The harvesting of various crops generates significant quantities of residues both on and off the farm. Cereals are the largest contributors to crop residues, followed by fibres, oilseeds, pulses, and sugarcane. Cereal crops such as rice, wheat, maize, and millets contribute 70% of the residues, with rice alone accounting for 34%.

Crop residues have multiple uses, including animal bedding, livestock feed, soil mulching, biogas generation, bio-manure/compost, thatching for rural dwellings, mushroom cultivation, biomass energy production, fuel for residential and industrial use, etc.


Effects of Crop Residue Burning

Loss of Nutrients

Burning one tonne of rice straw results in the loss of approximately 5.5 kg of nitrogen, 2.3 kg of phosphorus, 25 kg of potassium, and 1.2 kg of sulphur, along with organic carbon. Typically, crop wastes from various crops consist of 80% nitrogen, 25% phosphorus, 50% sulphur, and 20% potassium.

Impact on Soil Properties

The heat generated from burning residues increases soil temperature, leading to the death of beneficial soil organisms.
Emission of Greenhouse and Other Gases

Burning crop residues emits greenhouse gases (GHGs), trace gases, and aerosols such as CH4, CO, N2O, NOX, and hydrocarbons, contributing to air pollution and climate change.

Role of Baler Machines

Mechanism and Process

Balers compress agricultural residues into manageable and transportable bales. Farmers initially cut the crop debris with a tractor-mounted cutter. After drying the stubble for two days, it is raked into straight lines. A tractor-mounted baler then compresses the stubble into compact bales with netting.

Economic Benefits

Baler machines provide an additional source of income as the compacted straw can be sold to various industries for different uses.
Agricultural Efficiency

The use of baler machines allows farmers to immediately plough the field and sow the next crop, enhancing agricultural productivity and reducing the time between harvests.


In Punjab, approximately 2,000 baler machines are currently in use, supported over the past ten years by the Crop Residue Management (CRM) programme of the Centre, which subsidises 1,268 of these machines by 50 to 80 percent.

Beyond burning, stubble can be repurposed for animal feed, compost manure, roofing material for rural areas, biomass energy, mushroom cultivation, packing material, fuel, paper, bioethanol, and various industrial applications.

Legacy Editor Changed status to publish June 24, 2024