Saturday, December 26, 1998
health of your soil
over to organic farming
Alternative to chicken breeding
RECOGNISING the need to seek alternatives to chicken breeding the central and state governments are undertaking extensive research and development in creating and popularising new poultry species like ducks, turkey, guinea fowl and quail. The duck and turkey breeding programmes are already under way at the Central Duck Breeding Farm, Hessarghatta, Bangalore. There is an upcoming Central Poultry Breeding Farm for Quails at Chandigarh. The Indian Council for Agricultural Research has entrusted quail development to the Central Avian Research Institute in Uttar Pradesh. "Poultry genetic resources with special reference to quails" is a subject which was discussed by Dr K.A. Reddy, Director, Central Poultry Breeding Farm, at the Poultry Expo, which was part of Agro Tech 98 held at Chandigarh from December 2 to 6.
According to sources at the ICAR, all one needs is an initial investment of Rs 2,000 to start a small quail unit in the household. Breeding quails for eggs and meat is a more lucrative proposition than breeding chickens. The infrastructure and methodology required too is simpler. Quail meat sells at Rs 100 to Rs 120 a kg. Japan, Hong Kong, Korea, France, Germany and Britain have converted quail farming into a popular low-cost-high-yield opportunity. Research institutes overseas have found the quail an ideal pilot animal for education in the field of physiology, genetics, breeding and cancer studies.
Quail, popularly known as "bater" is a high source of protein and has been a mouth-watering delicacy since the days of "rajas" and "maharajas". The cholesterol content on a standard 10 gm quail egg is lesser than the traditional chicken egg. The albumen to yolk ratio is narrow (61:39). Compared to the chicken egg the percentage of albumen is less, while the yolk is more. The quail egg is believed to be an anti-dote with strong curative properties for those suffering from tuberculosis. The eggs can be eaten in any form, converted into pickles, preserved in spicy vinegar solutions and roasted in "tandoor".
Physical and biological properties of the quail make its farming an attractive business proposition. It has a low feed requirement of 20 to 25 gm feed per day. The same floor space which is required to accommodate one chicken can house eight to 10 quails. Four to five quails can be housed per square foot. A standard quail lays 280 eggs per year and these reach the marketable stage within five weeks. It has an early sexual maturity of three to four generations per year. Domesticated quails reproduce throughout the year and have a short generation interval of three to four generation per year, making quail farming a cost-effective option. Ideally a viable quail breeding and farming unit should produce at least 1,000 quails a week. The unit should be in a position to develop breeder stock for producing hatcher eggs, produce day-old quail chicks and monitor the growth of the quail till it reaches its marketing age of five weeks.
The demand for both quail eggs and quail meat has gone up in recent years but the production levels have neither been sufficient nor consistent. Quail farming, which has been part of the rural uplift scheme, has failed to reach urban markets. The reason, according to Dr Reddy, is that "there are very few hatcheries supplying commercial day-old quail chicks. State sector farms can help by taking up quail chick farming in a more organised manner, publicising the advantages of the avian species, their products and farming techniques." The government needs to invest in improving the genetic factor in quail farming by introducing new germplasms. Although quail has been exempted from the Indian Wildlife Act, farmers and breeders find themselves hampered by red tape. If the government takes positive initiatives, more and more people may go in for quail farming. TNS
Maintain health of your soil
HEALTHY "mother earth" supports healthy civilisation. The healthy soil provides all the 16 essential nutrient elements in available form, adequate amount and optimum proportion for growth of plants and in turn maintains human and animal life. Optimum soil air-water relationship is also a key to good health. Water logged, salt-infested and acid soils are sick soils. Even very heavy and light as well as erosion-prone soils are not normal ones. Corrective measures are necessary to restore productivity and health of such soils.
The health of Indian soils in terms of its fertility is generally poor. On an average these soils contain 0.03 to 0.07 per cent nitrogen and 0.6 per cent organic carbon as against 0.10 to 0.17 per cent nitrogen and 3.0 per cent organic carbon in European and American soils. The overall poor health of Indian soils is a result of continuous depletion of organic matter under high temperature conditions that prevail during most part of the year.
Organic matter virtually puts life into the soil by promoting activities of varied types of innumerable organisms. It has been rightly said that " no soil without life and no life without soil". The organic matter serves as a food for microbial population. These micro organisms in turn release large amount of plant nutrients in available form. Organic matter improves physical condition of the soil. Heavy soils containing adequate amount of organic matter are less prone to drainage problems. The periodic supply of good quantity of organic matter to very light soils renders them more retentive of moisture and nutrients. Furthermore, during the decomposition of organic matter, a large amount of carbondioxide as well as organic acids is released. These dissolve in soil water and enhance its solvent action. As a result, large quantities of native nutrient elements from the soil are released into the soil solution for use by the growing plants. Organic manuring also accelerates reclamation of saline-alkali soils. Thus, organic manuring is a cure-all for many soil ills. Its periodic replenishment is imperative for soil health. The major sources to supply organic matter are farmyard manure, compost and green manure. However, on account of limited availability of farmyard manure and compost, green manure is the best and cheapest source of supplying organic matter.
