AGRICULTURE TRIBUNE Monday, July 24, 2000, Chandigarh, India
Eco-friendly, cheaper tillage technologies
IN our country, agriculture accounts for nearly 30 per cent of national income and provides employment to nearly 65 per cent our workforce. Agricultural development is, therefore, imperative for meeting the food and fibre needs of the nation, besides ensuring sustainable economic growth of the country.

Popularising medicinal plants in HP
A cornucopia of herbal wealth existing in different parts of Himachal Pradesh extending from the Shivalik zone to the cold desert regions has been a boon of sustenance to the poor villagers living in far-flung, backward and tribal areas for many decades.

It’s time to grow chrysanthemum
IN the northern part of India, chrysanthemums can bring a variety of bold colours to your garden during late autumn (October) till early winter (mid-December) when the winter annuals are yet to show their best display.





Eco-friendly, cheaper tillage technologies
By B.S. Sidhu and
J.K. Verma

IN our country, agriculture accounts for nearly 30 per cent of national income and provides employment to nearly 65 per cent our workforce. Agricultural development is, therefore, imperative for meeting the food and fibre needs of the nation, besides ensuring sustainable economic growth of the country. Wheat and rice are the staple food crops of the nation and Punjab and Haryana together contribute about 60 per cent of rice and 80 per cent of wheat to the central pool. It has been recognised that the continuing population growth and rising per capita income shall lead to further increase in demand for food grains and industrial raw materials of agricultural origin.

In Punjab as well as Haryana, the wheat is generally sown after harvest of rice and cotton. There is a short interval of time available for land preparation for establishing wheat, particularly in the case of late-maturing varieties of rice and cotton. It normally takes two to three weeks for rice fields to become workable for land preparation due to antecedent moisture. In addition, reduced day length and lowering of ambient temperature delay the planting of wheat which should ideally be planted up to the second week of November. The delay after November 20 results in reduction of the potential wheat yield by about 30 kg per day per acre. Further, the planting of wheat without achieving suitable seedbed conditions also results in poor crop yields. In Punjab most of the area under rice is under coarse varieties and time in such cases is available for seedbed preparation, but in Haryana most of wheat is practically sown by broadcast due to shortage of time which leads to unevenly distributed seed, reduced plant emergence and consequently poor yields.

There is also a problem of management of residue of the rice crop. The harvesting by combine harvesters leaves behind both anchored and loose residues which are usually burnt by the farmers before sowing of wheat. This results not only in the environmental pollution but also contributes to global warming. These residues need to be either collected or incorporated into the soil. The incorporation brings potash and other nutrients back to soil and helps in building up of soil organic carbon , improving its biophysical properties and thereby contributing to increase in the yield of succeeding crop. A technical breakthrough is, therefore, necessary to address these problems of wheat production, keeping in view the food security, natural resources management and environmental sustainability.

During the course of participation in the travelling seminar to North-West of the Indo-Gangetic Plains in India and Pakistan, it has been observed that resource conservation technologies (RCT) i.e. zero tillage of minimum tillage, are proving extremely successful in creating a revolution through overcoming the ecological problems and by way of reducing the cost of cultivation. The RCT is a special technique of establishing crops without tillage or seedbed preparation. Various implements have been developed for the RCT in different areas by different institutions. In Haryana, the zero -tillage technology is being propagated by the Department of Agriculture and Haryana Agricultural University and is being adopted by the farmers in a big way. The various advantages this technology offers are:

— Saving in the cost of cultivation to the tune of Rs, 1,000 per acre: there is saving in tractor time, its operation and maintenance costs and labour.

— Saving in water for first irrigation by 35 to 50 per cent.

— Advancement in sowing of wheat crop by two to four weeks in comparison with the conventional method of seedbed preparation.

— Less incidence of guli danda / dumbi sittee ( phalaris minor ) by 20 to 35 per cent.

— Easier management and in corporation of crop residue.

— Practically no irrigation induced yellowing of wheat at the crown root initiation stage: the yellowing of crop at this stage is reported to cause a loss of 5 to 10 per cent in yield, and.

— Increase in yield to the tune of one to three quintals per acre over the conventional method of sowing.

