Menace of Stubble Burning

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  • Published
    4th Apr, 2019


Paddy fields in Kuttanad, the rice bowl of Kerala, look black these days with some of them emitting plumes of smoke. Relatively a new phenomenon in this part of the region, setting paddy fields on fire after harvest by ‘padashekhara samitis’ and farmers is emerging as a major cause for concern.


More on news:

  • In Punjab or Haryana, residue burning is rampant after harvest, resulting in heavy smog choking the region every year.
  • In Kerala, the rampant burning of fields started only a few years ago. The smoke from stubble contains carbon monoxide and other toxic chemicals, which adversely affect human health and environment. However, the farmers are yet to be aware of the dangers.
  • In Kuttanad, the farmers are burning fields to destroy stubble, to check the germination of weedy rice and prevent diseases, as part of preparing their fields for the next crop season. They believe setting the fields on fire will improve the soil fertility.
  • Experts, however, say the burning impacts the quality of soil as it robs the soil of vital nutrients.

What is Stubble burning?

  • Stubble burning is intentionally setting fire to the straw stubble that remains after wheat, paddy and other crops have been harvested.
  • The burning of stubble, contrasted with alternatives such as ploughing the stubble back into the ground, has a number of consequences and effects on the environment.

How it is beneficial to farmers?

  • This method is quick one for clearing the fields.
  • It is a cheap method.
  • It kills weeds, including those resistant to herbicide and also kills slugs and other pests.
  • It can reduce nitrogen tie-up.

What are the harmful effects of stubble burning?

  • It causes loss of nutrients.
  • It contributes to pollution from smoke.
  • It has risk of out of control spreading of fire.
  • It damages electrical and electronic equipment from floating threads of conducting waste.

What is the solution to it?

  • The most prominent solution presented is the in-situ management which involves ploughing back the stubble in the ground. This is economically unfeasible for farmers because of the high cost of both manual labour and mechanised options. The government should incentivize this method.
  • The happy seeder machine which adopts a low tillage system to cut the straw and distribute mulch on the field. The government should provide subsidy on the machine.
  • Another solution is to cut, bail and transport the straw to cardboard factories or bio-mass based power plants. This will earn revenue to the farmers.
  • Diversify the cropping pattern away from the paddy cultivation. Farmers should grow crops which do not leave behind the stubble. If the crop grown is less remunerative to the farmers, the government should remunerate it by announcing MSP of these new crops same as that of rice.

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