Balurghat, June 15: Around 25 farmers burnt their own crop of paddy in a village in Hili yesterday, angry that a new cultivation technique supervised by the agriculture department had failed to match their expectation of rice yield.
According to the district agriculture department, the farmers of Dhalpara village were told to use the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) technique for cultivation.
Local sources said 27 farmers had sown paddy seedlings on around 40 bighas in January after they were trained by the district agriculture department to cultivate the paddy following the SRI method. Two of them said compared to the 8 quintals of rice from each bigha that their traditional method of boro cropping yielded, the SRI technique yielded only 1 quintal from each bigha.
“We had sown seedlings following the advice of the agriculture department. We took care of them following its guidelines. The result we have got is miserable. When the farmers are getting more than 8 quintals per bigha, we got only around 1 quintal, which is a huge loss. Had we followed the traditional process then we would not have had to face the loss,” said farmer Prakash Sarkar.
Another farmer Santosh Mandal echoed him. “We have also not noticed the emergence of panicle (shoot) in most of the plants.” The farmers claimed they lost around Rs 3 lakh this season because of the low paddy yield.
Agriculture experts, however, refused to discredit the SRI technique, saying the farmers may not have followed the process as told.
Sankar Saha, a plant pathologist of the Krishi Vigyan Kendra in Majhian, said: “SRI is an emerging alternative technique for rice cultivation. It is a new technology which is used for cultivating all varieties of paddy. This has been very effective in cultivation. It requires very little quantity of water to cultivate paddy. Cultivation by the traditional process requires a lot of water.”
Saha said several steps are involved in the SRI process. “It has been proved that if it is followed properly, production of rice will double despite relatively low expenditure. The agriculture department is promoting the process with an aim to reduce the use of ground water which is the main requirement for boro paddy,” Saha said. He added that there was no question of fault in this process.
When asked what might be the reason that had led to the debacle, agro-scientists in the Krishi Vigyan Kendra informed that the damage may have been done because of the late transplanting of the seedlings. “The seedlings have to be sown when a they are in the two-leaf stage, at an age of only 8 to 10 days. If the seedlings are sown after one month or more, there can be damage. The farmers had most probably sown the seedlings late. The plot also needs to be made free of weeds regularly,” said a source in the agriculture department.
“We have already visited the spot where the incident took place yesterday. Twenty-seven farmers were trained up to cultivate paddy by the SRI process. There is nothing wrong with this process. As far as my knowledge is concerned, the farmers might have sown the seedlings late and that may have led to the attack of the stem bores and other pests,” said Lakshmikanta Madi, the principal extension officer of the district agriculture department of South Dinajpur.
“However, I have sought a report of the loss the farmers have incurred and compensation will be given accordingly,” he said.