Agreement to see Aston tackle open field burning in India

The effects of open field burning in India

13 November 2015

Aston University has signed a five-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) to continue to develop effective, sustainable waste management methods and eradicate the problem of open field burning in India.

Every year farmers throughout India burn millions of tonnes of harvest crop residue. Burning has a negative impact on the environment and economy as this straw is wasted, and has serious implications on health and society due to the smoke and fumes produced.

Aston University is working in India to explore the use of harvest residues as a sustainable energy source. Using pyrolysis technology developed by the University the process generates gas and biochar. The gas can be used to produce heat products, and the bio-char has the potential for use as a soil conditioner or fertilizer.

The MoU will see the two universities conducting an extensive series of laboratory and field trials to determine the potential of the produced biochar as a fertilizer and soil conditioner to improve crop yields.

Professor Robert Berry from Aston University’s School of Engineering & Applied Science, who is leading the EnergyHarvest project said: “It’s particularly timely that this MoU is being signed in the middle of the Punjab rice harvest season. The rice straw burning issue is complex and long-standing. There are a number of solutions available, but no single solution will suffice. Our project contributes uniquely to the portfolio of solutions needed for this complex problem, and we are excited to be working closely with Punjab Agricultural University to help make a real difference to this problem and the lives of rural communities in India.”

Dr Baldev Singh Dhillon, Vice-Chancellor of Punjab Agricultural University, said: “PAU is committed to forging ties with national and international universities to develop quality manpower and research collaborations.”

Prior to this MoU, funding from the Oglesby Charitable Trust has enabled Aston University to work closely with the Indian Institute of Technology Ropar to make this innovative technology available as a pilot project in three villages in the Punjab region of India: Khuaspura, Hussainpur, Ladal. This new partnership work with PAU is also funded by the Oglesby Charitable Trust.

This initiative has the potential to stimulate growth and provide a cost-effective, reliable,  sustainable and decentralised approach to address local needs of heat and energy, increase crop growth and provide a valuable income source for rural villages.

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For further information, please contact Louise Ciaravella: or 0121 204 4637.

Note to editors

  • PAU in Ludhiana, Punjab is one of the State Agricultural Universities in India. Established in 1962, it is the nation’s oldest agricultural university and has an international reputation for excellence in agriculture. It pioneered the Green Revolution in India in the 1960s and is considered as one of the best agricultural universities in India.

  • The MoU was signed by Professor Robert Berry (Aston University) and Dr Baldev Singh Dhillon (PAU) in the presence of Dr R.K. Gumber, Additional Director of Research (Crop Improvement), Dr H.S. Thind, Head, Soil Science, Dr O.P. Choudhary and Dr M.S. Mavi, soil science experts from PAU.
  • Watch the EnergyHarvest project video.