Saturday, November 28, 1998
Coping with DAP shortage
sugarcane planting operation
Involving farmers in
How to keep your
HONEYBEES association with man perhaps dates back to time when man first appeared on earth. Ancient Vedic literature is replete with references of this social insect and it finds mention in famous Indian epics like The Ramayana. Honey or madhu was the only sweet available at the time of the RigVeda and it still enjoys an indispensable place in Indian rituals right from birth till death. Bees wax was used since ancient times for making Church candles. The honeybee has, therefore, prompted investigations into all aspects of its biology and behaviour.
Honeybees provide useful products like honey, bees wax, propolis, royal jelly, pollen and bee venom. More importantly, it brings about cross-pollination of food, fruit, fodder, fuel, fibre, flower and forest plants, thereby improving the quality and quantity of produce, providing hybrid vigour and maintaining biodiversity. Beekeeping thus emerges as the most ecofriendly enterprise having only positive environmental implications.
Recently, it was observed that environmental disturbances have struck a hard blow on the North Indian beekeeper. Right from the beginning of the current year he has been perturbed by one or the other unprecedented problem. Beekeepers from the high hills of Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh usually migrate their honeybee colonies to the plains of adjoining states of Punjab, Haryana and some parts of Rajasthan. This practice enables the bees to tide over the winter dearth, while the beekeeper is benefited by taking a rich honey harvest from floral sources like toria, brassica, eucalyptus, barseem and sunflower blooming in the plains during this period. The situation this year, however, was just the contrary. The beekeeper was surprised to see that his bees were not performing their duties inside as well as outside the hive. There was unexplainable bee mortality. Some of the progressive beekeepers from Pathankot and nearby areas brought samples of their bees to the Regional Horticultural Research Station, Jachh, and the Department of Entomology and Apiculture, Dr Y.S. Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, for diagnosis and remedial measures. The samples in the presented form did not indicate the presence of any disease. Taking serious note of the situation, the Vice-Chancellor, Prof L.R. Verma, instructed that a team of bee scientists be immediately sent to investigate the cause of problem faced by beekeepers. The problem was then investigated in the field where the bees had been placed. The following observations were made by the author;
Colony strength had dwindled to only two to three comb frames.
There were no eggs, brood-larvae or pupae, pollen or nectar in the colony, indicating an overall disturbance with respect to both biological and economic performance parameters.
The queen was not attended to or quadded by workers. She wandered alone here and there on the comb and looked shrivelled and weak.
The colony workforce was disorganised and the workers appeared to bury their heads deep into the comb cells (as if searching for some last bits of food).
Numerous bees lay outside the hive or wandered in the grass and looked exhausted.
There were no predators (wasps, birds), enemies (frogs, lizards) or scavengers (ants, pseudoscorpions, beetles) threatening the survival of the colony.
Beekeepers had resorted to heavy sulphur dusting in a desperate bid to save the colonies which they thought had been inflicted with some kind of disease. The recommended doze is 200-300 mg of sulphur powder per frame in case of infestation by parasitic mites like varroa jacobsoni and tropilaelaps clareae but 90 per cent of the colonies were very heavily dusted on top bars of comb frames as well as inside the hive. This was not only hindering the movement of colony members but was also perhaps causing suffocation.
There was no mite problem except in a few colonies that were placed in the vicinity of a poultry farm.
Interpretation and remedial measures:
Nodisease was indicated by on-the-spot observations. However, suitable samples of bottom board debris, comb pieces, foragers, hive attendants, bees from cluster, open and sealed brood, drones and queen were scientifically collected and brought to the laboratory for analysis.
Keeping in view the inclement weather conditions the surroundings were surveyed for availability of bee flora.
The weather had been unusually foggy, cloudy and windy. This had changed the phenology in the plains. Sunshine hours were reduced and flowering had been delayed so that during a time when bees normally found good forage, there was a complete dearth of bee flora. Whatever reserves had been saved after the winter months were consumed by the bees during this unprecedented dearth. This explained why all the comb cells were completely empty and the bees were thrusting their heads deep into cells as if looking for some sticking leftovers. The beekeeper, ignorant of the havoc the changed environmental conditions were playing did not think of artificially feeding the colony with sugar syrup at the time when he normally harvested honey. It was clearly a case of starvation. The bees were dying for want of food. This was confirmed by diseaselessness in the samples brought for analysis in the laboratory.
The beekeepers were advised to immediately feed their colonies on a thick sugar syrup (1:1) in order to help them tide over the dearth till it continued and the colonies were monitored further.
Gradually weather normalised. Brassica came into bloom and the colony members took to their busy schedule in an orderly manner.
Coping with DAP shortage
DIAMMONIUM PHOSPHATE, popularly known as DAP, is a fertiliser which contains 18 per cent nitrogen and 46 per cent P2O2. It is the most popular source of phosphorus, mainly because of its physico chemical properties, which suits the Punjab soils. During the current rabi season, there are reports of a shortage of DAP. This shortage is mainly due to the rain in the last week of October, which resulted in the preparation of fields after paddy harvesting for wheat sowing. The farmers have prepared the fields for the wheat sowing but due to some difficulties in procuring DAP they are unable to sow it and as a result they are waiting for the arrival of DAP and in the process the wheat sowing is delayed.
