AGRICULTURE TRIBUNE Monday, March 13, 2000, Chandigarh, India
 

An upcoming innovative technology
By Sukhraj S. Dhillon
THE adoption of intensive agriculture in irrigated areas of Punjab, Haryana and Western U.P. during the last three decades has undoubtedly caused a substantial increase in the production and productivity of wheat and other crops. Over intensifications has, however, promoted inefficient and irrational use of basic and scarce resources of land and water as well as costly inputs of fertilisers, herbicides etc. resulting in degradation of the rather fragile-agro-ecosystem.

A silent save grain revolution
By V.P. Prabhakar
ALTHOUGH India is self-sufficient in foodgrains, its increased production has created a lot of problems — handling, storage and distribution.

Field trial planned for rice variety
By Kulwinder Sandhu
The Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) has sought permission for conducting limited field trials in genetically engineered, pest resistant cotton and rice from June. This follows successful lab research in cotton and rice from isolation of the common indigenous soil bacterium, ‘Bacillus Thuringiensis’ (BT) genes.

Sewage destroys agriculture land
From Sanjeev Kumar
JALANDHAR:
Nearly 95 acres of agriculture land in Bashirpura and Lamba Pind on the outskirts of the city has become unproductive owing to the failure of the Municipal Corporation to manage sewage in the area.

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An upcoming innovative technology
By Sukhraj S. Dhillon

THE adoption of intensive agriculture in irrigated areas of Punjab, Haryana and Western U.P. during the last three decades has undoubtedly caused a substantial increase in the production and productivity of wheat and other crops. Over intensifications has, however, promoted inefficient and irrational use of basic and scarce resources of land and water as well as costly inputs of fertilisers, herbicides etc. resulting in degradation of the rather fragile-agro-ecosystem.

Wheat is most commonly raised in Punjab in rotation with rice by following the conventional systems of flat sowing and flood irrigation. These are conducive to excessive irrigation water use, downward leeching of native and applied plant nutrients and periodical aeration stress and high mechanical resistance of soil type, thus restricting plant root and shoot growth. The magnitude of these problems depends upon soil type, plant genotype and other management variables. Consequently the agricultural system is becoming unsustainable. High irrigation requirements of wheat and rice have greatly aggravated the problem of declining underground water table at an alarming rate (about 23 cm per annum) and threatening thereby the shallow table irrigation system. Ironically the Phalaris minor — a major weed of wheat under the rice-wheat sequence has developed resistance to certain herbicides as a result of their consistent heavy use. Most of the wheat is planted by drill or broadcast. These planting methods are not ideal for efficient uptake of plant nutrients and mechanical control of weeds. Thus it has become a matter of serious concern that the productivity of wheat must be increased concomitant with friendly environment and efficient utilisation of the production resources and inputs.

Research was initiated about five years ago to manage the aforementioned problems. To realise the objective a bed planter for sowing of wheat on raised beds was manufactured in 1995 under the technical guidance of PAU scientists. It was further updated and refined in 1997 (see picture right) for proper and adjustable placement of seed and fertiliser and timely interculture for weed control in standing wheat. This planter named as PAU Firbs Planter (FIRBS- Furrow Irrigated Raised Bed System) was tested at experimental stations and farmers’ fields. The results have shown that some varieties of wheat can be successfully grown on beds (65-90 cm. The optimum bed size 67.5cm) (37.5cm bed top and 30 cm furrow). This bed planting technique showed even yield advantage in relatively fine/heavy textured soils. Interestingly bed planting permits access in the standing young crop for integrated nutrient management and weed control. (see picture bottom). Numerous possible advantages in case of bed planted wheat are:

1) Efficient use of irrigation water as well as native and applied fertiliser nutrients; 2) Better plant establishment; 3) Reduced herbicide use due to feasibility of mechanical control of weeds; 4) Less seed rate; 5) Less lodging; 6) Less aeration stress on fine soils 7) Possibility of using same beds for planting a succeeding crop like maize, soybean and cotton thus economising on tillage energy requirements and; 8) Lesser possibility of downward leeching of chemical fertilisers thus reducing the chances of pollution of underground water for drinking purpose.

