Overview Objectives

The aim of this project is to reduce the environmental and health impacts and to sustain the profitability of rice-wheat cropping systems in NW India by enabling an accelerated roll-out of the Happy Seeder technology. Specific objectives are:
to assess and fine-tune the Happy Seeder machines in on-farm experiments in collaboration with farmers, the machinery manufacturer and contractors
to optimise nitrogen x residue x irrigation management using the Happy Seeder approach on the major soil types of NW India
to disseminate the Happy Seeder technology in NW India
to assess the potential for the Happy Seeder technology in Australia.

Project Background and Objectives

Rice-wheat (RW) is the major cropping system in the Indo-Gangetic Plains (IGP), with annual planting of about 13 million ha. About 2.6 million ha are under RW in the small state of Punjab alone. In the past decade the introduction of contractor-operated combine harvesters has led to exponential growth in mechanical harvesting in the better endowed rice-wheat growing areas of NW India, particularly the Punjab.

Burning, which is the normal method of rice stubble management in these areas, causes air pollution (particulates, greenhouse gases), nutrient loss (especially N and C, also P, K and S) and soil organic matter decline. In India, air pollution from stubble burning is particularly bad, impacting on human health both medically and by traumatic road accident due to restricted visibility.

As part of ACIAR project LWR/2000/089 (Permanent beds for irrigated rice-wheat and alternative cropping systems in north-west India and south-east Australia) a breakthrough was achieved in the development of a new generation of seeders capable of direct drilling wheat into heavy rice residue loads without the need for prior burning. The machines, developed in collaboration with a machinery manufacturer, are called ‘Happy Seeders’. The Happy Seeder sows directly behind the combine harvester in one operation. It cuts and lifts the straw, presenting the seeding drill with clear soil, and then deposits the cut straw as a mulch, either on top of the sown seed or between the seed rows. Thus, the Happy Seeder technology (HST) provides an alternative to burning, and legislators are likely to encourage (or legislatively enforce) adoption of the technique.

Proof of concept was established primarily in controlled experiments on the Punjab Agricultural University research farm, with some limited testing on farms of lead (and wealthier) farmers in the surrounds of Ludhiana. But appropriate recommendations for residue, nitrogen and irrigation management are lacking, and in their absence there is a risk that the deployment of the HST will be machinery-driven and hence sub-optimal, in turn making the technology appear less attractive or leading to future discarding of the technique.

Progress Reports (Year 1, 2, 3 etc)

The project is progressing very well with all team members interacting well despite the challenges of distance and different organisations. Many on-farm experiments have been set up in both Ludhiana/Amritsar (95 ha) and Modipuram (25 ha). This is an improvement on previous years and shows increasing interest from local farmers. While these areas have been largely sown with machines supplied by our research colleagues, it is anticipated that the interest shown by Punjab government departments will result in programs and assistance which will encourage more private ownership of the machines, either by farmers or contractors.

The on farm agronomic trials in both areas in India have been very well established and monitored and many excellent results obtained. The replicated trials looking at nitrogen x residue x irrigation management using the Happy Seeder approach representing major soil types of NW India have resulted in good data being collected at all sites. These are being analysed and will be reported on at a later date. The literature review and spatial analysis to ascertain the areas of Australia which might be suitable for the Happy Seeder approach are in progress.

The machinery development has continued at the Punjab Agricultural University and with local manufacturers. The aim of this work is to produce a machine which can be operated by the more common 35 HP tractors. To this end the PAU colleagues have been experimenting with wider row spacing, which allows removal of alternate cutting mechanisms, as well as every second tyne seed and fertilizer distributors and soil engaging points, thus considerably reducing the gross weight of the machines.

