AGRICULTURE TRIBUNE Monday, August 21, 2000, Chandigarh, India
  Clean drinking water still a dream
By G.S. Dhillon

UNJAB having a geographical area of 50,362 sq km is at present affected by the waterlogging and salinity in one region and severe water-table decline due to excessive withdrawal of ground water in the rest. The area falling in the former category is 30 per cent of the total and the remaining area falls in the latter category. 

Decline in public sector outlay for agriculture
By V.P. Prabhakar

HERE is a widespread decline across the board in all the states in public sector capital outlay for agriculture. At the same time the regional disparities in agriculture persist.

Cardinal tips on indoor plants
By Manish Kapoor

HE thrill and pleasure for indoor gardening is immense for those who lack open space for gardening. Indoor plants are a useful substitute to garden plants as these plants give a permanent display throughout the year.




Clean drinking water still a dream
By G.S. Dhillon

PUNJAB having a geographical area of 50,362 sq km is at present affected by the waterlogging and salinity in one region and severe water-table decline due to excessive withdrawal of ground water in the rest. The area falling in the former category is 30 per cent of the total and the remaining area falls in the latter category. Both these regions face peculiar problems in the rural water supply which are discussed next.

In Punjab there are about 12,428 inhabited villages against 110 towns, and nearly 70.5 per cent of people live in the rural areas. Though it had been on the top priority of the various governments, yet more than 2,000 villages are still without the clean drinking water facility.

The performance of many of the works built earlier has been affected due to lack of proper maintenance and environmental factors, like either fall in the water-table or its rise to a level too close to the surface.

Problems of water-table decline areas: The problem falls in two categories — decreased yield of the pumping schemes due to drop in the water-table, and exposure of soil strata earlier submerged to atmospheric conditions resulting in oxidation.

In the case of the first category, it may require changes in the pumping equipment which may in the form of lowering of the centrifugal pumps by deepening the dry pits or their complete replacement by the costlier submersible pumps. The amount of electricity needed for working of the pumps is found to increase, resulting in a greater competition between the various consumers.

The oxidation of the strata which gets exposed to atmosphere may lead to formation of compounds of arsenic which results in an arsenic problem. Such cases have been detected in many areas of West Bengal. The arsenic problem combined with flouride and boron problem would adversely affect the health of rural population. Till now no attention has been paid to this aspect.

Problems of waterlogged areas: The affected area falls in the south-western districts of Punjab. This area has ground water which is not fit for drinking due to the presence of salts and toxic elements. So the use was made of the surface water (canal waters) combined with treatment works. But the rise in the water-table has put out of action many works built earlier. The populace finds it hard to meet their drinking water needs. The Chief Minister of Punjab during his visits to the area had promised tanker water supply to the waterlogged villages. But uptill now this promise has not been kept.

Problem of Kandi areas: In this area the water-table is very deep but the water is sweet. So deep tubewells are being used for the supply of drinking water. But the water-table decline is being experienced in this zone also, resulting in decline in yield of the tubewells. This zone was promised water supply through various small dams built with the World Bank aid. As the distributary channels are yet to be completed, this source is not yet functional and the dams built are losing capacity due to silting. In some dams the annual loss of capacity is as high as 13 per cent.

Conclusion: The problem must be studied in depth and a master plan needs to be prepared. Mere cosmetic treatment will not solve the problem.


Decline in public sector outlay for agriculture
By V.P. Prabhakar

THERE is a widespread decline across the board in all the states in public sector capital outlay for agriculture. At the same time the regional disparities in agriculture persist.

The decline in the public sector capital outlay for agriculture is not confined to investment in irrigation projects; it is rather sharper in other heads related to agricultural development. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research is of the opinion that this declining trend should be reversed by increasing allocation in all the major states to check an adverse impact on the agriculture output.

Lack of complementarity between private and public investment, according to the annual report of the council, stands out prominently in the recent period and the flow of institutional credit has turned out to be a strong determinant of private investment in agriculture. As private investment is more effective compared to public investment for output growth, it would be prudent to encourage private investments through institutional credit support rather than relying mainly on public investment for inducing private investment and output growth. In particular, the flow of institutional credit should be increased in eastern states.

