There may be an eco-friendly solution to stubble burning which is said to have contributed to worsening of air quality in the capital and surrounding areas. A Pune-based agri biotech firm recently claimed that it has developed a microbial formulation that can recycle crop residue in the field rather than burning them away and thus help improve soil fertility.
Named Speed Kompost, the microbial solution developed by Kan Biosys contains a cocktail of cellulose degrading, starch degrading, protein degrading bacteria and fungi.
“Speed Kompost can help improve soil carbon by incorporating crop residues efficiently in the soil,” said Sandeepa Kanitkar, Chairperson and Managing Director of the Kan Biosys, which has been working on plant nutrition and soil health management since 2005.
The Pune firm has been working with some farmers in Punjab and Haryana for the past four years. “We have used the formulation in nearly 20,000 acres. The analysis of 150 samples has shown that the soil carbon levels in those fields where it was used have gone up by 50 per cent from 0.2 per cent to 0.3 per cent in four years,” she said.
As they are rich in silica and lignin, rice straws take normally take long time to decompose on their own even if there is ideal moisture available in the soil. The microbial formulation developed by Kan Biosys in fact accelerates the process, leading to better crop yields.
There are several benefits from improving the organic carbon in soil. Besides increasing soil fertility, it helps reduce carbon dioxide released to the atmosphere by burning. That way it also addresses the problem of climate change, Kanitkar said. The stubble burning disrupts the carbon content balance in the soil and Speed Kompost can help restore it, Kanitkar said.
According to her, the investment required for taking care of crop residues produced in one acre of land is around Rs 2,000, of which Rs 600 is the cost of the product. Besides, along with Speed Kompost farmers need to use one bag of urea in each acre of land.
“The farmers in Punjab and Haryana have been burning the stubble because limited technology options available to them. Now that there is an environmentally safe way of disposing of the agri waste, there is a need to create awareness among them. Besides, they need to be financially supported to adopt the safer alternative. There can be substantial environmental and public health benefits accrue from this,” Kanitkar told BusinessLine.
According to her, the combined area under rice cultivation in Punjab and Haryana is around 1 crore acres. The maximum investment required to take care of the crop residue problem in a season is around Rs 2,000 crore.