AGRICULTURE TRIBUNE Monday, January 10, 2000, Chandigarh, India
 

PAU’s plan to reduce area under rice
By A.S. Prashar
AFTER foundering in the dark for years, Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, appears to have finally prepared a blueprint for the state’s agriculture and the direction it wants to take in the coming years.

Tractor loan or debt trap?
By Khushwant Ahluwalia
THE Indian farmer to save himself from the debt due to exploitation by tractor companies and public sector banks is committing suicide. Tractor dealers sway farmers to buy tractors unmindful of the economic viability or non-viability to the latter. Providing them with an allout assistance to secure bank loans by way of acting as middlemen between the farmer and the bank, these people have leashed an era of uncertainty in the progress of the farmers.

Community participation in forest management
By S.P. Mittal and R.K. Aggarwal
WITH the population of the country having already crossed one-billion mark, the productive and sustainable use of the country’s natural resources is essential for enhancing human welfare and sustainable development. Unfortunately, land, water and forest resources are being depleted irrationally at a fast rate. Over half of India’s land (175 million hectares) is seriously degraded due to one reason or the other, yet hundreds of millions of villagers continue to depend on these lands for fuel, fodder and minor forest products. At the current rate of over-exploitation, between 1.3 million and 1.5 million hectares of forest land is denuded annually. It is estimated that the demand for firewood and fodder wills triple over the next 10 to 12 years.

Minimising frost attack
By Sanjeev Sandal and Ashok Thakur
IN northern part of India, frost incidence is a common feature and significant damage to grain, forage and horticulture crops has been experienced. The frost occurs either due to incursion of large masses of cold air from the colder areas or on clear calm night when heat is freely radiated from all sides in the absence of clouds or concentration of water vapour in the air.

Farm operations for Jan

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PAU’s plan to reduce area under rice
By A.S. Prashar

AFTER foundering in the dark for years, Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, appears to have finally prepared a blueprint for the state’s agriculture and the direction it wants to take in the coming years.

It has also prepared a plan to reduce the area under paddy cultivation in Punjab by 20 lakh acres for growing soyabean. This will not only provide an alternative cash crop to the farmers but also reduce his irrigation needs and restore the water balance in the state. Simultaneously, efforts are being made to increase the yield of paddy so that Punjab’s contribution to the central buffer food stock remains the same.

The research on basic agricultural science, which has taken a back seat at the PAU all these years, is once again being accorded prime importance as part of a well-thought out action plan put together by the Vice-Chancellor, Dr G.S. Kalkat.

Soon after he took over as Vice-Chancellor of one of India’s premier farm universities, he undertook a visit to all the departments to apprise himself of what has been going on there. “Most of the people there tended to tell me about their past achievement whereas I was interested in knowing what they were planning to do in future. So I asked them to envisage the problems of the state’s agriculture in 10 years from now and try to come up with a solution to them.

One of the problems which he noticed immediately was the absence of a basic agricultural science research. And it was not because of lack of funds. While the farm research had been getting the same amount of money over the years, most of the work was being done on the applied side of the research. Therefore, research on the basic agricultural science had taken a back seat...”

Dr Kalkat was, thus able to induce a new way of thinking in PAU. He also tried to establish a rapport with Ohio State University, in the USA, and work out an arrangement under which the Americans will take eight farm scientists for higher training and research in different aspects of farming. “Fortunately, Ohio State University is the repository of all the biotechnology genes in that country. Even Monsanto did its basic research on genes there...”

Under an agreement worked out with Ohio State University, PAU will send eight farm scientists in the age group of 40-45 years to the USA for training in soil, water management, biotechnology, soyabean, maize and fisheries. They will send their scientists here for three to six months to train people.

Dr Kalkat notes that Punjab’s farmers sow soyabean in June but because of high temperature, it does not germinate properly. The research on basic science should be able to find out which gene is affecting the germination and find a variety which does not have that gene. Ohio State University found in two years a gene which is resistant to waterlogging. “This research work was done by a young American girl. If she can do it, why can’t we find a gene which is resistant to high temperature...?” asks Dr Kalkat.

He says that he wants to cultivate soyabean and maize as a substitute for rice in Punjab. “Once we replace rice on about 20 per cent of land under it, the whole eco-balance of the state will be restored,” he says, pointing out that at present over-mining of underground water is taking place because the state is growing paddy on nearly 6.5 million acres. “If we bring it down to 4.5 million acres and release about 20 lakh acres for soyabean cultivation, the water balance in the soil will be reset. The amount of water, which goes into the soil through rain water and river and canal seepage, will be equal to the amount of water which is pumped out through the tubewells for irrigation. Then we will have no problem”.