During the 1999-2000 rabi season, about 8,000 hectares in Haryana and about 5,000 hectares in Pakistan were sown by farmers using zero-till drills. In Punjab, most of the area under rice crop is under coarse varieties which are harvested earlier and it allows sufficiently long window of time for seedbed preparation. The absence of a specific recommendation for adoption of zero tillage by PAU and utilisation of conventional seed-cum fertiliser drills by farmers for sowing of wheat have also been responsible for poor adoption of this technology in Punjab. On the other hand, the Department of Agriculture, Punjab, is promoting the “strip-till” technology for minimum tillage. For this purpose, 47 strip-till drills have been supplied to the farmers on subsidy. This drill prepares a 3-inch wide strip for seed placement Without any prior field preparation and an area of about 500 hectares has been sown in the state by these drills. The farmers have reported that there is a time, diesel and cost of production saving of 65 to 75 per cent, 50 to 60 per cent and Rs 600 to Rs 1,000 per hectare, respectively. The performance of these machines in some cases has not been satisfactory due to manufacturing defects. Both zero-till drill and strip—till drill require certain modifications and location specific adjustments which are likely to be brought about by local artisans as well as research scientists, depending upon the feedback received by them.

Planting of wheat on raised beds is another technology which is being experimented in Punjab and Pakistan. It helps in the efficient use of irrigation water and nutrients. The seed rate is also reduced by 40 to 50 per cent. The bed planning also allows the mechanical weeding and hoeing the crop. The farmers reported that bed planted crop is more resistant to lodging thereby offering an opportunity for the last irrigation at the grain-filling stage. Thereby, bed planting provides an avenue to work at a higher yield level than the present one. For this purpose the agronomic practices such as timing and application rate of fertilisers and irrigation are still to be fine-tuned. The bed planter, presently in use, also needs further development so that seed placement succeeds the bed formation for controlling the depth of placement as well as an attachment for pressing the soil cover over planted seeds. The utility of bed planting for crop seed production and multiplication programmes is immense.

During the era of Green Revolution, the major drive engine for increasing crop yields was improvement in crop varieties. It is now felt that the present era is an era of precision agriculture. Till new crop varieties with higher-yield potentials are developed, resource conservation tillage technologies hold a promise for increasing productivity of the crop and profitability of farming by way of reduced cost of cultivation. However, based on a clear understanding of areas where new initiatives are required, steps need to be taken to foster sustainable dynamism into research and extension agencies for development and propagation eco-friendly technologies.


Popularising medicinal plants in HP
By Shashi Bhushan

A cornucopia of herbal wealth existing in different parts of Himachal Pradesh extending from the Shivalik zone to the cold desert regions has been a boon of sustenance to the poor villagers living in far-flung, backward and tribal areas for many decades. In lean seasons, when agricultural activities are not demanding, the rural people collect herbs. However, the entire dependence for crude drugs has been on wild resources which are being harnessed for trade and commerce year after year, thus leading to over exploitation and resulting in dwindling of this natural wealth at an alarming rate.

The state has a long tradition of using herbs as household remedies and also selling the material in the market for daily household needs or for cash income. However, many valuable species are destroyed during extraction due to ignorance of the people. As a result around 75 species have been rendered threatened or endangered.

Himachal has a tremendous potential for cultivating medicinal and aromatic plants in its diverse agro-climatic zones. It has taken the lead in producing “kuth”, “kalazira”, “chikory”, and hops in the country. Besides, the state dominated the national market for many decades in the wild collection and extraction of “dioscorea”, “kutki, “atis”, “salampanja”, “somlata”, “dhoop”, “sugandhbala”, “bankakri”, “daruhaldi” (derberis roots), “ratanjot”, “banaksha”, “guchhi, etc.

Efforts are on to promote “kesar” (saffron) cultivation in the state.

In the event of repeated failure of apple crop due to diseases and vagaries of weather, medicinal and aromatic plants can provide an alternative and regular source of income to the farmers. According to an official report, of the 3000-odd herbs found in the state, over 500 contain medicinal properties. The Dr Y.S. Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, Solan, has documented more than 1,000 species of medicinal and aromatic plants for the state.

The production of medicines from herbs in 1991 in the country was worth Rs 100 crore. It is expected to go up to Rs 400 crore by the end of century, which indicates a steep increase in the demand of medicinal plants in the domestic and international markets. Moreover, dreaded side effects of allopathic medicines have also made people to adopt conventional system of medicines.

