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Stubble is not a problem, can change the face of 'Rs 30,000-crore' plywood industry

AMPRI have invented a technique to convert agricultural residue into wooden boards. SO now on stubble will not be a problem.

By Shishir Agrawal
New Update
stubble plyboard by AMPRI

When the winter season commences in India, the occurrence of stubble burning and its subsequent contribution to air pollution escalates. Media outlets often focus on the confinement of news around Delhi, labeling it a 'Gas Chamber'. Stubble poses a significant issue for the entire country, not just the government and urban population, but also for the farmers themselves. Concerns regarding the expenses associated with stubble elimination and proper management give farmers reason to resort to burning as a seemingly viable option.

Keeping this problem at the centre, scientists of Bhopal-based Advanced Materials and Processes Research Institute (AMPRI) have invented a technique to convert agricultural residue into wooden boards.

Talking about this, Dr. Avneesh Srivastava, Director, AMPRI, says,

"Approximately 20 to 30 per cent of agricultural residue is currently being burned, posing a significant issue in Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh. To address this concern, our team commenced research and development efforts about 4-5 years ago, focusing on transforming straw into a valuable resource. As a result, we successfully developed the technology capable of converting Parli (stubble) into high-quality wooden boards."

This unit of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) works to make different types of composites.

Madhya Pradesh is second in terms of stubble burning

Punjab is number one in the country in terms of stubble burning. Madhya Pradesh is at number two in this ranking. The statistics from September 2022 to August 23, 2023, show that between November 2022 and March to May this year, there have been more cases of burning agricultural residues. In the month of April this year, 16101 such cases were registered.

Explaining the side effects of burning stubble, Dr Srivastava says that it is more dangerous for children who are at an early age. According to them, it affects the physical development of babies. According to research, between 2003 and 2019, there have been about 44,980 deaths due to stubble burning in India. These deaths are related to particulate matter exposure.

Dr. Asokan Pappu, Chief Scientist, Ampri, says,

"The closure of schools and colleges by the government to mitigate the adverse effects of stubble burning is a temporary measure, emphasizing the need for a long-term solution. This prompted us to actively seek a permanent remedy."

How was the beginning of making plywood from straw?

In 2017, AMPRI's scientists commenced their work on this project, which involved engaging with farmers from Haryana to understand the underlying reasons behind stubble burning. During these interactions, Dr. Srivastava conversed with farmers and delved into various factors such as the mechanical and thermal properties of stubble, as well as its strength, with the aim of transforming it into a green composite particle.

Crafted from a durable green composite, these wooden boards boast termite and water-resistant qualities, making them ideal for constructing the house's structure and crafting furniture. Furthermore, they exhibit exceptional fire-retardant properties, ensuring utmost safety. Dr. Manoj Gupta, the project lead, emphasizes the significance of this board not only in terms of its exceptional quality but also its positive impact on health.

"Unlike other plywood in India containing urea formaldehyde, this composite wood board is free from such harmful chemicals, posing no threat to human health."

Dr. Srivastava's groundbreaking discovery not only ensures the preservation of our forests but also guarantees a safer and healthier environment.

stubble burning in Madhya Pradesh
Stubble burning in Madhya Pradesh

Plywood market in India

It is worth mentioning that during the year 2022-23, the plywood market in India was about 205.8 billion rupees, which is expected to reach 306.5 billion rupees by the year 2028-29. Dr Srivastava says that if we start making this product on a large scale, then seeing the quality of this board, since we have a large amount of straw, India can also export it through companies. “Using straw as raw material will reduce the cost as it is currently considered as waste, so it will not cost much money to buy it from the farmers.” Dr. Srivastava explains.

He suggests, "Instead of considering stubble as a problem, we should view it as an ingredient. Our goal is to reach a stage where industries recognize the necessity of using straws to produce boards."

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