He emphasises that he is against totally replacing paddy cultivation in the state on the ground that its soil is not suited for it. “I want paddy cultivation on up to 4.5 million acres. Simultaneously, I am looking at the possibility of an increase in the yield of paddy from 3.7 tonnes to 4.2 tonnes per hectares. I am confident that we will be able to increase the yield in the next three to four years”.
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Tractor loan or debt trap?
By Khushwant Ahluwalia

THE Indian farmer to save himself from the debt due to exploitation by tractor companies and public sector banks is committing suicide.

Tractor dealers sway farmers to buy tractors unmindful of the economic viability or non-viability to the latter. Providing them with an allout assistance to secure bank loans by way of acting as middlemen between the farmer and the bank, these people have leashed an era of uncertainty in the progress of the farmers.

Through a network of salesmen in each village, tractor dealers of various companies convince the farmers to buy their company tractors, unmindful of whether a farmer can repay a bank loan or not.

They leave the tractor at the doorstep of the farmer the same day without taking any advance money or any documentation. They just get a specimen signature of the farmer on a plain piece of paper. “It keeps the farmer under psychological pressure to uphold the commitment,” says a tractor dealer.

The next day the company sales executive goes to the patwari and gets the “fard” of the farmer’s land holding.

After the “fard” is obtained the company representative takes the farmer to the bank and helps him open a bank account and also applies for finance to buy a tractor on behalf of the farmer, to which the bank authorities give a nod most eagerly.

The dealer completes all the legal formalities for the illiterate farmer, including mortgaging of land in favour of the bank. After the mortgaging of land, the farmer gets a crop loan sanctioned for the maintenance of crop or applies for another loan to buy tractor implements, basically to pay the margin money.

According to NABARD guidelines, “farmers whose aggregate family land holdings are not less than 8 acres of perennially irrigated land or 24 acres of unirrigated area are eligible for purchase of tractors.”

Since the definition of family can mean anything, the bank sanction a loan to anybody who can show eight acres of ownership by whatever means.

For example, uncles, cousins and nephews all club their land together and show themselves as a family unit to get a tractor financed from the bank. Later the individual who has actually bought the tractor finds himself in a financial debt because he is cultivating only an acre or two.

Bank managers also do not verify the facts and authenticity of the applicants.

The irony is that the managers are usually aware of the ground situation when approving loans. But in certain cases they are offered incentives by the tractor companies to turn a blind eye.

“We are just concerned about our formalities. Whoever can fulfil our terms and conditions by whatever means is welcome to apply for a loan” says a bank manager.

The banks have been divided according to villages under a service area approach and have been given yearly targets. “If they are easily achieved without any efforts, thanks to tractor companies, where is the need for the banks to do introspection,” remarks a bank employee.

Once the tractor loan is sanctioned the dealer deposits the margin money, which is 15 per cent of the loan in the bank from his own pocket.

The bank also sanctions a crop loan and gives it in the shape of cash and cheque to the farmer to buy fertilisers and other inputs. This cheque is taken by the dealer and presented to a fertiliser retailer who after deducting about 2 per cent of the cheque amount gives cash to the tractor dealer. In case of tractor implements the tractor company itself is the supplier.

The margin money deposited by the dealer for the farmer is freed and thus the dealer gets his money back to reinvest it on another farmer.

This scheme of things has been going on for a long period of time. The nexus between the tractor dealers and banks to achieve higher profits and targets, respectively, is holding to ransom the lives of millions of innocent farmers who fall prey to their sugar-coated talk everyday.

Stringent measures are needed to be taken to counter the growing abuse of sanctioning of tractor loans without verifying the antecedents of the farmer concerned and on whether they can afford to repay the loan from the present eligibility criterion of having a minimum of eight acres land holding or not.
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Community participation in forest management
By S.P. Mittal and R.K. Aggarwal

WITH the population of the country having already crossed one-billion mark, the productive and sustainable use of the country’s natural resources is essential for enhancing human welfare and sustainable development. Unfortunately, land, water and forest resources are being depleted irrationally at a fast rate. Over half of India’s land (175 million hectares) is seriously degraded due to one reason or the other, yet hundreds of millions of villagers continue to depend on these lands for fuel, fodder and minor forest products. At the current rate of over-exploitation, between 1.3 million and 1.5 million hectares of forest land is denuded annually. It is estimated that the demand for firewood and fodder wills triple over the next 10 to 12 years.

The National Forest Policy of 1952 has laid down that “India as a whole should aim at maintaining one-third of its geographical area under forests. Whereas about 60 per cent should be kept under forests in the Himalayas, Deccan and other mountainous tracts liable to erosion.” However, as per the latest State of Forest Report, 1997, issued by the Forest Survey of India, Dehra Dun, the total forest cover, which includes dense forest, open forest and mangrove,is estimated to be 63.33 million hectares. This constitutes 19.27 per cent of the country’s geographical area, which is far below the target. Out of this, only 11.17 per cent is under good tree cover (canopy density of 40 per cent and above). There is, thus, a vast gap between the forest policy and the ground reality.

