AGRICULTURE TRIBUNE Monday, November 27, 2000, Chandigarh, India

Land management in Shivalik foothills
HE Shivalik foothill region, known as Kandi belt, is spread in the north-western state of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana. 
  • Problems of Shivalik region

  • Management practices to increase production

Asia’s useful trees and plants
ETULA is a beautiful Himalayan tree. It generally grows naturally in higher hilly terrain having altitude between 3000 m to 4000 m above mean sea level.

Zero-tillage technology in Haryana
OWING of wheat is going on these days and if you happen to visit the fields along the highways you might get the impression that sowing is yet to take place since you would find paddy straw strewn all over the fields.

Dairy and poultry operations






Land management in Shivalik foothills
By S.P. Mittal and Pratap Singh

THE Shivalik foothill region, known as Kandi belt, is spread in the north-western state of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana. Denuded hills, undulating agricultural fields, too high or too low rainfall, lack of resources to invest on costly measures for land improvement and other inputs like improved seed and fertilisers, and crippled initiative because of inadequate returns, are typical features of farming in the Shivalik foothills. Land holdings in general are very small. The farmers venture to cultivate even prohibitive slopes. The present farming practices are rather a high risk and low-gain system.

The area falls in the sub-tropical, agro-ecological zone, having extremes of temperatures in summer and winter. The average annual rainfall of the region varies from 800 to 1200 mm. About 80 per cent of the annual rainfall is received from June to September. Rains of long duration and high intensify are rather a common feature.

The soils belong to mixed hyperthermic family of coarse, loamy, typic ustochrepts. The soils in agricultural lands are sandy loam to loam, very deep, having pebbles 15 to 20 per cent by volume. The soils are highly prone to erosion. The fertility in general is poor.

Problems of Shivalik region

Most of the cultivated lands are rainfed except very little area irrigaterd by kuhls. The common crops raised in the region are maize, urad, mung and jowar for fodder in kharif and wheat, gram, lentil, mustard and taramira in rabi. Low productivity and crop failures are common. The main reasons for low crop yields and crop failure are erratic rainfall pattern, topographical limitations, excess runoff and soil loss, traditional methods of cultivation and poor socio-economic condition of the people.

Management practices to increase production

Land improvement: The faulty management practices and over-exploitation of land and water resources are limiting the agricultural production. The problems of soil and water conservation in agricultural land are more acute and severe in terms of yield reduction. Soil conservation practices viz. bench terracing, field bunding, land levelling, proper drainage and land configurations are very effective in conserving soil and water and maximising crop production. The following practices are recommended to improve productivity.

Bench terracing: On sloping and undulating lands, farming should be practised only with bench terracing. Initial cost of bench terracing is more than that of bunding but it helps in better retention of soil, moisture, manure and fertiliser and facilitates application of irrigation, if available.

Land levelling and bunding: The first and foremost need is to level the land and develop into terraces of suitable size 1 to 2 per cent slope. Land levelling with proper grade and provision for disposal of surplus rainwater, resulted in an increase in yield of maize from 910 kg/ha to 3000 kg/ha (230 per cent). Besides, land levelling also reduces runoff and soil loss considerably. At Central Soil Conservation Research Farm, Mansa Devi, land levelling and terracing over an area of 4.6 ha yielded on an average 22.5 per cent runoff and 2.78 t/ha soil loss.

Stabilisation of field bunds: Most of the farmers in the region hesitate to make field bunds of adequate section thinking that this would involve a loss of area for crops and huge investment on construction. However, small section bunds are frequently damaged and require repairs every now and then. It has been found that field bunds can be protected from frequent breaches by planting bhabbar grass (eulaliopsis binata) on top and sides of the field bunds. Besides protection, the farmers can harvest about 200 kg of air dry bhabbar grass from a 100 running metre field bund which amounts to an additional income of Rs 500. Other suitable grasses which can be planted on field bunds include hybrid napier (pennisetum purpureum) and sarkanda (saccharum munja). The former provides much-needed green fodder, while the latter material for thatching.

Disposal of runoff water: High intensity rains create erosion and inundation problems if proper disposal system for runoff water is not provided. It is therefore, necessary that masonry box type or RCC pipe outlets are provided at the lower end of the fields. The runoff water from the fields should be led to a grassed waterway and then to the natural course so that it does not cause any soil erosion problem.

Conservation agronomic practices: Soil conservation practices are basically aimed at reducing the runoff velocity and to increase opportunity time for the rainwater to infiltrate into the soil profile. The various in-situ moisture conservation practices and improved agro-techniques found suitable for the region to increase and stabilise productivity are enumerated as follows:

Contour farming: Up and down method of cultivation is a common practice in the region. It facilitates rainwater to gain velocity, thereby causing more runoff and soil erosion. On the other hand, when cultural operations are done across the slope i.e. along the contour, ridges and furrows are made in the fields which would intercept rainwater and facilitate its infiltration into the soil. The rainwater so conserved will be available to the crops and is reflected in higher yields. At the centre’s research farm maize yield increased by about 24 per cent by adopting contour farming practice alone.

