Studies have shown that the loss of grain during harvesting, threshing, transportation and storage is quite significant. While an earlier estimate put this loss at 9.3%, the Indian Grain Storage Management and Research Institute (IGSMRI) indicates that post-harvest losses amount to nearly 10%.
Among all the factors that lead to food waste, there is one that can be easily solved with an investment: food storage. In a state like Punjab, the available storage space cannot keep up with the record production from year to year, but the most worrying thing is the lack of scientifically developed storage facilities. Every year, thousands of tonnes of grain stored at basement level are damaged.
Although this is a huge monetary loss, it also has hidden environmental costs. All the diesel used in tractors, pumps and harvesters to cultivate and harvest wasted grain at high environmental cost is also wasted. Fertilizers and pesticides pollute the soil and water, so wasted grain only increases the environmental cost without any benefit.
This is why the development of scientific storage facilities is essential to reduce resource use, which is the third “R” of circularity.
Over the years, Punjab has also been blamed for air pollution in northern India during the onset of winter. The problem is linked to the role of the state as “India’s breadbasket”. Since The Green Revolution it is rooted in the wheat-paddy cycle. His farmers don’t have enough time between paddy and wheat seasons, so they burn paddy stubble to prepare their fields for the next harvest.
But this approach does not align with the fourth and fifth Rs of circularity – reuse and recycle. The vast amounts of crop residues that are burned annually in Punjab’s fields – 20 million tons out of a total residue of 51 million tons – are biomass that can increase soil fertility in the form of compost, thereby reducing the need for fertilizer.
Some on-site and off-site processes for managing crop residues have been put in place, but have yet to yield results. The Punjab Remote Sensing Center has recorded alarming levels of crop residue burning at the end of the past three paddy seasons.
The Punjab government has put in place several plans to reduce the burning of crop residues. These include making waste management machines available and subsidizing their purchase. It also prepares more scientific storage space. These measures should bear fruit in the years to come.
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