The public sector investment in agriculture had been rising till 1979-81 and thereafter the decline started with touching the lowest in 1991-92. After that, it slightly improved in 1994-95. On the other hand, there had been quite a substantial fluctuation in the private sector in this respect and it touched the peak of Rs 42,000 million in 1992-93. It came down to Rs 38,000 million in 1993-94 and again touched Rs 40,000 million in 1994-95.

As regards regional disparities in agriculture,concerted efforts were made during the 1980’s to spur at agricultural growth in low productivity and stagnant states. It is an important policy concern, according to the annual report of the ICAR, to find out whether such efforts have yielded dividend and reduced the gap between the rich and poor states. Agricultural income per rural person during the early 1980s was Rs 1,902 in Punjab, Rs 1,589 in Haryana and Rs 1,095 in Gujarat, whereas it was below Rs 700 in Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh. In fact, with Rs 457 Bihar was the lowest in the country.

During the recent triennium ending with year 1996-97 there is significant variation in per hectare and per person agricultural income across states. Also different states are moving on disparate growth path. As regards the growth potential of East India, agricultural growth in this region, except West Bengal, is showing signs of stagnation and deterioration. There is evidence that since 1980-81 regional divergence in agriculture productivity and income has grown.

In the trienniun ending 1996-97, the agriculture income per rural person was Rs 2,749 in Punjab, Rs 2,103 in Haryana, Rs 1,279 in Maharashtra, Rs 1,211 in Karnataka, Rs 1,138 in Rajasthan and Rs 1,103 in Gujarat. It was Rs 758 in Himachal Pradesh where it was Rs 671 in the 1980’s. It is quite surprising that it has gone down in three states of Assam, Bihar and Orissa. In Assam it has declined from Rs 734 to Rs 643, in Bihar from Rs 457 to Rs 375 and in Orissa from Rs 665 to Rs 539.

In Bihar, Kerala, Maharashtra and Rajasthan the participation of the private sector in agricultural extension activities was found limited to only few crops (especially horticultural crops) and select geographical regions (having high potential). Except farmers’ associations, producers’ cooperatives and state departments of agriculture, all other organisations spent little (less than Rs 20/ha) and employ very less manpower (1 for more than 10,000-500,000 cultivators) for extension activities. The state departments of agriculture continue to be the most important source of information for the farmers, though their emphasis on delivering technologies in non-foodgrain crops is low.

Only about 42 per cent of farmers are really satisfied with the present extension support available to them. The extent of satisfaction with the present extension support information available was the most important factor that discriminates farmers who are willing to pay for extension services. About 50 per cent farmers are willing to pay for quality-extension services, especially in the area of plant-protection advice and training programmes. The demand for paid extension services is high among farmers growing non-food crops (horticultural crops) and those having higher agricultural income per unit area.

Considerable scope, says the report, exists for initiating paid extension services in India. Public sector extension could either commercialise some of its services, if initiates quality services, and/or sets the environment for more active private sector participation in the provision of extension services. The public sector should concentrate on educational programmes for farmers, facilitating formation of farmers’ groups, building linkages with other technology providers and initiating paid consultancy services by maintaining a cadre of qualified staff at the district and sub-district levels. The present concentration of subject-matter specialists at these levels does not match these needs.



Cardinal tips on indoor plants
By Manish Kapoor

THE thrill and pleasure for indoor gardening is immense for those who lack open space for gardening. Indoor plants are a useful substitute to garden plants as these plants give a permanent display throughout the year. During the past few years, indoor plants that can thrive inside the house have become popular for interior decoration. These form an integral part of decoration in a house or building, compliment the interiors and add beauty to the architecture of the house. A proper environment is essential for the healthy growth of plants, which varies with different indoor plants.

Light: Most of the indoor plants need ample of good quality light, though a majority of them object to be exposed to direct sunlight. Thus, it is the keynote to place the indoor plants in the most lighted part of the room. In general green foliage plants require less sunlight than those with variegated or coloured foliage. Leaf, bud and flower dropping is the typical symptom of inadequate light. On the other hand, shade-loving plants show symptoms of wilting if placed in much light. The plants requiring a plenty of sunshine grow best on a south window, while those requiring medium light may be placed near east or west window and the shade-loving ones on the north window or dark corner.

Temperature: Ideal temperature for the growth of indoor plants is 15 to 25°C. A low temperature of 7°C can be tolerated by most indoor plants. Sharp fluctuations in temperature are harmful for their upkeep. The injury to indoor plants is usually due to warmer temperature and not due to cold resulting in weak and spindle shaped growth of plants and browning of leaves. If a plant is caught by frost it must be sprayed with cold water to help it recuperate.