Mulching: It refers to the use of crop residues, organic manures and other litter as well as synthetic material like polyethylene sheet etc., for the purpose of reducing the impact of rain drops, runoff, soil loss and evaporation. In regions of low rainfall, mulching helps conserve moisture and in high rainfall areas it reduces runoff and soil loss which are reflected in an increase in crop yields. Application of grass mulch after the harvest of maize resulted in 25 to 58 per cent increase in the wheat yield, depending on the quantity of mulch applied. Similarly, yield of rainfed mustard increased by 21 to 51, gram 19 to 43 and taramira 20 to 51 per cent with grass mulch application.

Strip cropping: In this system farm crops are raised in narrow strips by growing erosion permitting (maize, sorghum) and erosion resisting (pulse) crops. Strip cropping is simple, cheap and very effective soil conservation practice which can be adopted by the farmers of the region easily. Strip cropping not only ensures safety against drought, pests and insects but also gives higher returns. In studies conducted at the research farm it was observed that raising maize and guara (cyamopsis tetragonoloba) in alternate strips recorded the minimum runoff and soil loss as against pure maize. However, strip cropping of maize and black gram gave the maximum returns as against maize alone.

Weed control: No-weeding in maize is a common practice in the region. Weeds are allowed to grow with crop for fodder. Among the various factors for low productivity of crops, competition due to weeds, plays an important role. Weeds reduce the productivity of crops by competiting for essential factors for growth, allelopathic effects, inducing attack of diseases, insects and pests, and reducing the efficiency of farm operations. In studies conducted at the centre’s research farm it was found that pre-emergence spray of atrazine, @ 2.5 kg per ha, followed by weeding at 15 and 30 days after sowing increased the maize yield by 145 per cent.

Land configurations: Appropriate land configurations, such as formation of ridges and furrows, broad-based beds, terracing and compartmental bunding hold great promise for in-situ conservator of water and plant nutrients. Based on the topography, soil and rainfall pattern, the ridge and furrow system not only reduces runoff and soil loss but also increases maize yield by 141 per cent as compared to conventional method of sowing.

Alley cropping: Alley cropping is an agroforestry system in which arable crops are grown in between perennial hedgerows of shrubs or trees spaced at regular intervals. This system not only provides the foodgrain but also provides the much-needed biomass like fuel, fodder and timber. This system has the most apparent potential in marginal areas and resource limiting small holder system to meet the varied demands of the farmers. In studies conducted at the centre’s research farm, soobabool (leucaena leucocephala) has been found to be quite compatible with kharif crops. However, the maximum returns were obtained with soobabool plus cluster bean (guara).

It is, thus, evident that various soil conservation measures and agronomic practices can bring about significant increase in crop productivity along with reduction in runoff and soil loss under rainfed condition in the region. These practices may have to be modified as per requirement. 


Asia’s useful trees and plants
By K.L. Noatay

BETULA is a beautiful Himalayan tree. It generally grows naturally in higher hilly terrain having altitude between 3000 m to 4000 m above mean sea level. That is the uppermost altitudinal limit for the growth of the tree, also called the tree line. No other tree grows above this sage amongst trees. In the north-eastern Indian hills, as also in Burma, the betula is, however, found growing at lesser heights, like 1500 m to 2000 m as well. The name of the family of betula being betuleae, the three individual members found growing in the Himalayas as betula utilis, B. alnoides and B. cylindrostychys.

The betula grows in the western continents as well. The species found in Canada is B. papyracea and the one found in Europe is B. alba. The English name for the species being birch, its common name in Asia is bhoj pattar.

The betula is a medium-sized deciduous tree. Its bark is shinning white. It comprises of papery matter which easily peals into several horizontal layers of papers of fine quality. The product can be collected, carried and stored in convenient rolls. This is the stuff used by ancient sages and saints as paper for writing the pauranik scriptures. In addition to the utility of betula bark as writing paper, it has traditionally been used for making umbrellas, hooka tubes, canoes, roofing material for houses, packaging, etc. Betula twigs twisted into ropes and used to be utilised for making suspension foot bridges. The foliage is lopped for fodder for cattle. The bark is also used by Hindus in a variety of manners in their worship and religious rites.

Now, since the betula is found in remote and generally inaccessible hills, procuring its bark has always been difficult.

In addition to the utility of its bark as writing surface, betula wood, weighing out 20 kg per cubic foot, is moderately hard and fairly strong. It is good as a firewood and also acceptable for making charcoal. In areas where any other good timber for construction of houses in hard to find, mature bhoj pattar wood is used as the last resort.

Betula being a slow-growing species, usually attains 1.5 m girth and about 20 m height in approximately 100 years. The species generally tends to grow gregariously in pure stands. However, it also grows in mixed stands among junipers, firs and other high level broad-leaved trees.

Lastly, whereas today’s man, being scientifically and industrially much advanced, may not need the Betulas for paper, we certainly need these for their invaluable utilities like a protective cover against soil erosion, a barricade around and above hamlets against avalanches and last but not the least their moderating effect on the environment.

