AGRICULTURE TRIBUNE Monday, February 5, 2001, Chandigarh, India

Soil, fertility build-up in dry temperate zone
By C.L. Bhardwaj
TRIVING to attain high growth rates through techniques of maximum output is the ultimate aim of sustainable progress of different sectors of research and development for better standard of living. The ever-growing human population has resulted in increasing needs of human beings. 

Asia’s useful trees, plants
By K.L. Noatay
ANAFSHAH is a small herbaceous plant belonging to the family violacae. It grows wild on somewhat damp but moderately sunny aspects of the Himalayan and Shivalik ranges in India and similar hills in the adjoining countries from Burma in the east to Afghanistan and Hazara in the west.

Inadequate monitoring of cattle schemes
By V.P. Prabhakar
HE review of the Animal Husbandry Department of Haryana highlights the deficient programme management and inadequate monitoring of the various schemes, including the centrally sponsored schemes. Budgetary estimates were deficient and expenditure control systems were ineffective.




Soil, fertility build-up in dry temperate zone
By C.L. Bhardwaj

STRIVING to attain high growth rates through techniques of maximum output is the ultimate aim of sustainable progress of different sectors of research and development for better standard of living. The ever-growing human population has resulted in increasing needs of human beings. The phenomenon has compelled man to exploit different resources of inexhaustible and exhaustible nature at a rapid rate under coverage of an ecology or agroecology, where he dwells in and survives or aspires for a better living. This process has not only impaired the quality of inexhaustible resources such as sun, air, water and soil but has also brought to a greater extent depletion, extinction and lack of exhaustible resources such as fertility of soil, wildlife and shortage of coal, fuel, minerals, gases and so on. So much so in agriculture development, the much-lauded Green Revolution has deteriorated soil and fertility build-up under intensive agriculture land use and input applications of different kinds in order to harvest the maximum output over time and space.

The ability of soil to provide nutrients, water and aerated physical matrix for root growth constitute three ancillary characters of soil for obtaining the maximum output of crops and crop varieties as well as their tolerance ability to abiotic and biotic factors of stress both important in stabilising production per unit area, including quality. The natural food source that supports the life of flora and fauna (directly or indirectly) is the plant biomass living or nonliving/dead (litter), excreta/faeces of living kinds or decomposed (organic matter) added to the soil. Plant nutrients (mobile or immobile) on which growth of plants of crops vis-a-vis vegetation depends, can only be taken up when they are in inorganic or simpler form (i.e. nitrogen as ammonia or nitrate). The decay of plant litter or wastes of different kinds, origin and utility vis-a-vis formation of soil organic matter (SOM) is an important function of nutrient cycling (macro and micronutrients) or their availability in an ecosystem or agro-ecosystem. The natural and artificial process of soil and its fertility is a continuous and slow process determined by parent material of soil formation of different kinds. However, the degree of aggregation and spatial distribution (both vertical and horizontal) of the original composition and size of particles of different fractions is strongly influenced by organic matter and organism involved in decomposition of different kinds of decomposable substrates such as plant/crop residues/litter, industrial and city wastes. The system leads and attributes to complex formation of organic matter or decomposed materials of several kinds, the addition and formation of which imposes different effects (positive or negative) on crop yields, soil biology and the environment. A change in the aggregation and size distribution of soil particles influences water content and movement vis-a-vis the water holding capacity. The change also influences more space and aeration, hence the retention and supply of nutrients, water and oxygen to plants, including activities of soil flora and fauna involved in the formation of quality and quantity of organic matter.

Keeping in view the above scientific knowledge generated on soil and fertility build up, farmers world-over perhaps since centuries knowingly or unknowingly practised and experienced (even before the invention of chemical fertilisers) the value of addition of farmyard manure, including decomposed materials of utility to obtain higher yields of crops or vegetation.

In Himachal Pradesh the soil texture of dry and temperate regions is very fragile and comprises sandy to sandy loam. It is susceptible to high natural wind velocities and snow melting process of soil erosion as well as low input efficiency of chemical fertilisers, especially nitrogenous, and also poor irrigation efficiency. In order to obtain higher crop yields and increase biomass production per unit area, all these factors contribute to faster deterioration of soil and its fertility, besides involvement of high input costs. In coarse-textured soils as of the dry temperate zone or those in which clays have low action exchange capacity, the nutrient retention and their availability to crop depends upon the maintenance of organic colloids. Therefore, in order to bring improvement in biological management of soil, the tribal farmers also adopt preparation of farmyard manure and other composts from crop and pine needle residues during crops season. For this activity tribal farmers devote much time, since green manuring cannot be practiced due to a short cropping season, small land holdings and climactic factors. Intuitively and experimentally, there is lack of addition of organic matter as per requirement of the soil due to low biomass production (crop or natural canopy residues) in the region.