In these contexts, it is of paramount importance that herbal resources of the state are scientifically identified, inventorised and documented and the lifestyle of the people, says Dr R.P. Awasthi, Vice Chancellor, Parmar University. He emphasises application of scientific skills to harness these resources on sustainable basis without jeopardising their ecological equilibrium.

The university is playing a major role by helping the state departments concerned through scientific and technical inputs along with planting material. Besides, it is also a functional partner in the execution of recently sanctioned Vanaspati Van Yojna worth Rs 8.27 crore by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare along with the State Departments of Health and Ayurveda. This scheme will cater to the inventorisation of medicinal and aromatic plants resourced in Chamba and Kulu districts, initiating in situ and ex-situ conservation, involving local people in the form of farmer’s societies to be the key players in promoting commercial cultivation.

Dr N.S. Chauhan, senior forestry scientist, stresses that cultivation, protection and conservation of important drug species is a necessity to maintain regular supply to meet the increasing demand of the industry and side by side reduce pressure on natural resources. Extraction, collection and cultivation of medicinal plants and their processing have a tremendous scope for employment generation, particularly at the rural level. Recent emphasis on rural development, particularly tribal development, shows that these plants, if properly managed, have a prominent role to play in this direction, he opines.

Dr Chauhan underlines the need to promote and popularise this wealth among farmers, entrepreneurs and the pharmaceutical industry. The university has a strong faculty with well-equipped laboratories, herbarium and well-stocked herbal gardens at Nauni, Rahla and Jachh with satellite activities at various research stations and substations. For the complete tapping of herbal potential the state has been divided in four zones, namely low-altitude Shivalik zone, mid-hills, high hills and higher hills (cold desert) zone. The government has decided to develop a conducive herbal garden in each zone. The Department of Ayurveda has a 24-acre herbal garden at Jogindernagar (Mandi). In addition, herbal gardens are also coming up at Neri (Hamirpur), Sarivese (Shimla) and the Sangla valley (Kinnaur). These all will go a long way in promoting and popularising scientific cultivation of medicinal plants.

However, integrated efforts are called for by the university and the Departments of Forest, Ayurveda and Industry to foster this resource. Scientific skill followed by conservation consciousness has to be created in the minds of rural populace and officials of various government agencies. Course contents have to be introduced to educate, motivate and activate students to care and respect this valuable treasure.

With a view to achieving success, pharmacies and other medicinal and aromatic plants consuming units should guarantee consumption of the produce locally available, ensuring remunerative prices to the collectors and cultivators. Besides, collection and harvesting have to be strictly regulated and market infrastructure developed within the state. This will boost commercial cultivation and ease pressure on natural habitats, thereby contributing to ecological stability and bio-diversity conservation.

Dr Chauhan emphatically suggests that no material be allowed to go out of the state in crude form. 


It’s time to grow chrysanthemum
By A.K. Sharma and Kamal Sharma

IN the northern part of India, chrysanthemums can bring a variety of bold colours to your garden during late autumn (October) till early winter (mid-December) when the winter annuals are yet to show their best display. Chrysanthemums can be grown for an effective display of colours in the shrubbery, rock gardens, mounds or borders. However, they are extensively grown in pots for their usefulness in decorating steps, porches, garden paths and beautifying grounds for ceremonial purpose. Anybody who wants to grow chrysanthemum would like to see to it that his or her plants remain healthy from the nursery to blooming stages. This is only possible if one has the essential information with respect of requirements and practices necessary at the propagation, growing and blooming stages.

Propagating: The following two approaches are practised:

By cuttings: This is the most commonly used method for raising mums plants. The time for raising cutting is June-July (preferably with the onset of monsoon). Fill shallow containers (pots or wooden boxes) with clean sand or any other rooting material-such as perelite or vermiculture, if available. Take 5-7-cm long terminal cuttings from healthy stock by shearing the basal leaves. Dip bottom half inch of cutting in harmone powder (Seradix) that stimulates root growth. Insert cuttings up to leaves spacing them one inch apart in the above rooting containers. Water immediately; thereafter water lightly but often. Keep the containers in partial shade. To avoid rotting of cuttings, apply Captan (0.3 per cent) or Bavistin (0.1 per cent) in irrigation water once a week. The rooting will take place in two-three weeks. Check out for rooting by gently pulling few cuttings. If roots are well developed, dig up cuttings and plant them.