Obviously the suggested alternative system of bed planting holds a great promise particularly on heavy textured soils for efficient use of various production inputs, improving environmental quality and improving and sustaining agricultural production.

Further research to quantify the potentialities of the technique under varied soil and crop management variables is under way.

The writer is Senior Agronomist Wheat, PAU, Ludhiana.
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A silent save grain revolution
By V.P. Prabhakar

ALTHOUGH India is self-sufficient in foodgrains, its increased production has created a lot of problems — handling, storage and distribution.

Nearly two-thirds of the total produce in the country is retained by farmers for consumption or for seed, or for labour in kind due or for deferred sale. About 10 per cent of this stored foodgrain is lost every year due to attack by insects, rodents, moisture, birds, micro-organisms etc. In other terms about two crore tonnes of foodgrains worth more than Rs 40,000 crore is damaged in this way annually. This is a big loss for a country like ours where nearly 40 per cent of population still lives below the poverty line.

Insects, pests, rats, moisture, microbes and birds contaminate and damage the foodgrains by adding their droppings, feathers, urine and portions of their dead bodies. Apart from the visible damage pest attacks affect the kernel and hit the nutritive value and quality of the grain, a fact which is not ordinarily realised by common man. The foodgrain thus becomes unfit for seed purposes because of loss of germinative power.

Huge quantitative as well as qualitative losses also take place which results in the loss of nutritive value of the foodgrains. All this is due to the lack of knowledge about scientific storage and negligence.

Realising the problem the Save Grain campaign was launched as a pilot project in 1965-66. It was launched as a regular scheme from 1969-70. It seeks to popularise scientific methods of foodgrain storage at the farm level. Simple but effective methods of storage and pest control are being popularised and improved types of metal bins and pesticides are supplied to the farmers. The campaign is undertaken through a network of 14 regional and three sub-offices spread all over the country in collaboration with respective state governments.

The Regional office of the Save Grain Campaign for Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and U.T. Chandigarh is located at Chandigarh. This office is trying to bring about a silent save grain revolution among the farmers of the area and assumes still greater importance because Punjab, the leading agricultural state which contributes 60 to 70 per cent of wheat and 40 to 50 per cent of rice to the country’s food basket, is covered by this office.

Dr S.R. Singla, Assistant Director of the Save Grain Campaign, Chandigarh, said the main stress is laid on the adoption of modern storage structures by farmers which is the basic requirement of foodgrain for their proper living in good shelter similar to the requirements of good houses by the human beings to protect themselves from an unfavourable environment.

The main objective of the Save Grain Campaign, according to Dr Singla, are training demonstrations and publicity programmes. The training programmes are both stipendiary and non-stipendiary training courses organised in the villages during which both practical and theoretical knowledge on different aspects of foodgrain storage is imparted. At the end of the 10-day stipendiary training course each successful trainee is given a stipend of Rs 250 along with a certificate. Non-stipendiary training courses are of five to seven days duration for volunteers. Storage pesticides used during the training courses is also provided free of cost to the farmers.

Dr Singla said the villages where these training courses are conducted, are adopted by Save Grain Campaign office to develop these into nucleus villages for adoption of modern storage structures by motivation, pursuation and give assistance for the purchase of modern storage structure like metal bins.

Demonstrations are carried out regularly both within and outside training programmes which include fumigation of foodgrains, rat control measures in houses and fields prophylactic treatment for insect control, improvement of existing storage structure and construction of non-metallic storage structures like pucca kothis or RCC ring bins etc.

During the current financial year, Dr Singla said so far 23 stipendiary training courses had been organised, thereby adding about 1200 metal bins of different capacities and creating a modern storage capacity of 60 tonnes in the farmers houses.
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Field trial planned for rice variety
By Kulwinder Sandhu

The Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) has sought permission for conducting limited field trials in genetically engineered, pest resistant cotton and rice from June. This follows successful lab research in cotton and rice from isolation of the common indigenous soil bacterium, ‘Bacillus Thuringiensis’ (BT) genes.

Limited field trials are already on in a fruit-borer-resistant, genetically modified new brinjal and tomato. They have to be studied for nutrition and other properties.

