Causes of Emissions from Agricultural Residue Burning in North-west India: Evaluation of a Technology Policy Response
The burning of agricultural field residue, such as stalks and stubble, during the wheat and rice harvesting seasons in the Indo-Gangetic plains results in substantial emissions of trace gases and particles. This pollution can have adverse health and climate impacts. Our paper uses a representative sample of farmers from the seven districts of Punjab to identify the determinants of emissions from open-field burning of rice residue. The study finds that the use of coarse varieties of rice as opposed to fine-grained varieties such as Basmati increases the likelihood of farmers using the combine-harvester technology, which in turn makes burning almost certain. Although a ban on burning residue was in effect in Amritsar district during the year of the survey, it had little impact on burning. We used a second sample of users of the Happy Seeder machine in order to examine the potential for adoption of this new technology. This machine plants seed into loose residue, making burning of residue unnecessary. A comparison of the Happy Seeder with conventional practice shows that the new technology does not increase the cost of field preparation. We also found no evidence of an increase or decrease in the mean yield of wheat from using the Happy Seeder. We conclude that farmers will be slow to adopt the Happy Seeder since it has no strong advantage or disadvantage from the view point of private profits. Thus, the state would need to play a more significant role in promoting this machine in order to reduce residue burning and associated costs that are mostly external to the farmer.
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