Biofuels – An alternative to farm fires

Tackling the farm fire menace with biofuels

Come winters and entire north capital region starts gasping for breath with farmers from neighbouring Punjab and Haryana and Uttar Pradesh burning the farm stubble popularly known as parali. Which cause huge smog over Delhi and nearby regions. This problem has been there since ages, but nothing concrete has been done as of now to address the issue.

With India exploring and using different clean energy alternatives to lower its carbon footprints while attaining energy security and bringing down its crude oil import bill, converting the paddy stubble and many other forms of farm residues into biofuel could be a great way to aid the production of cleaner fuels. But before we get into the details, it is important to know how farm-fires have become a perennial headache and how to deal with it.

Paddy stubble is a huge problem in north India. The area of rice under cultivation is huge and so is the quantity of crop residue. An estimate suggests that in September 2019, farmers in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan had burnt around 35 million tonnes of crop waste after harvesting. Though the efforts are underway to encourage farmers about giving up the traditional practice of burning paddy. but without economic incentives for farmers, it’s nearly impossible to put an end to stubble burning practice Which perhaps is the only resort available to farmers, given lack of or no collection, transportation and storage options at their disposal.

Rice is produced at a large-scale in India. After removing the rice grains, entire plant gets wasted. These residues can in fact be used to produce biofuels. Govt. of India with the help of several international organisations, is trying to develop a crop residue supply chain, so that farm residues get collected, stored and turned into other products.

Rice straws can be great for ethanol production. India has huge potential for supplying several different types of feedstock (such as agricultural residues). An estimate on future cop residue supply suggests that India has the biomass resources to produce 50 billion litres of biofuels from second generation sources in the year 2030-31, it will be sufficient to meet the blending target set by national biofuel policy, provided we develop proper infrastructure and adopt efficient technologies which are scalable. These alternatives will give farmers economic incentives and keep them from burning the agricultural waste and help the nation move one step closer towards becoming self-reliant in terms of energy.

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