The rate of decomposition and formation of soil organic matter is higher under warm and wet conditions. Hence, this factor is of consideration for natural and artificial formation of composts/organic matter. There is no evidence that microbiology of soils of warm regions differs from those in the temperate regions. The decomposition or formation of organic matter is the process of biological disintegration mainly by soil organism involved either in breaking down, disintegration of plant and animal tissues of several kinds, intermingling/turning over of organic matter and by enzymatic digestion processes of metabolism and catabolism of specific kinds of micro-organisms on specific decomposable substrates. The macro, meso and micro-organisms of different taxonomic groups of invertebrates commonly called as earthworms, annalids (enchytaeids), insects (mostly of order collembola), nematodes (eelworms), mites (acarina), snails and slugs (molluscas) and protozoa as well as species belonging to fungi, bacteria and actinomycetes predominant under warm and wet conditions, help in decomposition of organic matter. Moreover, in order to achieve faster and quality decomposition of organic materials, the most efficient microorganisms can also be deployed.

Apart from this, the farmers of the zone have adopted leguminous and low-nitrogen responsive crops such as pea and rajmash by replacing a sizeable land holding under potato cultivation under different agro-ecological niches, later being high nitrogen responsive. Diversification of the crops in this direction is beneficial for conserving soil and its fertility, besides amelioration of ill-effects of continuous application of chemical fertilisers and also by curtailing number of irrigations.


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

BANAFSHAH is a small herbaceous plant belonging to the family violacae. It grows wild on somewhat damp but moderately sunny aspects of the Himalayan and Shivalik ranges in India and similar hills in the adjoining countries from Burma in the east to Afghanistan and Hazara in the west. The altitude of its natural habitant varies from 400m to 2500m above mean sea level.

Staturewise, the Banafshah plant is approximately 10 to 15 cm high. Its leaves are heart-shaped like those of peepul (ficus religiousa), but of comparatively lesser diameter, i.e. approximately 2 to 5 cm. Its flowers are solitary axillary. These have nods. The colour is deep violet inside and white at the base. Its fruit capsules are roundish in shape having a three-angled section. The flowers appear during February-March. The fruit appears during April-May. The seeds ripen in June and are shed by middle of July.

The flowers of banafshah contain violin, rutin, cyanin, elements. The herb is considered as an expectorant, diaphoretic, antipyretic and diuretic. The flowers are emollient, demulcent and household remedy for cough, sore throat, hoarseness and many ailments among infants. The leaves are considered relief giver against cancerous growth and pain, especially in mouth and throat.

The going price of dried banafshah flowers in foreign countries being nearly $ 10 per kg, the Indian traders accept the dried herb from village folk at the rate of Rs 200 to Rs 300 per kg. Any enterprising person interested in picking these flowers from a slope having luxuriant growth of the herb can pick up to 1 kg of the flowers by devoting nearly one hour. The picking when dried (gradually in shade) will weigh nearly 100 gm of the herb which can fetch up to Rs 25 in the local market.

The banafshah plant comes up naturally in a cool and moist loamy soil on vacant slopes of its natural habitat. It can also be grown from seed and root cuttings. Grown around inhabited localities, it can serve as a decorative plant in addition to the medicinal value. However, keeping in view the heavy demand of the herb in local as well international market, for use in the ayurvedic and Unani systems of medicine and also the use of its elements in allopathic pharmacology, it is highly desirable that the herb is cultivated in all available vacant spaces, especially fallow patches in agricultural holdings, grasslands and forest slopes, which will earn foreign exchange. 


Inadequate monitoring of cattle schemes
By V.P. Prabhakar

THE review of the Animal Husbandry Department of Haryana highlights the deficient programme management and inadequate monitoring of the various schemes, including the centrally sponsored schemes. Budgetary estimates were deficient and expenditure control systems were ineffective. The Director did not submit detailed bills for Rs 6.58 crore for purchase of medicines, equipment and fodder/feeds, and this needed investigations.

Production of green fodder, according to the report, was short-achieved to the extent of 25 to 31 per cent. Short yield of fodder and fodder seed in the government livestock farm and seed farms caused a huge loss of Rs 16 crore in three years (1995-98). The artificial insemination programme was mismanaged and essential equipment etc were not provided adequately to veterinary institutions and dispensaries. Two hundred veterinary dispensaries did not have requisite staff and were non-functional. The Secretary to the government failed to ascertain the actual condition of the veterinary institutions from the departmental officers and initiate corrective actions.

At a meeting of the deputy directors held in September, 1996, every officer at the district level was asked to inspect veterinary institutions under their charge and submit an evaluation report of the activities undertaken by them every month. However, none of the officers submitted such reports to the Directorate from 1996-97 to 1997-98.

The establishment expenditure was 91 per cent of the total expenditure of the department. Non-plan expenditure exceeded the original budget provision by 22 to 28 per cent during 1995-98.

Persistent savings occurred from 35 to 100 per cent under three other sub-heads (nine schemes) over the budget estimates during 1995-98, indicating ineffective budgetary control. The director prepared budget estimates without adequate database and information. No timely action was taken to reconcile the departmental expenditure with the Accountant General’s figures.

