Stubble Burning Issue | UPSC

Stubble Burning Issue | UPSC


Stubble burning, dust from West put an end to north India’s clean air

      WHY IN NEWS:

The region had experienced clean skies during the COVID-19 lockdown, but now, particulate matters have again increased

MINISTRY? :-Ministry of Agriculture


For PRELIMS keep an eye on losses and AQI .

For MAINS We have mentioned a few solutions at the end . Go through advantages and disadvantages too . Let us dive !



  • Over the last 25 years, conservation cropping, which includes reduced soil cultivation and retention of crop stubble, has continued to evolve.

This is driven by the need to maximise water use and protect soil in an era of increasing climate variability.

  • More and more farmers recognise the benefits in terms of productivity and sustainability.
  • Notwithstanding this, strategic burning of stubbles, based on sound agronomic principles, may occasionally be a valid option.

In some paddocks with very high cereal leaf disease burdens.

  • Farmers should have flexibility to use this option when it is most appropriate.

Stubble Burning Issue | UPSC

Stubble fires in Punjab and Haryana captured by NASA. Photo: NASA Stubble fires in Punjab and Haryana captured by NASA. Photo: NASA


  • Stubble management is one of many complex issues that farmers must contend with.
  • There is no single, ‘one-size-fits-all‘ solution for managing heavy stubbles.
  • Stubble burning is not the preferred option for the majority of farmers.

In particular circumstances, such as dealing with herbicide resistant weeds, stubble burning may be a reasonable option.

  • Most farmers will only burn stubbles when absolutely necessary, having considered all available options and the potential implications of burning.
  • Stubble retention has many benefits, but requires a systems approach to manage disease, pest and weed pressure.
  • A number of techniques, other than burning, can be employed to manage heavy stubble loads.
  • Effective stubble management begins at harvest with even spread of residue and appropriate stubble cutting height.
  • Decisions about stubble management may need to be reviewed annually.


The advantages of burning are:

  • Cheap
  • Quick and easy
  • Can assist weed, insect and disease control
  • Reduced nitrogen tie-up.


  • Loss of nutrients
  • Loss of carbon
  • Impact on soil microbes and fauna
  • Reduction in soil structure (soil aggregate stability)
  • Increase in erosion (wind and water)
  • Can increase acidity over time.


  • The process of burning stubbles even occasionally, seriously affects the organic carbon levels of the soil.

Around 80% of the C in standing stubble will return to the atmosphere as CO2 in the short to medium term.

  • Losses of carbon as CO2 to the atmosphere through burning are often only slightly greater than through natural decomposition.


  • After harvest, a 3.45 t/ha wheat yielding crop left a residue of 5.4 t/ha of above ground dry matter.
  • A cool burning of this stubble yields 437 kg/ha of ash

The nutrients lost and proportion of straw were:

  • Nitrogen 16kg (straw 80%)
  • Phosphorous 0.5kg (straw 40%)
  • Potassium 17kg (straw 60%)
  • Sulphur 1kg (straw 50%)


  • The air in the Indo-Gangetic Plains region of north India has started to become heavy.
  • Some areas have entered the ‘poor’ category of air quality, especially in Delhi.

Dust coming in from the west of India and smoke from fires to burn paddy stubble in Punjab and Haryana have led to an increase in particulate matter (PM).

  • The dominant pollutant was PM10, that could be a result of dust coming in from the west.

Stubble Burning Issue | UPSC

An AQI between

  • 0 and 50 is considered ‘good
  • 51-100 (‘satisfactory’)
  • 101-200 (‘moderate’)
  • 201-300 (‘poor’)
  • 301-400 (‘very poor’)
  • 401-500 (‘severe’).
  • Above 500 is the ‘severe-plus’ or ‘emergency’ category.

      IASbhai WINDUP: 


  • COMBINE HARVESTING MECHANISM : Instead of penalising and prosecuting the farmers, our focus should be on developing the design of Combine Harvesters that do not leave the stubble behind.

INCENTIVES : Incentivise the farmers for not burning the stubble, by providing economic value for this crop residue or stubble, which may be converted into either cattle feed or fuel).

  • COLLECTION CENTRES : The State may consider setting up “Agri- waste Collection Centres” alongside the “Paddy Purchase Centres”, where the farmers may sell their agri-waste for a reasonable price and earn some additional income.
  • SUBSIDIES : The industries which are converting this agri-waste/crop residue into wealth in the form of cattle feed or fuel briquettes, may also be suitably incentivised and subsidised.
  • PREPARATION OF FIELD : Encourage and incentivise the farmers to go for early paddy, so as to give them enough time to harvest and thereafter prepare their fields for the next Rabi crop.
  • ALTERNATE CROPPING METHOD : Encourage and educate the farmers to go for alternate fruit and vegetable crops, instead of paddy, that not only consume less water but also give better economic returns.
     SOURCES:THE HINDU & PIB | Stubble Burning Issue | UPSC



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