May we all, therefore, not only protect and conserve but also propagate the beautiful betulas whenever and wherever feasible.


Zero-tillage technology in Haryana
By Gurmeet Singh

SOWING of wheat is going on these days and if you happen to visit the fields along the highways you might get the impression that sowing is yet to take place since you would find paddy straw strewn all over the fields. However, you might be in for a surprise since it is now possible for farmers to sow the seed without going through the task of preparing the fields, thanks to zero-tillage machine, which has come as a boon for them.

The technology has come in handy, especially in areas where farmers have adopted the paddy wheat cycle. Earlier, they had to plough the fields eight to 10 times and clear them of paddy straw to prepare seed bed for sowing wheat. While it used to be time consuming and expensive, it also added to the environmental hazards as some farmers used to burn the straw to clear the fields which created air pollution and decreased fertility of the soil. In fact, according to reports of the Punjab Pollution Control Board, the air pollution in October and November every year increases due to the burning of paddy straw. Besides, the traditional methods of sowing had their limitations since it used to be done manually. The zero-tillage machine has, however, changed the entire scenario.

Using the new technology, the residue of paddy is decomposed in the field which helps in increasing the soil fertility. Wheat can be sown nearly 10 to 15 days early using this method since there is no need of “pre-sowing” irrigation.

Wheat is one of the principal crops in Haryana grown in more than 23 lakh hectares. The productivity of wheat had stagnated after 1990-91. Several factors are being cited for the stagnation, including delay in sowing of wheat after the harvest of basmati rice, menace of phalaris-minor weed (mandusi), reduced fertiliser use efficiency due to method of application, reduced organic matter content in the soil and excessive tillage.

According to the Director, Agriculture, Haryana, Mr Rajiv Arora, sowing of wheat by zero-tillage machine takes place directly in the fields without any ploughing, thus providing an integrated solution to these problems.

“The technology is simple and cost-effective,” he says, adding that a machine costs about Rs 10,000. He says for its quick adoption it is important to change the mindset of the farmers so that they give up the traditional methods of sowing. The machine, introduced about three years ago, has evoked a good response from farmers. Mr Arora adds: “Last year, the new technology was used for sowing wheat in 25,000 hectares and this season it is expected to be used in one lakh hectares.”

Explaining the new technology, the Additional Director, Mr R.S. Mehla, says the seed is drilled straight in the field with the residue of paddy remaining intact in the field. The fertiliser (DAP) is placed directly under the seed by the zero-tillage machine which increases the use efficiency of the fertiliser resulting in a higher yield. Mr Mehla claims that the new technology saves Rs 1,000 per hectare on account of tilling.

The Agriculture Department, with a view to popularising the machine in areas where it is yet to find acceptability with farmers, is holding demonstrations. In the paddy-wheat belt of Karnal, Kurukshetra and Kaithal, the technology has already found favour with farmers.

However, farmers lament that though the machine is useful, it is difficult for a marginal farmer to buy it since the government is not providing any subsidy.

To improve the rice-wheat system, the department is also demonstrating other technologies like sowing of wheat on bed and sowing of rice on beds for conservation of water which is becoming scarce. The department has also acquired a precision leveller, which does perfect levelling.


Dairy and poultry operations


— In order to avoid repeat breeding, the cows should be got inseminated during mid heat and buffaloes towards the end heat. Watch the animals in the early and late hours of the day for symptoms of heat. Vaginal discharge should be colourless and the animal should be got inseminated when the vaginal discharge attains thick consistency.

— The animals should be got examined for pregnancy after three months of insemination or mating.

— Make preparation to protect the young calves and animals (especially exotic and crossbreeds) from cold and wet weather.

— Vaccination against foot and mouth and gal ghotu diseases be done in young calves and adult animals.

— Disbudding should be done before one month of age.

— Under limited supply of green fodders, feed silage, give mineral mixture 50 g per animal per day and 20 g common s~ t/ animal/day. Do not feed rice straw to animals

— Watch carefully the infestation of ticks in calves and take adequate measures for its prevention and control.

— Deworm the calves with Piperazine liquid )1 ml/4.5 kg, body weight) regularly at 15 days’ interval and monthly up to three months of age and three monthly up to one year of age.

— Protect the young calves from cold weather.


— Cull unproductive birds if birds are of 18 months of age or above.

— Prepare curtains, if needed, for the coming winter for poultry sheds to avoid sudden downfall in temperature in the shed.

— Vaccinate the birds against the Ranikhet disease and fowlpox, if not already done.

— If paddy straw is available, the same can be put on the roof to protect the birds from cold during winter.

— Keep poultry sheds clean, dry and warm.

— Do not, store the feed beyond 15 days period.


— Remove newspaper sheets after two weeks of spawning and cover the spawn run compst with disinfected casing soil as recommended.

— Continue spray of water directly on the easing soil.

— Provide cross ventilation a week after casing.

—Small pins start appearing. Two weeks after casing which mature into fruiting bodies in a week’s time.

— Cultivation of dhingri also to be continued.

— Progressive Farming, PAU