Crops grown for supplying organic matter in the soil are known as green manures. Their use in the cropping system is called green manuring. The practice involves the burying of various plant parts (leaves, tender twigs or branches) or whole plant into the soil. Both leguminous and non-leguminous crops are grown for this purpose. However, the use of legumes as green manure is advantageous as these crops, besides supplying organic matter, add a substantial amount of nitrogen to the soil. The percentage of nitrogen added to the soil by green manure crops of sunhemp, dhaincha, guara, cowpea, senji and barseem is 0.43, 0.42, 0.34, 0.49, 0.51 and 0.43, respectively. Of the total amount of nitrogen added by legumes to the soil, roughly two-thirds is derived from the air through the phenomenon of nitrogen fixation and the rest mined from the soil by the well-developed tap root system of these crops. The common green manure crops grown in northern India during kharif include sunhemp, dhaincha, guara, cowpea, etc However, in the rabbi season, barseem and senji are used for this purpose. By selecting suitable green manuring crop and burying it at the proper time, the farmers can improve organic matter of the soil.
Application of phosphatic
fertiliser to the leguminous green manure crop at sowing
improves its efficiency by increasing the availability of
nitrogen and phosphorus to the succeeding crops. It has
been estimated that for every 6 kg of superphosphate
added to the green manure crop, 1 kg of additional
nitrogen is fixed by it from the atmosphere as a result
of increased activity of rhizobia, the nitrogen fixing
bacteria present in the nodules of the leguminous green
manure crops. The well-developed root system of the
phosphate fertilised crop also mines higher quantity of
applied as well as native phosphorus from the soil and
transforms it into organic form. On decomposition of the
green manure in the soil, this organic form of phosphorus
is readily available to the succeeding crop. Thus, this
practice, besides ensuring high yield of subsequent
crops, will help save a portion of the costly
Menace of littleseed canarygrass
LITTLESEED canarygrass (phalariminor retz.), a weed universally present under North Indian wheat growing conditions, has reached a situation where it has threatened the sustainability of the wheat production in this region. A few years ago it was a minor weed but with the adoption of the rice-wheat cropping system, which provided the favourable environment for the seed production of this weed, it has become a major weed of the wheat crop. This system provides wet conditions and favourable temperature which further strengthened this weed.
Littleseed canarygrass is a winter annual grassy weed widely distributed and especially troublesome in the rice-wheat cropping regions of north-west India. In the seedling stage this weed has bluish green colour and large whitish ligule which is pointed. The sheath at the base has reddish pigment. The mature plant had soft foliage, borad leaf blades which are blue green. It has erect stem which are often somewhat bent at the base. The plant is branched from the base and attains a height up to four and a half feet.
The flowering part is a thick oblong shaped spike like head at the top of each stem 3/4 to 2 inches long. The flower groups (spikelets) are densely crowded in the head. The outer bracts (glumess) are sharp pointed, flattened and are sharply folded. The bracts are 1/8 to 1/4 inch long.
There are about 20 species of phalaris, four of which are found as weed species. Phalaris minor is the predominant weed species found in India.
Resistance is the ability of an organism to cope with the environmental conditions otherwise unfavourable for its continuation. It has also been expressed as the inability of a weed to be controlled at the recommended doses of the herbicide. Continuous use of the herbicide Isoproturon for more than 15 years also made this weed resistant to this chemical. Resistance in this weed is categorised as metabolic type because the weed is able to degrade the chemical to non-toxic levels. In nutsheel, this weed has acquired almost the same mechanism of detoxification which is present in wheat.
Switching over to organic farming
DAVID and Jenny Baker own and rent 400 acres of lush pasture on the Somerset Levels, in the west of England. They are in the process of converting from conventional to organic farming and next August their herd of cows should produce their first certified organic milk.
The decision to go organic was partly financial, partly out of concern for the environment and partly because, deep down, they say, they knew it made sense to treat the land and their animals well.
Converting is a risk. They may lose money in the short term but, says David Baker, they are still young. Although it means farming more in the style of their grandfathers, they believe they are the modern, even future face of British farming.
