The practise of burning crop residue, particularly in North India, is a major contributor to air pollution. A major challenge is persuading farmers to abandon the practise by providing alternative methods of disposal through economically productive use of crop residues. Pollution control efforts are hampered by a lack of awareness of the negative effects of pollution. This makes it difficult to effect the necessary behavioural change in order to combat pollution. The principle of 'polluters should pay for their pollution' is not effectively implemented.
Paddy stubble burning is primarily used to clear fields for rabi crop sowing in the Indo-Gangetic plains of Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh. Stubble burning is regarded as one of the most cost-effective methods of clearing the field following the harvesting season.
To eliminate the practise of burning biomass (crop residue), the Ministry of Agriculture, Cooperation, and Farmers' Welfare should make appropriate changes to their farm mechanisation guidelines to support farmers in purchasing equipment to collect, transport, and sell biomass to processing sites for economic benefits.
Pollution: Stubble burning emits toxic pollutants into the atmosphere such as carbon monoxide (CO), methane (CH4), carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and volatile organic compounds (VOC). These pollutants disperse in the environment, eventually forming a thick blanket of smog, which affects air quality and people's health.
Soil fertility:When the husk is burned on the ground, the soil becomes less fertile and its nutrients are destroyed. The organic quality of the soil and other soil microorganisms are both harmed when crop residue is burned. The wrath of 'enemy' pests has increased as a result of the loss of 'friendly' pests, and this has made crops more susceptible to disease. The ability of the soil's uppermost layers to dissolve substances has also been diminished.
Heat penetration:Stubble burning generates heat that penetrates the soil, increasing erosion and the loss of beneficial microbes and moisture.
The Task Force on Biomass Management, established by NITI Aayog under the 'Cleaner Air, Better Life' initiative, has made the following key recommendations in its report titled "Action Plan for Biomass Management,"
Provide farmers with short-term financial assistance for in-situ paddy straw treatment and crop residue non-burning.
Establish a "Clean Air Impact Fund" to provide viability gap funding (VGF) for projects with long gestation periods and low return on investment, such as bio-power or bio-ethanol.
Upscale crop harvesting and farm residue utilisation technologies.
Raise farmer awareness of the importance of good soil management practises. Create farmer awareness campaigns. Recognize farmers who use non-burning methods. Create information tools for on-farm management and in-situ mulching.
PUSA Bio Enzyme: The Indian Agriculture Research Institute has developed a novel solution for stubble burning in the form of PUSA bio-enzyme. When sprayed, this enzyme decomposes the stubble in 20-25 days, converting it to manure and improving soil quality even further. It increases organic carbon and soil health while significantly lowering fertiliser costs for the next cropping cycle. As a sustainable agriculture practise, it reduces greenhouse gas emissions and prevents the release of toxins and soot into the atmosphere. When done consistently, it significantly improves the soil's nutrient health and microbial activity, resulting in higher yields at lower input costs for farmers and organic produce for consumers.
Torrefaction: Torrefaction is a thermal process that converts biomass into a coal-like material with improved fuel properties over the original biomass. The process involves heating straw, grass, sawmill residue, and wood biomass to temperatures ranging from 250 to 350 degrees Celsius. This converts the biomass elements into 'coal-like' pellets. These pellets can be burned alongside coal in industrial applications such as steel and cement production. Bio-coal, also known as synthetic coal, is produced by the torrefaction of biomass. Bio-coal has properties similar to traditional fossil-based coal, making it a viable option for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Revenue Generation Incentive : MS Swaminathan credited as India's "Father of the Green Revolution” has given a novel idea. He pointed out that stubble isn't burned in South India due to the fact that it can be used as animal feed. Rice straw has numerous commercial applications. A do-ecology approach with farmers to turn rice stubble into revenue is preferable to making them agents of environmental catastrophe. In Myanmar, rice bioparks have been built to make useful products like paper, cardboard, and animal feed from stubble.
Crop Diversification: Alternative crops (other than rice/paddy and wheat) that produce less crop residue and have longer gap periods between cropping cycles may be encouraged. Various efforts are being made to diversify cropping techniques, which will result in the prevention of crop residue burning.