that PR varieties yield more when sown around June 25, with PR 126 performing best when planted in July. Early transplanting often resulted in lower yields due to high temperatures and increased pest attacks, such as false smut and sheath blight.

In addition to the prominently adopted varieties, PAU recommends other short-duration varieties like PR 129, PR 121, PR 122, and PR 113, which can be transplanted from June 20. Varieties PR 127, PR 130, and HKR 147 are suitable for transplanting from June 25 onwards.

As Punjab navigates the challenges of water conservation and sustainable agriculture, the transition to short-duration paddy varieties marks a significant step towards a more resilient and efficient farming future. The increased adoption of these varieties underscores the adaptability and forward-thinking approach of Punjab’s farming community in response to environmental and governmental directives.

Parminder Singh Sodhi

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