The growing concern over dwindling forest cover is reflected in enormous soil loss through erosion. The present level of reservoir sedimentation amplified by upland forest clearing and poor watershed management is estimated to reduce water storage capacity of reservoirs by 1 to 2 per cent annually. The financial allocation to the forestry sector has increased from Rs 76 million in the First Five-Year Plan to Rs 40,818 million in the Eight Plan. Unfortunately, these efforts have made little headway in improving forest management all over the country. A major reason for their failure appears to be lack of attention to tenure issues and conflicts over usufructs and protection rights of rural forest communities.

While rural communities are the primary users of state forest land, they generally have no formal role in management. The Government Forests Acts and subsequent legislation have gradually eroded the rights and management systems of communities undermining their ability to control forest and common land use. In the absence of any effective controls and high demands, much of the common lands have lost most of their vegetative cover and now produce little fodder and much less firewood, while dependence on them has increased from 4.9 persons per hectare in 1951 to 13.7 persons by 1981 and continue to increase with increase in population.

New approach to forest management: The early seventies saw the beginning of a new approach to the management of vast forest resources. What were so far the exclusive preserve of the state forest departments began to come under the caring and collective supervision of the people and the departments. A breakthrough came with the Arabari pilot project in West Bangal. Subsequently the Central Soil and Water Conservation Research Centre, Chandigarh, in collaboration with the Haryana Forest Department played a leading role in developing an alternative to the present forest management system through its pioneering work in Sukho Majri in late seventies. The Sukho Majri project underlined the imperative of involving the village communities in the protection, conservation, management and sharing of natural resources. This new approach of protection of forests by the community was termed as “social fencing”. The success of these projects in the participatory management of forests persuaded policy makers to review the whole gamut of the existing forest policy. As a sequel to this, the Central Government announced the new Forest Policy in 1988 which brought about a radical change by shifting the focus from revenue generation to conservation with a view also to answering the subsistence needs of the communities.

The implementation of the new Forest Policy was actuated by the Government of India’s resolution in 1990 which paved the way for active participation of the people in the management of forests. The Ministry of Environment and Forests issued the guidelines on June 1 1990, concerning the involvement of village communities and voluntary agencies in the protection, development and management of degraded forests, termed at “joint forest management (JFM)”. The policy document envisages that the forest communities should be motivated to identify themselves with the development and protection of forests from which they derive benefits. They should be entitled to a share in usufructs like grasses, lops and tops of branches and minor forest produce.

Initiative by Haryana: Haryana did not take much time to formulate a JFM policy as enunciated by the Central Government because the Haryana Forest Department (HFD) was closely associated with the Sukho Majri project. The philosophy and benefits of the proposed policy and the policy contents were announced through a notification on June 13, 1990. The basic philosophy underlining the proposed policy is to link the economic interests of villagers, living adjacent to forest areas, with sustainable management of those areas. This would be achieved through identifying one or more “catalyst” in each village, which would motivate villagers to improve the productivity of forest areas and giving them a major share in increased production. This would substantially reduce the cost of protection and rehabilitation being incurred by the HFD.

Probable catalysts: Identification of “catalyst” is of utmost importance and should be done in consultation with local people. It may be different for different areas and situations. However, the “catalysts” so identified should mitigate the hardship of the local community. The following “catalysts” have so far been identified in Haryana which have changed the attitude of the people towards the forests.

Water for irrigation: The beginning was made in Sukho Majri by harvesting rain water in a dam for providing irrigation to the parched agricultural fields.

Grass for fodder: Grass lease for harvesting of grass could be given to the village society instead of auctioning the same to a private contractor.

Bhabbar for rope making or sale: Lease could be given to the village society just like fodder grass.

Bamboo for basket making: Wherever bamboo is available it could be given to those communities engaged in basket making, provided they constitute a society.

Timber, katha firewood and other forest produce: Can be shared with villagers through the society by working out a suitable mechanism.

The common property resources so developed should be shared with those villagers only who accept the condition to stop grazing in and illicit cutting of vegetation from the forest area.Top

 

Minimising frost attack
By Sanjeev Sandal and Ashok Thakur

IN northern part of India, frost incidence is a common feature and significant damage to grain, forage and horticulture crops has been experienced. The frost occurs either due to incursion of large masses of cold air from the colder areas or on clear calm night when heat is freely radiated from all sides in the absence of clouds or concentration of water vapour in the air.

The heat flow within soil layers controls the degree and extent of a frost attack in an area. The flow of heat through soil depends on pore space and soil moisture. Since air is a poor conductor of heat, there will be less of heat movement from lower layers to surface during frosty night in case of ploughed soil than on well-compact soil and hence frost incidence will be more on ploughed soil. Thus, by compacting the soil, frost damage can be reduced.