David Baker says: "On one level it means no more fertilisers or pesticides for the land or drugs for the cows. It means more weeds, lower yields and a heavier work load. Its harder, mentally, too.
"Youve got to concentrate all the time, learn again about the soil and the land. You cant just put on fertilisers. Its a case of converting the mind, really. Its a philosophy about how you treat everything. It grows on you."
Not long ago, it was lonely being an organic farmer. Three years ago there were just 450 in Britain, says the Soil Association, which sets the standards for the industry and advises, researches and teaches what it believes are the benefits of a farming system that was practised for centuries but is now benefiting from scientific research.
The association has never been so stretched. A decade of food scares and a new awareness of the links between health and environment, has meant their advice hotline has hardly stopped ringing. More than 6,000 farmers have asked for advice in the past 18 months, and more than half of these have taken the first steps to conversion.
November was another record month for enquiries and there are now 759 organic farms with twice as much land being farmed as three years ago. Within five years the association expects numbers and acreage to double.
The expansion of organic farming means that prices will come down and it will appeal to more than just a niche market, says Patrick Holden, the associations director. Switzerland, Austria and parts of Germany are already far further ahead, but Holden sees real change coming in Britain.
"In the past few years Britains supermarkets have rushed to bring in organic lines, 10 per cent of all baby food sold in Britain is now organic, production is soaring on the continent and demand is far outstripping what Britain can supply. Even the water companies are beginning to pay farmers to convert in order to avoid cleaning up pesticides."
Consumer interest is high, say the big four supermarkets, and 25,000 copies of a Soil Association booklet on where to buy organic food have almost gone in a few months. Meanwhile, direct delivery schemes from organic farms to consumers in cities often have waiting lists.
Jennifer Jones, of Leicester, in Central England, says: "Many people say they are buying organic food not for themselves, but for their children. Until the price comes down we just give it to our young children. You can see they are healthier, but its hard to say if thats because of the organic diet they are on."
Mr Holden thinks the public now understands that you cannot have healthy people without healthy food and healthy environment, and that the high output, cheap food policies of successive governments are beginning to make a mockery of government exhortations to "sustainability".
All the food scares of the past decade, he says, have happened because farmers and their suppliers have been encouraged by governments and powerful industries to take short cuts.
Mass production of animals or crops did not count the cost of 100,000 food poisoning cases a year, low quality food, salmonelly, E-coli, the BSE, cleaning up pesticides from water, and soil loss. The BSE alone had cost Britain more than £ 4.5 billion ($ 7.3b).
One of the most attractive areas of organic farming for the government, which is wrestling with rural decline, is that it employs between 30 and 70 per cent more people than conventional farming. It will play a part in the new rural White Paper, expected by next summer, says Environment Minister Michael Meacher.
Mr Holden says: "Here we have a real alternative. Health should be the birthright of everyone."
Ornamentals: Annuals planted both in flower beds and pots should be given proper attention to get the desired effect. Timely irrigation is essential for good growth and to save the annuals from the adverse effect of cold nights. To boost the growth of seasonals in pots, application of liquid manure can be very useful.
Chrysanthemum: Well-developed plants must be producing wonderful flowers in this month. This is the best time to select and label the plants required to be used as mother plants for getting cuttings in the next season.
Rose: Rose plants must be at their best as far as growth and flowering is concerned. Both foliage and flowers are attacked by insects in this month, spray of monocrotopphos is recommended to save the plants. High rate of growth suckers shoot up in great number, keep on removing the same.
Lawn: The rate of growth decreases so the lawn may not require frequent mowing, but frequent irrigation will certainly help save the grass from cold injury.
The best time for the application of farmyard manure and compost to the fruit trees in Punjab is the second fortnight of December. Inorganic fertilisers like superphophate an d muriate of potash are also applied along with the farmyard manure espicidous fruit plants like pear, peach, plum, etc.
If the growers have not properly covered the young fruit plants uptil now, they should do so without any further delay to save them from frost.
The dead and diseased wood and criss-crossing branches from the fruit bearing citrus trees should b e removed during this month soon after the harvest of fruit crops.
The ber trees need an irrigation or so during the period as the fruits are in developing stage. If there is rainfall, this irrigation can be skipped.
The harvesting of malta and grapefruit will be in full swing. The fruit should be properly sorted, graded and packed for market.
To control the citrus canker, the infested plant parts should be cut off and destroyed by burning. The pruned trees should be sprayed with Bordeaux (2:2:250) periodically.
In pappaya, spray the plants with 0.2 per cent Ziram or Captan or Diathane M-45 (200 g in 100 litres of water) at fortnightly intervals to check the attack of anthracnose.
(Progressive Farming, PAU)