By suckers: About a month after bloom fade (January-February) profuse suckering take place round the base of old plant. Lift these plants out of soil. Wash some of the soil from the roots. Look out for several smaller plants — each with its own roots. Separate plants carefully. Plant these small ones in pots.

Fertilising and watering: The potting mixture composed of garden soil, leaf mould and farmyard manure (1:2:1) has been found satisfactory for chrysanthemums. Later a top dressing with slightly more concentrated forms of organic manures such as oilcakes may be done. Liquid feeding should start when the plant has developed sufficient roots. Prepare the liquid manure by fermenting fresh cow dung and oilcakes in a drum for 5-6 days (about 1-2 kg of each in 10 litres of water). It is diluted to tea colour (without milk) and applied at the interval of 7-10 days @ 500 ml per pot. The liquid feeding can be further fortified by adding chemical fertilisers like urea and potassium. For this purpose it is advisable not to add more than 5 gm of these fertilisers in 10 litres of decanted liquid.

Pinching and disbudding: When small-flowered varieties are 6 to 8 inches high, pinch off the light-green growing tips to encourage branching. Unless the growing tips are pinched plant may develop tall, weak stems that produce only a few flowers. Repeat pinching after about a month.

Disbud large-flowered mums. Concentrate growth in a few flowers by taking off-side buds. When plants are 5 to 6 inches high, pinch out the growing tip. New shoots will develop along the stem. Break off all but two or three of these new shoots. Let them grow into branches. Every two weeks, remove all side shoots that grow from these branches. When flower buds show, remove all except those on the top 3 inches of the branch. As these top buds develop, notice the first, or crown bud. When you are sure it is healthy and will develop, pinch off all other buds. If the terminal flower bud is injured, or looks as if it will not develop, pinch it off and leave the second flower bud from the tip. Continue to remove side branches until flowering time. Disbudding small-flowered varieties does not make them produce large flowers.

Staking: Stake tall or weak plants. Each branch of large-flowered varieties need support.

When plant tips die after blooming, cut them to the ground. Clean up fallen leaves and burn all refuse.


Dairy and animal health care

  • The daily concentrate should have 2-3 per cent higher crude protein i.e. add more cakes in the concentrate.
  • The animals in heat should be judged from the signs of frequent urination and vaginal discharge.
  • Care of the new-born calves should be carried out. Steps for dehorning of buffalo calves must be taken. Deworm the calves at two weeks of age and repeat deworming after two weeks.
  • Get your animal vaccinated against H.S. (Gal Ghotu) and B.C (Pat Suja) if not done earlier. These disease can result in heavy loss of animal life in unprotected / unvaccinated animals.
  • If an animal has a wound, protect wounds from flies, otherwise maggots will infest. Apply fly repelling ointment on wound (Himax or Lorexane or Extosep, etc.).
  • Animal shed should be dry airy and well ventilated.
  • Animals should be wallowed or bathed in the morning and evening with fresh water for enhancing production and reproduction.
  • In the case of fever or blood in urine, veterinarian should be consulted immediately.
  • If an animal starts bleeding from nose, don’t disturb it and pour cold water over the face and head and keep the head lifted Consult veterinarian immediately.
  • Next month is hot humid, during which flies, lice and ticks are very common. These suck blood, cause skin irritation and spread diseases. So check these, spray 0.5 per cent Malathion or 0.5 per cent Carbaryl, Asuntol 0.05 per cent, Butox 0.02 per cent and Taktic (12.5 per cent) 0.02 per cent on the animals as well as in the shed and repeat the spray after 10-15 days. Don’t spray animals below six months of age. Animal sheds, especially corners, crevices, etc should also be sprayed. Take full care that the insecticides do not get mixed with food, fodder and drinking water. Strictly follow the manufacturer’s instructions while spraying the insecticides.
  • In this season, snakes come out from hibernation and they can bite the animals. If an animal suddenly falls down or its mucous membranes turn bluish, immediately check for snake bite on face, abdomen and udder for fang marks, rapid swelling, oedema and pain. The other symptoms can be respiratory distress, fast heart beat profuse salivation and convulsions. Under such conditions, consult the veterinarian immediately.

— Progressive Farming, PAU