Chandigarh, May 5 (IANS) Food grain state Punjab will drastically reduce the area under water-gulping paddy cultivation, an official said on Tuesday.

Under its agriculture diversification mission to conserve depleting ground water, the government will reduce the area under paddy cultivation from the present 26.5 lakh hectare to 14.5 lakh hectare.

The reduced area of 12 lakh hectare will be used to grow alternative crops like maize, sugarcane, cotton, pulses, fruits and vegetables besides agro-forestry in the next five years, said an official spokesperson of the agriculture department.

He said the Punjab government was also providing 80 percent subsidy on agricultural infrastructure to farmers for adopting drip irrigation, water tanks, solar water pumps and solar connections.

The state-of-the-art Borlaug Institute for South Asia was being established at Laddowal near Ludhiana at a cost of Rs.500 crore to develop new varieties of wheat, cotton and maize crop through research, he said.

The spokesman said 50 percent subsidy on seeds, insecticides, pesticides, machinery and other input materials would be given to boost the cultivation of alternative crops.

Punjab contributes nearly 50 percent of food grains to the central kitty despite having just 1.54 percent of the country’s geographical area.