Punjab government realizes the need for diversification and has taken several steps over the last 2 years to decrease area under paddy cultivation. This includes encouraging cultivation of ‘Basmati’ variety of paddy which requires lesser water, besides increasing area under cotton. Both initiatives, which have been conducted in league with the Punjab State Farmers Commission, are aimed at arresting the depleting water table in the state as well as encouraging alternative crops.
Steps taken include introducing 80% subsidy on agricultural infrastructure like drip irrigation, water tanks, solar water pumps and solar connections. Subsidy of 50% on seeds, insecticides, pesticides, machinery and other input materials has also been provided to boost cultivation of alternate crops.
Government of Punjab has also taken another step to kickstart diversification establishing a state-of-the-art Borlaug Institute for South Asia (BISA) to develop new varieties of Wheat, Cotton and Maize crop through research at Laddowal, Ludhiana at a cost of Rs 500/- crore. Institute has also produced Water smart agricultural practices which saves 40-50% of water without any yield penalty in rice-wheat / maize- wheat systems. Other developed technologies include introduction of legume in rice-wheat / cotton-wheat / maize-wheat systems. This initiative not only provides additional one tone of yield but also enriches the soil through N2 fixation. All these reforms are made for the betterment of the state and its people. State has also enhanced the budget for PAU to Rs. 310 crore for the year 2014-15 from 300crore of 2013-14 to carry out extensive research and development.
Following recommendations by experts, state has earmarked 12 lakh hectares out of total 26.50 lakh hectare area currently under paddy, for shifting to alternative crops like maize, sugarcane, cotton, pulses, fruits and vegetables besides Agro Forestry in next five years. Five citrus estates at Abohar, Tahliwala-Jattan, Bhunga, Badal, and Hoshiarpur were established at a cost of Rs. 5 crore to promote citrus fruits in their natural growing areas in the state. Estates of Litchi and Pear will also come up at Pathankot and Amritsar at a cost of 3.8 Crore.
Punjab has recently won the “Krishi Karman Award” for 2013-14, being the best performing state in overall food grains production. This proves that Punjab is moving in the right direction and taking appropriate steps to make agricultural diversification a reality.