Crop Residue in India

Crop Residue in India

Published on :- August 25th, 2022

India accounts for about 2.4% of the world’s geographical area and 4.2% of its water resources, however it supports about 17.6% of its population which highlights the fact that our natural resources are under considerable strain. The need for providing food grains for a growing population, while having a sustainable natural resource base, has emerged as one of our major challenges. Foodgrains are a major source of energy and are thus vital for food and nutritional balance.

Crop residues are leftover materials in an agricultural field after the harvesting of the crop. These residues include stalks and stubble (stems), leaves, seed pods, etc. Effective management of field residues can enhance the efficiency of irrigation and control of erosion.

According to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), India generates on an average 500 Million Tonnes (MT) of crop residue per year. Majority of this crop residue is used as fodder and fuel for other domestic and industrial purposes. However, there is still a surplus of 140 MT out of which 92 MT is burned each year.

The two crops - rice and wheat constitute large amounts of residues in India. Burning of crop residues is one of the common practices in India. This leads to air pollution episodes and public health concerns; emissions of greenhouse gasses and radiation imbalance; and declining soil organic matter and soil productivity.

Analysis of Trends in Crop Residue Generation and Burning

The total amount of crop residues (dry matter) generated increased from 80 MT (1950–51) to 517 MT (2017–18). The crop residue burning in terms of total biomass burned increased from 18 MT to 116 MT between 1950-51 and 2017–18 (6 fold increase).

The substantial increase in crop residue generation can be attributed to increase in cropping intensity and total cropped area coupled with technological advancements which were responsible for the increase in total foodgrain production.

The net sown area increased from 118.75 to 140 million hectares between 1950–51 and 1970–71, cropping intensity increased from 111.07% to 139.56% between 1950-51 and 2010–11 and food production increased from 50 MT (1950–51) to 285 MT (2017–18).

In 2017-18, 2/3rd of the total crop residue generated was from Cereals (334 MT), followed by sugarcane (133 MT) and fibre crops (17.7 MT).

National policy for management of crop residues (NPMCR) elucidates the state-wise statistics of crop residue generated and excess residue burnt. Based on NPMCR, a total of 547 MT of crop residue was generated out of which 92 MT (16%) was burned. ~29% of total crop residue was contributed by 3 states - Uttar Pradesh - 60 MT (~11%), followed by the other states Punjab (51 MT) and Maharashtra (46 MT). Rice and wheat contribute approximately 70% of the crop residues. Out of the total waste generated, the surplus residue refers to the waste that still remains after utilizing the residue for various other purposes.

Percentage of crop residue burned is found to be higher in the northern states. More than 30% of the crop residue is burned in the states of Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand.

Among different crops, the maximum residue generation is by cereals (352 MT), followed by fibers (66 MT), oilseeds (29 MT), pulses (13 MT) and sugarcane (12 MT).

In 2009, ~16% of the total crop residue was burned. Out of this, 60% was paddy straw, while wheat accounted for 22% only. Punjab alone produced 19-20 MT of paddy straw and about 20 MT of wheat straw.

A comparison of the agricultural waste generated by selected Asian countries in MT/year shows that India leads its neighbors in terms of agricultural waste generation. It is also important to note that the portion burnt as agricultural waste in India (in volume) is much larger than the entire production of agricultural waste in other countries in the region.

Waste from the agricultural industry has the potential to be beneficially utilized in various agro-based applications and other industrial processing related tasks. However, one major challenge is that the cost of collection, processing, and transportation can be much higher than the revenue from the beneficial use of such waste. However, better crop residue management is a need of the hour for two reasons: first, crop residues are an important constituent of agricultural waste that can actually be used for the benefit of the society due to its organic composition. The other important reason is that the volume of crop residue, with unsustainable management practices, create high adverse environmental impacts that go far beyond India - especially since India is the second largest producer of rice and wheat in the world, two crops that usually produce a large volume of residue.


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