What is Stubble Burning and its effects and Alternatives?


What is Stubble Burning?

Stubble burning is a process of setting on fire the straw stubble, left after the harvesting of grains, like paddy, wheat, etc.

In India, stubble (parali) burning is practised to remove paddy crop residues from fields to sow wheat, which occurs around the end of September and beginning of November.

The practice is prevalent especially in Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh in October and November.

What are the Effects of Stubble Burning?

Damage to the Environment: Burning stubble emits toxic gases such as Carbon Monoxide (CO), Methane (CH4), Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH), and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC).

A thick blanket of smog is formed from these pollutants dispersing into the surrounding area, ultimately affecting air quality and health. This is one of the primary causes of Delhi's air pollution.

Impact on Soil Properties: Heat from burning residues elevates soil temperature causing death of beneficial soil organisms.

Frequent residue burning leads to complete loss of microbial population and reduces levels of Nitrogen and Carbon in the soil, which is important for crop root development.

Impacts on Human Health: There have been several health effects caused by the resultant air pollution, ranging from skin irritation to severe neurological, cardiovascular, and respiratory problems.

Research shows that pollution exposure also has an adverse effect on mortality rates - the life expectancy of Delhi residents has decreased by about 6.4 years as a result of high pollution levels.

Insufficient Stubble Management Infrastructure: Farmers burned almost 15.4 million metric tons (out of 19.7 MMT) in open fields due to the lack of stubble management infrastructure (Punjab government 2017).

Also, it is preferred by farmers because it is cheaper and faster, helping them to clear the land in time for the next cropping season.

Negative Effects of Subsidies for Agriculture: Subsidies for electricity and fertilizers, along with easier access to credit in agriculture, have led to substantial increases in crop yields and agricultural productivity in subsequent decades, which has in turn exacerbated stubble burning.

What can be the Alternatives to Stubble Burning?

Bio Enzyme-PUSA: A bio-enzyme called PUSA has been developed by the Indian Agriculture Research Institute as a solution to stubble burning.

As soon as it is sprayed, this enzyme starts decomposing the stubble in 20-25 days, turning it into manure, which further improves the soil.

It also Increases organic carbon and soil health while reducing fertiliser expenses for the next cropping cycle.

Palletisation: Paddy straw can be dried and converted into pellets can be mixed along with coal which can be used in thermal power plants and industries as fuel. This can save coal as well as reduce carbon emissions.

Happy Seeder: Instead of burning the stubble, a tractor-mounted machine called the Happy Seeder can be used that “cuts and lifts rice straw, sows wheat into the bare soil, and deposits the straw over the sown area as mulch.

Chhattisgarh Innovative Model: It is an innovative experiment that has been undertaken by the Chhattisgarh government which involves the setting up of gauthans.

Gauthans are five-acre plots owned by each village where unused stubble or parali is collected through parali daan (people's donations) and turned into organic fertiliser by mixing cow dung with natural enzymes.

Additional Alternative Uses: Stubbles can be used in various ways; cattle feed, compost manure, roofing in rural areas, for packing materials, for preparation of papers and for preparation of bioethanol as well.


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