sweet despite price fall
manganese deficiency in wheat
research to combat agro-terrorism
genome project launched
sweet despite price fall
A few weeks ago the Secretary (Commerce Section) to the US Government rang up The Tribune office. He referred to a news item on honey that had appeared in the paper and wanted to know more about the honey business in this part of the country. He had seen the story on the Internet edition of the paper.
The purpose of referring to this is to highlight the general interest in the subject worldwide and the interest that bureaucrats in developed countries take in trade-related matters.
Coming to honey, at present Indian beekeepers, especially in Punjab, are having a good time in spite of the fall in the price of honey in the international market. It is China that is finding honey bitter for a change. India is emerging as one of the significant exporters of honey in the international market. And Punjab, being a leading producer of the product, tops the export chart.
The state produces about 42,00 tonne of honey and is followed by Bihar, which produces about 4,000 tonnes. Nearly 20,000 tonnes is produced in the apiaries (place where bees are raised for honey) while 30,000 tonnes is collected from forest areas, which is consumed locally as is not of exportable quality.
Dr P.K. Chhuneja, an entomologist in Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, says that there is there is a lot of scope to expand honey production in view of the low production cost and good returns even in the worst of the times. He says Punjab exporters have been sending honey to Germany and the US. However, because of a glut of honey in the international market for the past few months, there has been a fall in the price of raw honey to Rs 65 per kg from a high of Rs 105 during the past one year.
China, a leading producer of honey—3 lakh tonne per annum—is facing problems in the international market. The European Union has banned Chinese honey for five years after the detection of adulteration and certain harmful contents in it. Dr Chhuneja says that China is trying its best to re-enter the market by offering to subject its entire honey stocks to laboratory checks before being accepted by international markets.
About 1.5 lakh tonne of honey used to be exported by China per annum. Once China re-enters the market, the prices are bound to fall further. But these would never go below Rs 40 per kg and even by selling at that price, beekeepers can make money.
Endorsing the views of Dr Chhuneja, Mr Raja Kapoor, a leading producer and exporter of honey from Doraha, says that Punjab farmers are more conscious of price than quality. The need is to improve quality, which matters the most in the international market. By producing quality honey, one can earn more than by producing inferior honey in bulk.
Mr Kapoor says that more and more farmers should adopt beekeeping in this part of the country. Indian farmers are far behind their Chinese counterparts. Though most of Indians have a sweet tooth but it is always true where honey is concerned. The consumption of honey in the Indian market is very less. It is used mostly for preparing medicines and is not part of the dietary habit. In Europe and the US it forms an essential part of regular food, he added.
If the consumption in the Indian market goes up, farmers can earn more. The retail price of honey in the domestic market is unregulated. It is sold even up to Rs 100 per kg. The rate varies from Rs 60 to Rs 100 for quality honey. "Of course, the fluctuation in the price in the international market is a discouraging factor for beekeepers, but it is still not a bad business," says Mr Kapoor.
The number of beekeepers in Punjab is around 22,000. "Punjab farmers practise migratory beekeeping. During the non-crop season, they take set up apiaries in places with flowers in states such as Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and even Andhra Pradesh."
Of late, beekeepers
have also complained about the growing monopoly of a few persons over
the export of honey. They say that because of this they are offered
low prices for unprocessed honey. The government should come forward
to help beekeepers and check their exploitation.
manganese deficiency in wheat
Manganese is one of the essential plant nutrients. Its deficiency has become a perpetual problem in coarse-textured soils of Punjab where rice-wheat rotation has been adopted for more than 10 years. The deficiency results from the leaching of manganese from the surface to the lower soil layers.
The extent of loss in wheat due to manganese deficiency in the soil can be as high as 70 per cent.
Manganese deficiency symptoms appear a few days after the first irrigation to wheat. They are exhibited in the older and middle leaves at the basal part as interveinal chlorosis which later extend towards the tip. Under mild deficiency, very light minute grayish yellow specks appear in the interveinal chlorotic regions. Under severe deficiency, these specks enlarge and coalesce to form a streak or a band of pinkish brown or buff colour in between the veins, which remain green.
Severely deficient plants have stunted growth and restricted root system. At earing stage, the symptoms are more prominent on the flag leaf. Severely deficient plants have small, weak and twisted or sickle-shaped ears which emerge with great difficulty.
Manganese deficiency can also be diagnosed before sowing by getting the soil tested. Soil is considered deficient in manganese if it contains less than 3.5 mg DTPA- extractable manganese per kilogram and will require manganese fertilisation.
To correct manganese deficiency in wheat, out of the various sources of manganese — manganese sulphate, manganese oxide, multi-micronutrients mixtures containing manganese and chelated manganese — manganese sulphate is the most efficient. Manganese sulphate must contain 30.5 per cent manganese. It is a white powder with a slight pinkish tinge.
The correction of deficiency through soil application of manganese sulphate is highly uneconomical. The most efficient method is foliar application.