Replacement of air by water in soil pores increases the thermal conductivity. So, the incidence of frost will be more in dry soils than in moist soils. Flooding the field with water increases the thermal conductivity of field which minimises the frost attack. The overhead sprinkler system is even more effective since water particles in air check outgoing long wave radiation.

The soil containing higher proportion of sand, cools more rapidly than loomy or clay soil. Hence, frost damage is more in sandy than in loomy or clay soils. The frost attack may be minimised through frequent light irrigation applied in the evening.

The frost injury to growing plants can be minimised using different covering material such as straw mat of dry grass, netting, wax paper, plastic cover, etc. These should be placed over the small plants during late afternoon on days when frost is expected and removed early in the morning.

Frost smoking is another method through which artificial fog with particles sufficient large to prevent the passage of long-wave radiation is created. A dense smoke may reduce radiation by about 35 per cent and hence the frost attack.

The frost attack can also be taken care of by preventing the cooling soil surface of through mixing of warmer upper air with the lower layers. This can be dome with the use of wind machines and fans. In most of the developed countries windmills and helicopters are also used for the purpose.Top

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Farm operations for Jan

VEGETABLES

Potato:
— Complete sowing of spring potato in the first fortnight of this month. If the seed raised from the autumn crop is to be used for spring planting, its dormancy should be broken by dipping cuts tubers in the mixture of 1 per cent thiourea and one ppm gibberellic acid for an hour followed by treatment with ethylene chlorohydrin. Air dry the treated seed pieces for 24 hours in thin layer in shade.

— For the spring crop, the seed may be dipped in the solution of Agallol (500 g in 100 litre of water) for five minutes before sowing.

— Twenty tonnes of farmyard manure along with 75 kg of N (165 kg of urea or 300 kg of CAN, 25 kg of P2 O2 (155 kg superphosphate and 50 kg of K2O (80 kg of muriate of potash) per acre should be used. Drill all P and K and one-fourth N at sowing and the remaining N at the time of earthing up.

— The late and early blight of potato may be checked by spraying crop with 500-700g Indofil M 45 per acre. The covering of the seed plot with dehaulmed shoots should be avoided in infested plants.

— Aphids attack can be reduced by spraying 300 ml Rogor 30 EC or Metasystox 25 EC or 75 ml of Dimecron 85 SL in 100 litres of water per acre.

Carrot:
— For seed production, transplant 10-15 cm long and fully matured roots of carrot at 45 x 30 cm (line x plant) spacings. Before transplanting, apply one quintal of CAN or 55 kg or urea, 155 kg of superphosphate and 40 kg of muriate of potash per acre.

Pea:
— The crop may be sprayed with Karthane @ 80 ml per acre to control powdery mildew disease. If a rust attack is there, spray the crop with Indofil M 45 @ 400 g in 200 litre of water.

Onion:
— Complete transplanting of onion seedlings by the middle of this month. Delayed transplanting leads to poor formation of bulbs and lowers the yield.

— To control weeds spray Stomp 30 EC at 1.01 per acre (within a week of transplant).

— To control purple blotch, spray the crop with 600 g of Indofil M 45 mixed with 200 ml of Malathion and 200 ml of Tritone or linseed oil as sticker in 200 litre of water per acre. Spray may be repeated at an interval of 10 days.

— Onion maggots feed on the developing bulb and cause discolouration of leaves. Apply Thimet @ 4 kg/acre into the infested fields.

Early cucurbits:
— Mark lines to prepare trenches on spacing required for each crop. Apply NPK as per recommendations at 25-30 cm wide trenches and irrigate the channels. Soak seeds in lukewarm water. Wrap in a woollen rag and place in a warm place during night and in the sun during day. When the radicle emergence starts, sow on the northern edge of the trench prepare earlier. Provide sarkanda hedge at 75O on this side and irrigate the trenches at fortnight intervals.

— To obtain early crop of muskmelon, watermelon, bottlegourd and pumpkin, procure 5 kg 100 gauge thick white plastic bags of 15 x 10 size. In case of heavy soils, mix soil, silt and farmyard manure in equal proportions. In case of sandy soils, silt may not be used. Puncture each bag at the bottom and fill it with this mixture and place the bags in sunlight and well protected from the frost and chilly northern winds. In the last week of January, dibble two seeds per bag and water the bags with a tumbler. This technique is suitable for raising early crop of all the cucurbits in the kitchen gardens and for commercial cultivation of muskmelon, water melon, pumpkin, ash gourd and bottle gourd. A seed rate of 200-500 g is sufficient in raise seedlings for one acre.

— Progressive Farming, PAU
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