Friday, September 29, 2023

Cabinet approves revision of terms & conditions of paddy straw challenge fund


Chandigarh, July 30: The Punjab cabinet has agreed to revise the terms and conditions of the Paddy Straw Challenge Fund, as per the suggestions from Punjab State Farmers’ & Farm Workers’ Commission and Punjab Agricultural University, to find a viable technological solution to combat the menace of paddy straw burning.

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This decision was taken by the Council of Ministers at a meeting, chaired by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, on Monday.

It may be recalled that the state government had notified establishment of Paddy Straw Challenge Fund for accelerating in-situ degradation of Paddy Straw vide Notification No.2/27/06-Agri-2(10)/18019 dated 15-09-2017 after approval of Council of Ministers in its meeting held on August 4, 2017.

The cabinet felt the terms and conditions of the Paddy Straw Challenge Fund should be easy and simple, allowing a larger number of institutions/individuals offering different technological solutions to participate in the contest. This move would not only help retain the fertility of the soil but also make environment pollution free.

The US$ 1 Million Fund, set up by the Punjab State Farmers’ and Farm Workers’ Commission, is aimed at seeking appropriate technology, for rapid in-situ management of paddy straw in the field, from a universal set of innovators represented by private/public agencies or individuals.

A significant window of opportunity exists for interventions aimed at accelerated in-situ management of paddy straw. Timely planting of wheat, which is a major determinant of productivity, demands that its degradation period be minimized, preferably to less than 20 days. Given the greater availability of conventional seed drills, the rapid degradation step could provide a quick scaling-up, and hence become a significant contribution to solving the straw burning problem.

The technology developed in this regard should emphasise on the criteria to ensure decomposition/degradation of in-situ, surface-retained paddy straw within 20 days of combine harvesting so as to enable unhindered sowing with conventional drill. Further, it should be safe for the crop and environment in the short and long term, with no negative impact on soil, crop productivity and human health. Technologies found achieving the target of less than 20 days, safety and efficiency (in this order of priority) would be employed for further ranking. The emerging technology should be applicable to the currently recommended varieties of paddy in this state and should have a favourable cost to benefit ratio.

The Cabinet also approved the guidelines for the Paddy Straw Challenge, which included proposals to be submitted to the Chairman, Punjab State Farmers’ and Farm Workers’ Commission, with the contest to be open internationally to individuals/institutes/group/firms. The application fee for participation in the challenge should be Rs.1.25 lakh/$2000 per entry. The product in sufficient quantity along with detailed protocol of the technology should be submitted to the Punjab State Farmers’ and Farm Workers’ Commission to facilitate independent evaluation of the technology.

The preliminary data generated by the applicant should be submitted along with the proposal for evaluation. No genetically engineered/modified interventions would be considered. The claim of the applicant would be evaluated on basis of two years of experimentation by an expert committee constituted by Punjab State Farmers’ and Farm Workers’ Commission and the decision of the Commission shall be final. However, the Commission reserves the right to withdraw the “challenge” by giving a notice of one year.



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