Apply three foliar sprays of 0.5% unneutralised manganese sulphate solution (1 kg manganese sulphate in 200 litres of water) at weekly intervals starting immediately after the appearance of symptoms. It will require 7.5 kg manganese sulphate per hectare, using a maximum of 500 litres of solution per spray.
Since manganese deficiency appears immediately after the first irrigation to wheat, crop suffers much damage before the initiation of the first spray. Therefore, in fields where the farmers have observed manganese deficiency in the previous year, it is advisable to start the first foliar spray two days before the first irrigation to wheat and apply the subsequent two sprays at weekly intervals.
Wheat varieties also differ in their
tolerance to manganese deficiency. Durum varieties, namely PBW 34, PDW
233 and PDW 274, are highly susceptible but respond significantly to
foliar application of manganese.
THE US is planning to fund more research efforts to combat agro-terrorism, the Department of Homeland Security said and called on colleges and universities to submit research proposals by February 9, 2004.
By April 2004, the department plans to establish two selected Homeland Security Centres of Excellence (HS-Centers) at academic institutions, a press release of the department said.
One centre will focus on combating animal-related agro-terrorism, the other will focus on post-harvest food security, according to the release. "By empowering the best scientific minds at our nation’s universities to tackle the challenges of agro-terrorism, I feel confident that we can help ensure the bio-security and safety of the nation’s food supply," said Charles McQueary, Under Secretary for Science and Technology.
WASHINGTON: A 53-million dollar multinational project that seeks to identify the functions of cattle genes has been launched, aiming at benefitting both human health and agriculture.
"Sequencing the bovine genome is a vital first step that will lay the groundwork for breakthroughs that will benefit both human health and agriculture. Eliminating hunger, improving nutrition and reducing agriculture’s impact on the environment are all potential outcomes of this research," US Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman said while launching the project last week.
The bovine genome is similar in size to the genomes of humans and other mammals, with an estimated size of three billion base pairs.
Besides its potential for improving dairy and meat products and enhancing food safety, adding the genomic sequence of the cow (Bos taurus) to the growing list of sequenced animal genomes will help researchers learn more about the human genome.
The genomic DNA sequencing activities
will be carried out by the Baylor College of Medicine’s Human Genome
Sequencing Center in Houston, while the full-length DNA sequencing
will be carried out at the sequencing platform of Genome British
Columbia, located at the British Columbia Cancer Agency in Vancouver
and at the University of Alberta. — PTI
Aak is a small to medium-sized shrub. It generally grows wild in open wastelands. Its generic name is Calotropis. The only two species of this common genus are Calotropis gigantea and Calotropis procera. The main difference between the two siblings is that while C. gigantea has white flowers, C. procere has pinkish white. The former attains a height of about 1 or 2 m at maturity, while the latter rises to just about 1 m. The name aak is vernacular. Its other local names are madar, akanda, arks, etc.
Silviculture: Aak is a strong light-demanding plant. It is xerophetic in its requirement of moisture. Though it grows abundantly in sandy tracts, it subsists in sandy loam soil equally well. Tracts having temperatures between 10`B0 and 45`B0 C and rainfall between 30 mm and 100 mm suit it well.
Phenology: The bark of aak twigs is yellowish grey. The stem having longitudinal fissures, is soft and corky. The middle layer is cortical white. The leaves are sessile and elliptic in shape, thick and leathery to touch, and measure about 10-15 cm in length and 3-10 cm in width. Covered with white tomentum, the leaves as also the outer green stem exude white latex when cut.
Aak generally flowers throughout the year. The flowers mounted on tall stalk, downy outside, arranged axially, are simple. These are also compound umbels or corymbs at times. An individual flower measures about 1.5 or 3 cm in diameter. The fruit, called follicle, is 8-12 cm long and 3-6 cm in dia. The seeds are tiny grains surrounded by thick, white, but light floss.
Aak is found all over India between 500 and 2000 m above msl. More so in dry desert and semi-desert tracts.
Utility: Aak is generally considered to be a useless weed. However, dried plant could be used for fuel.
Medicinal value: The leaves and fresh stalk of Aak have well-established medicinal value. Fresh leaves and green stem contain calotropin and calotropagenin. The latex obtained from these is used for deriving medicinal elements like calotoxin, calacitin, etc. The root bark is useful in controlling dysentery. It is diaphoretic and emetic too.
A tincture made out of aak leaves is used for treating intermittent fever. An extract from roots and leaves is supposed to be a medicine against cancer. It is also used in treating maladies like tuberculosis, leprosy, syphilis, rheumatism, scorpion poison, night blindness, etc. The derivatives are useful in treating smallpox, body pains, spleen problem, dropsy, epilepsy, tetanus, scabies, pneumonia, ringworms, cholera, etc.
aak grows wild in great abundance in wastelands, there is hardly any
need to raise it artificially. However, it can be propagated
artificially by burying cuttings in raised spurs. It can also be
raised from seed sown in nurseries.