What Can Punjab Grow Instead of Rice and Wheat?

Rice procurement in Punjab. Photo by Vivian Fernandes

The agitating farmers of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have forced the government to repeal the three farm laws it enacted hurriedly in 2020. They want assured procurement of wheat and rice as minimum support prices. But the wheat-rice cycle is environmentally deleterious for Punjab. How can it diversify?

Anju Agnihotri Chaba in the Indian Express of 4 December, 2021, that the state’s regions must grow crops as per their agro-climatic suitability. Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) divides the state into six such zones. Their characteristics and the crops that should be cultivated in them are set out below:

Zone 1 is the sub-mountain undulating region at the Shivalik foothills. Zone 2 is the undulating plain region. These regions comprise Pathankot, Ropar, Mohali, Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur. The annual rainfall ranges from 165 mm to more than 1,000 mm. PAU scientists suggest that the farmers here grow vegetables, wheat, maize, basmati rice, jowar, bajra and barley. They are not suitable for growing paddy because the soil is loamy. Maize, the experts say, is the default crop. Some of the districts grow about 75 percent of the state’s maize crop. Fruit growers can opt for kinnow, mango and pear.

Zone 3 is the central plain region and comprises Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Kapurthala, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Fatehgarh Sahib, Patiala and Sangrur. Amritsar and Gurdaspur are good for basmati which has a unique aroma not found in basmati grown in other parts of the state. Pathar Naakh (hard pear) is also grown in some parts of Amritsar. Jalandhar, Kapurthala and parts of Hoshiarpur are good for seed potato because of deep sandy loam soils and October, November and December being relatively free of aphid attacks. Kapurthala is good for groundnut and melon. Jalandhar is also suitable for sugarcane, groundnut and sesame. Tarn Taran and Amritsar should grow vegetables, basmati and wheat. Ludhiana, Sangrur, Patiala and Fatehgarh Sahib are suited for wheat, rice, pulses, oilseed, sugarcane and bajra.

Zone 4 is the western plain region and comprises Ferozepur, Moga, Barnala and Faridkot. These should opt for cotton and mustard.

Zone 5 is the western region which covers Muktsar, Fazilka, Bathinda and Mansa. This region is good for cotton and mustard.

Zone 6: is the flood plain region and includes the districts along the Beas, Sutlej, Ravi and Ghaggar rivers  (parts of Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Patiala, Ropar, Sangrur, Bathinda and Ferozepur): It should continue to grow paddy.

(Top photo by Vivian Fernandes)