The economic work is well advanced. Data has been collected from five sites in the Punjab, representing different agro-climatic zones with respect to soils, water and climate. These comprise sites near Amritsar, Nawan Shahar, Sangrur, Fatehgarh Sahib and Ludhiana, and two sites from Uttar Pradesh, namely Meerut and Ghaziabad. In all 39 farmers were selected for the purpose of the study and the break up is: 11 farmers from Sangrur, 10 farmers from Fatehgarh Sahib, 7 farmers from Amritsar, two farmers from Nawan Shahar, one farmer from Ludhiana and 8 farmers from Modipuram site (UP). To collect the information from the respondent wheat growers a comprehensive survey schedule was developed. The data have been collected using a personal interview method. An attempt has been made to determine realized / foreseen potential benefits as well as the problems of the respondent farmers while using/adopting Happy Seeder technology. In addition to this, suggestions for fine-tuning / refining this technology were also sought from the respondent farmers

Field days, workshops and training sessions have been undertaken in India where much interest in the technique has been expressed. In Australia, although much interest has been show and one field day resulted in the importation of a further machine into Tasmania, more development of the machine is necessary to make it suitable for the heavy and wet rice soils and straw prevalent in Australia.

One of the highlights of the past year has been the reciprocal visit of the Indian and Pakistani Happy Seeder teams (ACIAR companion project LWR/2004/035) to their respective machinery manufacturing and agronomic sites in April 2008. Much cross fertilization occurred, which hopefully will result in improved developments in both countries. Both project teams in India and Pakistan are doing a great job exposing the technique and its potential to many farmers, business men, manufacturers and people of influence in relevant government departments. There is growing confidence that with government support to make the machine more affordable and thus accessible to farmers and contractors the technique will become the alternative of choice to address air pollution from residue burning.

The relationship between the researchers and the manufactures is excellent, without this trusted relationship the development of the machines would not be at the current advanced stage.

The machinery development continued at the Punjab Agricultural University and with local manufacturers. The aim of this work has been to produce a machine which can be operated by the more common 35 horsepower tractors in India, our PAU colleagues and various manufacturers have considerably reduced the gross weight and power requirement of the latest model machines.

The economic work is well advanced with data being collected from five sites in the Punjab representing different agroclimatic zones with respect to soils, water, and climate (Amritsar, Nawan Shahar, Sangrur, Fatehgarh Sahib and Ludhiana) and two sites from Uttar Pradesh (Meerut and Ghaziabad) having been selected for the study during 2007-08. The analysis of the data shows an improvement in soil health due to recycling the residues, decline in weed population, reduction in herbicide use up to 50%, and irrigation water saving upto 10-12 cm/ha. The study also shows that there is remarkable energy saving due to reduction in the number tillage and tractor operations by 7.5 hrs/ha and labour saved by 24 hrs/ha. The environmental benefits included reduction in the production of CO2, CO, SO2, saving 45 litres of diesel that would help to reduce about 120 kg of CO2 emissions and saving 20-30% of water that would help to save 80 kWh of electricity & 160 kg of CO2. During 2008-09 the economic surveys were also conducted at both the Punjab and Western Uttar Pradesh. The analysis of the techniques Australian economic potential is also well advanced. Data will be analysed and reported in our next report.

Many on-farm participatory trials were conducted during 2007-08 at 46 locations in Punjab covering the five districts and 15 trials in Western Uttar Pradesh covering the three districts. Yield of these trials were recorded and results showed that a 3-10 percent higher grain yield were achieved with the happy seeder technology over conventional farmers’ practice. Farmers were encouraged by the previous results of the happy seeder technology and hence was adopted on more than 280 ha during 2008-09 as compared to 80 ha during 2007-08. In addition , the Department of Agriculture, Punjab had sown 70 ha area with happy seeder in different districts including 95 demonstrations in which 87 % of participating farmers achieved a higher yield compared to conventional practice.

On-station experiments to study the timing and method of N fertilization in no till wheat sown into rice straw were conducted at the research farm, PAU, Ludhiana and SVBUA&T, Modipuram. Application of N at pre-sowing irrigation in happy seeder technology produced higher grain yields, whilst broadcasting N at the time of sowing proved inferior compared to other methods and timing of fertilizeration. Surface residue retention decomposed slowly due to less contact with soil and soil micro flora as compared to residue incorporated. Residue mulch created with happy seeder technology moderated the soil hydro thermal regime and reduced canopy temperature thus providing beneficial heat relief during the grain filling stage.

