In order to give a fillip to maize research and cultivation in the state, the Punjab government has approved transfer of 100 hectares in Ladowal near Ludhiana free to the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) for setting up a Directorate of Maize Research in the state. The step is likely to give a major thrust to the much-needed agricultural diversification programme in Punjab. This endeavour would also help in development of new hybrid and high-yielding varieties of maize, thereby contributing in improving farmers' incomes.
The current cropping pattern in the state is dominated by wheat and rice. Area under maize in the state in 2012-13 (projected) was 1.24 lakh hectares and the estimated production was 4.58 lakh tonnes.
The ministry of agriculture has decided to shift the Directorate of Maize Research from Delhi to Ladowal near Ludhiana. There has been overexploitation of soil and water over the years. Of late, the soil has also started showing signs of multi-nutrient deficiencies, particularly micro-nutrients. Attributing the depletion of water table and degradation of soil quality to massive paddy cultivation, the state government earlier impressed upon Union agriculture minister to shift the directorate in the state to promote maize cultivation as this 'kharif crop of future' may replace the rice as a major crop.
According to agriculturists, the setting up of the directorate would greatly strengthen the research on maize and would be highly beneficial to Punjab's farmers as the state government enhanced the area under its cultivation and pushes to decrease area under paddy.
Under the crop diversification programme, the state government is targeting to reduce the area under paddy from 28 lakh hectares to 16 lakh hectares. Also, recently, the Punjab government inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Monsanto Holdings Pvt. Ltd to jointly establish three centers of excellence for the promotion of cotton, maize and vegetables in Punjab. The centre for maize is likely to be set up in the Doaba region.
Agriculturists hoped that this initiative would go a long way in motivating farmers in the state to wean them away from the wheat-paddy rotation to alternate crops in order to give the much-needed push towards heralding a second green revolution in the state.