The farmers are advised to sow the wheat even if DAP is not available. Although 55 kg of DAP is a recommended dose but this dose is ideal and optimum for medium status soil. Moreover, this dose is sufficient to meet the phosphorus needs of the following kharif crops to be sown after harvest of wheat. The results of a number of experiments conducted at PAU show that during the period of shortage and timely non-availability of phosphorus, the following remedial steps can be taken:
If the availability of DAP is less, 25 kg of DAP mixed with wheat seed if drilled together is as good as 55 kg of DAP is applied through broadcast and in this case the following kharif crops to be sown after harvest of wheat should be again fertilised with phosphorus.
Where farmyard manure is applied at the rate of 6 t/acre reduce the DAP dose to 25 kg per acre.
If DAP is not available at all at the time of sowing, it should be applied through broadcast before the first irrigation.
SUGARCANE is a major cash crop of Punjab and is grown in about 4.47 lakh acres. Planting of this crop is a highly time and labour-consuming operation. It involves five operations opening of furrows, placing of seed sets, placing of fertiliser, covering the seed sets and compacting the soil around the seed.
The total cost per hectare of planting is more than Rs 1000 and high labour requirement of more than 100 man-hours. In addition, labour is required for set cutting and treating the sets with chemicals.
On the other hand, a mechanical planter can do all the operations in a single pass. It cuts the seed sets of desired size and does the other operations.
The machine consists of the following units:
Furrow opening unit
Set cutting unit
Fertiliser application unit
Chemical application unit
Set covering unit
The machine is operated by a 35 hp tractor and has two rows. In this machine, two labourers sitting on the machine feed the sugarcane one by one into the set cutting unit by picking from the seed hopper.The sets are cut by the rotating blades automatically before dropping in the furrows. Fertiliser and chemicals are also applied simultaneously along with the sets before covering of furrows as shown in the picture.
The machine can cover one to 1.2 ha per day with the help of five persons. Thus, the machine saves about 60 per cent of labour in comparison to the conventional method.
The performance of the machine has been found to be highly satisfactory as it uses the desired seed rate of about 3000 kg per acre. Also, the machine places the sets in the overlapping position as desired.
Involving farmers in
IN order to ensure better results, scientists are now focusing on participatory research in agriculture. The idea aims at involving the farmers with the research work.
According to Prof John R. Witcombe from the Oversees Development Agency, UK, the purpose is to plug in the gaps between the laboratory and the farm because there is considerable seepage in between. If we involve the farmer directly, the results would be more encouraging, he emphasised.
The Oversees Development Agency has been active in three different areas in India where it focuses on the participatory research involving farmers. The agency has identified three climatically different areas one each in the western, southern and eastern parts of the country. And Professor Witcombe claims that the results have been far more encouraging than expected.
The agency has been working in India under the supervision of Professor Witcombe since 1992. It has identified small and marginal farmers for their participation in research work. This, according to him, has brought in tremendous results. He points out that at some places an increase of 40 per cent has been recorded in the yield against the traditional methods of research.
The agency has been for the time being focusing mainly on providing quality seeds to the farmers. It may widen the area of operation. Professor Witcombe believes that over a period of time, when the farmers will get allround exposure and quality seeds, fertilisers and other pesticides, the yield may further increase.
Professor Witcombe also points out another shortcoming in the traditional system of Indian agriculture. He says although the research in the field has led to a phenomenal increase in the yield, yet the research update is far less than what it is in countries like the United Kingdom.
While in India, the farmers usually rely on the research conducted at least 15 years ago, in the UK the farmers do not go beyond four years. But this regular update can be possible only with the participatory research where the farmers are also involved in the research work.
Potato: Rogue out the virus-affected plants from seed plots. Apply second dose of 85 kg of urea per acre and increase the dose of urea to 115 kg per acre in case of light soils and do earthing up in 40-45 days old crop. At the time of earthing up, apply 4 kg Thimet 10 G per acre in the seed plots.
Spray the crop with Indofil M-45 at 500-700g or Copper Oxychloride 50 WP at 750-1000g/acre in 250-350 litres of water before the appearance of disease followed by 5 more sprays at 7 days interval. Under heavy disease situation instead of third and fourth spray of Indofil M-45 give two sprays of Ridomil MZ at 700g/acre at 10 days interval.
Spray the crop with 300 ml of Rogor 30 EC or Metasystox 25 EC or 75 ml of Dimecron in 80 litres of water per acre for control of jassids and aphids, etc.
Tomato: Sow 200g seed of TH-2312, TH-802, Punjab NR-7, S-12, Punjab Tropics, Punjab Chhuhara and Punjab Kesri on raised beds. One marla area is sufficient to grow seedlings for an acre. At the time of preparing beds add well rotten farmyard manure at 125 kg per marla.
In the last week of this month, start transplanting. Mark line at 1.5 metre for Punjab Tropic and 0.75 metre for other varieties.
Apply 10 tonnes farmyard manure and 100, 150 and 50 kg CAN, superphosphate and muriate of potash per acre, respectively. Transplant two seedlings per hill and keep 30 cm space between the plants. Irrigate immediately, fill gaps next week and irrigate.