Field days, workshops and training sessions have been conducted where much interest in the technique has been expressed by the farmers and officials. In Australia, much interest has been shown and one field day resulted in the importation of a further machine into Tasmania. One of the highlights of the current project has been the reciprocal visit of the Indian and Pakistani teams to their respective machinery manufacturing and agronomic sites. Much exchange occurred, which hopefully will result in more developments in both countries. Unfortunately the Australian team was unable to be with the groups during the visits due to travel restrictions.
The project teams are doing a great job showing the technique and its potential to many farmers, business men, manufactures and people of influence in relevant government departments. We are all confident that with government support we shall be able to make the machine more affordable and thus accessible to farmers and contractors. The technique will take off as an alternative to techniques which require either total or partial burning.
The relationship between the researchers and the manufactures is excellent. Without this trusted relationship the development of the machines would not have been at the current advanced stage.

This ACIAR project is making an incredible impact in the Punjab and western UP regions of India.

The machinery development continued at the Punjab Agricultural University and with local manufacturers. The aim of this work has been to produce a machine which can be operated by the more common 35 horsepower tractors in India, our PAU colleagues and various manufacturers have considerably reduced the gross weight and power requirement of the latest model machines.

Many on-farm participatory trials were conducted during 2008-09 at 24 locations in Western Uttar Pradesh covering the three districts. Yield of these trials were recorded and results showed that a significantly higher grain yield was achieved with the happy seeder technology over conventional farmers’ practice. Farmer’s were encouraged by the previous results of the happy seeder technology and hence it was adopted on more than 100 acres during 2008-09 as compared to 60 acre during 2007-08. Many similar trial were carried out in the Punjab with similar results being obtained, and over 800 acres sown in 2010

On-station experiments to study the timing and method of N fertilization in no till wheat sown into rice straw were conducted at the research farm, SVBUA&T, Modipuram. Application of N in splits after seeding using happy seeder technology produced higher grain yields, whilst broadcasting N at the time of sowing and pre sowing irrigation proved inferior compared to other methods and timing of fertilization. Surface residue retention decomposed slowly due to less contact with soil and soil micro flora as compared to residue incorporated. Residue mulch created with happy seeder technology moderated the soil hydro thermal regime and reduced canopy temperature providing beneficial heat relief during the critical grain filling stage.

In the Punjab,two replicated field experiments on sandy loam (farmers’ field at Sangrur) and silt loam soils (PAU Ludhiana) were conducted during 2008-09 to study the effect of date of sowing, row spacing (20 cm and 25.7 cm) using 9-row versus 7-row machines and two wheat varieties on wheat yields. The experiment was laid down in a split plot design with three replications. Total rice straw load averaged 8.5t/ha on silt loam and 8.6 t ha-1 on the sandy loam. Treatments were arranged in a split plot design with two DOS treatments as main and varieties and row spacing as sub plot treatments. The experiment at PAU was conducted with two dates of sowing (3rd November and 29th November), two types of machine (9 and 7 row happy seeder), and two wheat varieties (PBW 343 and PBW 550).

Field days, workshops, travelling seminars and training sessions have been conducted over many sites, soil types and geographic spread, where much interest in the technique has been expressed by farmers and officials.

Project ID
CSE/2006/124
Project Country
Inactive project countries
Commissioned Organisation
Charles Sturt University, Australia
Project Leader
Professor John Blackwell
Email
jblackwell@csu.edu.au
Phone
02 6933 4937
Fax
02 6933 2647
Collaborating Institutions
International Rice Research Institute, India
Punjab Agricultural University, India
Industry & Investment NSW, Australia
Project Budget
$410,128.00
Start Date
01/10/2007
Finish Date
30/09/2010
Extension Start Date
01/10/2010
Extension Finish Date
30/06/2011
ACIAR Research Program Manager
Dr John Dixon