According to Dr R.S. Paroda, ICAR Director-General, “The ICAR breakthrough is to face up to the competition from multi-national companies (MNCs) like Monsanto. The genes used by the US-based seed MNC are different from the ones isolated by ICAR scientists.”

However, the gene cannot be patented immediately in the absence of a suitable legislation for product patenting in the country. The research also highlights the need for a policy on genetically engineered food crops.

Some of the genes present in the BT bacterium are responsible for the production of toxic proteins which kill the larvae of harmful pests. Such BT toxins are said to be harmless to human beings, mammals and other organisms including beneficial insects.

Dr Paroda said the ICAR had launched a major Rs 914-million World Bank-aided National Agricultural Technology Project to develop genetically engineered cotton, rice and pigeon pea that are resistant to major disease pests. Four of the 19 projects that have been approved, have been launched in a mission mode. The first project deals with the introduction of Bacillus Thuringienis’ (BT) to cotton, pigeon pea. The three genes isolated are crylaa, specific to cotton bollworm disease, gram pod borer and rice stem borer; crylf, resistant to cotton bollworm cry If, resistant to cotton bollworm and crylla resistant to rice stem borer.

Scientists have planned to introduce the genes into the crop species either by using another bacterium agrobacterium tumafaciens as a vehicle or by bombarding them into cotton cells. If field trials are successful, the research would help cut down the extent of use of pesticide as nearly half of the pesticide use is to control the ballworm disease in cotton, he added.

The project is being jointly handled by the Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR) in Nagpur, the Biotechnology research centre at Indian Agriculture Research Institute, New Delhi, the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, the National Botanical Research Institute in Lucknow and the University of Dharwad in Karnataka.

The second sanctioned project involves identifying novel certain genes of plant origin like cowpea, soybean and green pea known to have protective activity which will be transferred genetically to crops like cotton and pigeon pea.

The third project concerns with pyramiding (accumulation of genes from different varieties into a single variety) of leaf rust resistant genes in wheat by using molecular marker technology. Leaf rust is a major fungal disease that hits the wheat crop. The ICAR will collaborate with the Punjab Agricultural Research Institute on this project.

The fourth project aims at developing environmentally benign standards and stable agro-chemicals from neem and karanja for use as safe pesticides in agriculture.
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Sewage destroys agriculture land
From Sanjeev Kumar

JALANDHAR: Nearly 95 acres of agriculture land in Bashirpura and Lamba Pind on the outskirts of the city has become unproductive owing to the failure of the Municipal Corporation to manage sewage in the area.

Besides this, land near Bashirpura, Santoshi Nagar, Amrik Nagar, Kamal Vihar, Ajit Nagar and Baldev Nagar gets inundated by sewage during the monsoon.

‘‘The accumulated sewage broke a protective wall a few days ago, damaging crops and houses,’’ claimed Mr Jagdev Singh, a farmer of Bashirpura.

When this correspondent visited the site the hapless residents detailed the danger posed by the accumulated sewage. They lamented that the stone pitching done by the Sewerage Department of the Municipal Corporation six years ago had been corroded. Requests and applications made to the authorities concerned to strengthen the protective structures have so far failed to evoke any response.

Mr Harnaik Singh, a resident of Amrik Nagar, said: “This year sewer water not only destroyed my fields but also flooded the residential structure”.

A few residents lamented the sewage had also flooded the cremation site. They recently met corporation authorities and staged a dharna in front of the office of the Municipal Corporation, Jalandhar, but the officials handed out only hollow assurances.

Mr Nizar Singh said they had been forced to cut their unripe crops due to the fear of sewer water. He said Mr Sewak Singh was forced to leave his house and land due to the growing menace of sewer water five years ago.

The residents recently blocked railway tracks near Bashirpura and Gurnanakpura and the GT Road to highlight their grievances. The blockade was lifted only after assurances from the Mayor and the Deputy Commissioner.

They are sore about the slow construction of a sewer line by the Municipal Corporation to dispose of sewage in the area. Mr Suresh Sehgal, Mayor, Jalandhar, however, claimed that the work on laying a sewer line from Bashirpura to the Garha disposal site had been going on at a war footing and it would be completed before the monsoon.

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