Humidity: Most indoor plants prefer high or moderate humidity. However, the optimum relative humidity for them is 40 to 60 per cent. Plants suitable for hanging baskets can take low moisture conditions very well. Low humidity causes tip burning of leaves while very high humidity causes the outbreak of fungal and bacterial diseases. During summer the humidity can be increased by occasionally spraying fine mist of water on the foliage and sponging the leaves.

Watering: The requirement of water varies with different indoor plants. One of the main reasons for the injury/mortality of indoor plants is inadequate or over-watering. Sufficient water must be available for the plant to absorb nutrients from the soil or the medium. The kind, size, stage or growth of the plant, type and size of the pot, soil or medium used and the season decide the amount of water which must be provided to the plant. The plants with thin foliage require more water than with thick ones. Small pots, which dry out more rapidly, require frequent watering. Plants at the flowering stage need more watering as compared to those in the early stage of growth. A light (sandy) soil requires frequent watering than a heavy (clay) soil. During summers, more frequent watering is required than in winters.

Soil/medium: The most commonly used potting medium for indoor plants is soil mixture, containing equal parts of garden soil, organic matter (leaf mould, compost or farmyard manure) and course sand. One tablespoon of bone meal or superphosphate is sufficient for a 15-cm pot. The soil mixture should neither be too dry nor too wet at the time of potting. The other artificial/natural media that can be used instead of soil are vermiculite, perlite, solritre, plastic and wood shavings, sand, saw dust, fly ash, etc. They can be used in pure form or as mixture. Marble pebbles can be placed on the surface of the soil to give pleasing appearance to the pot.

Feeding: Generally the nutrients present in the medium containing soil and organic matter are adequate for the growth. However, they give more luxuriant growth with small and regular doses of nutrients. NPK complex (3 gm) may be applied to the plant once in a fortnight. Foliage and summer flowering plants should be fed in summer. While winter flowering ones in winter. In the dormant/resting period the plant should not be fed since it causes undesired forcing. Feeding should be given after repotting the pot-bound plant in a bigger pot. If a pot-bound plant is not to be repotted, replace the top few centimeters of soil with a mixture of soil and farmyard manure (1:1) to which a tablespoon of bone meal is added during spring.

Potting: A pot of appropriate size should be selected for potting, as in very large pot, soil nutrients are depleted by leaching before new roots develop and in small pot the plant becomes pot-bound. The pot should be cleaned and pebbles put over the drainage hole before potting. The plant should be set in the centre and filled with soil 1 to 2 cm below the rim of the pot for watering. The newly potted plant should be watered immediately and put in partial shade till it establishes.

Repotting: The plant is said to be pot-bound and needs repotting, when a plant grows slowly, soil dries out rapidly, the roots of a plant mat around its earth ball and grow out through the drainage hole. The pot chosen should be the next size larger. Slow growing plants do not require frequent repotting, while fast growing ones require shifting at least once a year. The plants should be repotted during the rainy season. After repotting, the plant should be thoroughly watered and kept in partial shade till it establishes.

Pinching, pruning and training: Pinching is the practice of removing the apical shoots or tips to encourage side growth, making the plant bushy e.g. in coleus, fuchsia, geranium, etc. Pruning is done to control the shape of the plant, stimulate new growth and production of better flowers e.g. rose, bougainvillea, etc. For supporting a climbing plant to climb, moss sticks are ideal. They are placed in the centre of the pot and the plant is trained on it.

Cleaning: The plants respire through the stomata on the leaves, thus it is necessary to keep these pores free from dust and grease. Indoor plants do not get washed in the rain, hence must be cleaned regularly by spraying lukewarm water. A small quantity of milk or a few drops of vinegar may be added to the water to improve the appearance of leaves. Cleaning the foliage with a solution of one teaspoon of ammonium carbonate dissolved in one litre of water brightens the leaves. To bring shine olive oil may also be used, but it tends to attract more dust.

Suggested plants

For south window: Acalypha, amaryllis, beloperone, broelioads, cacti, chrysanthemum, cycus, coleus, haemanthus, muscari, pelargonium, poinsettia, rose, zentedsescia and zephyranthues.

For east and west window: Anthurium, araucaria, beloperone, bromeliads, caladium, diffenbachia, dracaena, eucharis, ferns, ficus, fuchsia, gloxinia, hedera, palms, pandanus, rhododendron, tradescantia, zantedeschia and zebrina pendula.

For north window: Aglaonema, araucaria, aspidistra, begonia rex, bromeliads, chlorophytum, diffenbachia, ferns, hedera, monstera, papromia, philodendron, sanseviera, scindapsus, selaginella, tradescantia and zebrina pendula.

For dark corners: Araucaria, aspidistra, maranta, monstera, philodendron, sansevieria, scindapsus, selaginella, tradescantia and zebrina pendula.

Trailing/hanging plants: Asparagus, begonia pendula, tradescantia and zebrina pendula.

Climbing/trailing plants: Cycus, ficus pumila, hedera, hoya carnosa, philodendron and scindapsus.



Farm operations for August


Cauliflower: Sow 250 g seed of mid-season varieties like Punjab-26 and Giant Snowball in one-marla bed area. Irrigate the nursery beds with a watering can daily in the beginning and thrice a week thereafter. Treat the seed with 3g Captan or Thiram per kg of seed before sowing.

Root crops: From the last week of his month, start sowing Asiatic (Desi) varieties of radish (Pusa Chetki and Punjab Ageti), carrot (No. 29) and Turnip (4-White). Before sowing, add 50 kg of CAN, 155 kg of superphosphate and 40 kg of muriate of potash per acre. Prepare ridges 45 cm apart, dibble seed in fully moist conditions. Thereafter, apply light irrigation twice a week. Use 4 kg seed of radish, 5 to 6 kg seed of carrot and 2 kg seed of turnip to sow an acre.

Chilli: Apply the second dose of 12.5 kg of N (50 kg of CAN) per acre to the standing crop of chilli and irrigate. Pluck red ripe fruits once a fortnight to minimise shedding in the fields. Fully developed green fruits may be plucked for use as salad and pickle.

For control of fruit rot, spray the crop with 750 g of Indofil M 45 or Bilitox in 250 litres of water per acre at 10 days’ interval.

Bhindi and brinjal: Spray 100 ml Sumicidin or 40 ml Ambush 50 EC or 200 ml Ripcord 10 EC or 160 ml Decis 2.8 EC in 250 litres of water against fruit and shoot borer of brinjal.

In brinjal, a spider mite attack can be minimised by spraying 250 ml of Metasystox 25 EC or Rogor 30 EC in 250 litres of water.

The attack of jassid and fruit borer on bhindi can be reduced by spraying 500 ml of Malathion 50 EC or Rogor 30 EC in 250 litres of water.

Onion: From third week of this month start planting kharif onion crop both with bulbsets as well as seedlings. Apply 25 kg of urea, 155 kg of superphosphate and 40 kg of muriate of potash per acre before planting. Transplant seedlings at 15x10 cm distance and irrigate the field immediately after transplanting. Two to three days after planting, spray Stomp 30 EC @ one litre per acre in 200 litres of water to control weeds.


Permanent plants: The plantation of ornamental plants, shrubs and creepers can be continued in this month due to less mortality.

The growing tips of young bougainvillaea plants in pots should be pinched for desired shape and size.

Pot plants: Rooted cuttings or emerging suckers of pot plants should be planted in the pots. Overgrown pot plants may be prunned for proper shape of the plant.

Lawns: Grass can be planted in this month also according to the procedure already specified. Established lawns should be frequently mowed for carpet-like effect.

Chrysanthemum: Rooted cuttings planted in pots last month should be trained accordingly to their types viz. standard and spray type. In the large flowered standard-type varieties, the plants are pinched if more than one branch is desire i.e. two to three main branches.

The small flowered spray-type varieties should be pinched by removing terminal buds when the plant height is 8 to 10 cm. This helps in the emergence of secondary branches to have a large number of flowers of uniform size. Again the growth of secondary branches is stopped by pinching the tips of secondary branches and so on until desirable shape and size of plant is achieved.

Roses: Regular weeding of roses should be done and suckers removed. As the attack of red scales start with the first shower of monsoon, Rogor @ 2 ml/litre of water should be sprayed. Indofil M 45 @ g/litre of water should be sprayed to check black spoot disease.

— Progressive Farming, PAU