Under the cattle development programme, targets for artificial insemination in cows and buffaloes for 1996-97 and 1997-98 and for calf born in 1995-96 were not fixed and these activities were not monitored. In this programme, 19 schemes were operative. There were 2216 veterinary institutions in the state which undertook artificial insemination for cows and buffaloes for improving breeds. There was a shortfall in artificial insemination done in cows in the districts of Faridabad, Gurgaon, Hisar, Kaithal, Karnal, Rohtak and Sirsa, and in buffaloes in the districts of Faridabad, Gurgaon, Hisar, Jind, Kaithal, Karnal, Kurukshetra. Rewari, Rohtak and Sonepat in 1995-96. Lower achievements were attributed to irregular supply of semen liquid nitrogen gas, non-availability of proper artificial insemination equipment, etc.

The department did not compile the milk yield of the improved breed of calves born of artificial insemination when grown up as cows and buffaloes.

There was a shortfall in providing fodder to the herd strength at the state breeding project, Hisar, by 32 to 41 per cent and 29 to 64 per cent, respectively, in 1995-98. The project director stated that the shortfall in the supply of fodder and mineral concentrate ration to the herd was due to insufficient production of fodder.

Two liquid nitrogen gas plants installed in 1980 at the project had the capacity of providing six litres of liquid nitrogen gas per hour. Both these remained out of order during 1995-98 and could not be repaired for want of spares. The production of liquid nitrogen gas, therefore, was nil during 1995-96 and negligible thereafter, that is 0.3 litre per hour during 1996-97 and 0.7 litre per hour during 1997-98. To meet the requirement of liquid nitrogen gas for deep freezing of collected semen, the project purchased 53,923 litres of liquid nitrogen gas from the market at an expenditure of Rs 4.86 lakh (up to December, 1997).

The dairy section of the project had 94 to 132 average number of cows in milk during 1994-97. A scrutiny of annual progress reports of the project revealed that the average milk yield at the project declined from 2,549 litres per cow per annum in 1994-95 to 2,181 litres in 1996-97. However, in 1997-98, the milk yield increased to 2,693 litres per cow. The decline in average milk yield during 1994-97 was attributable as per department mainly to providing feed and fodder concentrate ration to cows in lesser quantities than required.

The project director stated that the performance of the project had suffered mainly due to allotment of less budget and non-replacement of worn out farm machinery.




— December-sown wheat needs second irrigation. In the light-textured soil, the third dose of nitrogen may be applied through 27 kg urea/acre after the second irrigation.

— Wheat plants affected with flag smut should be rogued out and burnt to reduce the inoculum potential for next year.


— To save the oilseed crops from frost damage, irrigation may be applied at the time of sowing.

— In case severe incidence of mustard aphid is noticed then spray the crop with 400 ml Metasystox 25 EC/Rogor 20 EC/Thiodan 35 EC/Ekalux 25 EC/ Anthio 25 EC/Malathion 50 EC or 600 ml of Dursban/Coroban 20 EC or 60-100 ml Dimecron/Cildon/Phosolic 65 SL in 125 litres of water per acre. This spray must be carried out in the afternoon when the pollinators are less active.

— To check alternaria blight on raya pods, the crop may be sprayed with 250 g/acre Blitox 50 WP or Indofil M-45 in 100 litres of water.


— Sowing of sunflower should be completed at the earliest as delayed sowing causes reduction in yield and give preference to early maturing hybrids like NSFH-592, GKSFH-2002. Under such situations transplanting of one-month old seedlings of sunflower hybrids gives better yield than seedling during this month. Late sown crop also matures late and delays the sowing of the succeeding crop. Sow the crop in row 60 cm apart with plant-to-plant spacing of 30 cm. The sunflower performs better when planted on southern side of east-west ridges. Place the seed about 6-8 cm below the ridge top. Apply irrigation to ridge sown crop 2-3 days after sowing. Take care that water level in the ridges remains well below the seed placement line.

— Treat the seed with Thiram @ 2g/kg of seed before sowing. Two kg seed is sufficient for sowing one acre.

— Apply 50 kg of urea and 75 kg of single superphosphate at the time of sowing. Also drill 20 kg of muriate of potash on soils testing low in potassium.

— Cut worm damage in sunflower can be prevented by applying 2 litres of Chlorpyriphos 20 EC after mixing with 10 kg of soil at the time of sowing in the field. Crop sown on ridges is also found to be less attacked by this pest.


— Start sowing of sugarcane from second fortnight of this month. Use recommended varieties i.e CoJ-85, CoJ-86, CoJ-83, CoP-211, CoJ-64 (early maturing), CoJ-82, CoJ-84, CoS-8436 for mid-season and C0-1148 (late maturing variety).

— The seed selected for planting should be free from diseases like red rot, wilt, smut, ratoon-stunting and grassy shoot. Disinfect cane setts in 0.5 per cent (500 g in 100 litres of water) Agallol 3% or 0.25 per cent (250 g in 100 liters of water) solution of Aretan 6%/Bagallol 6%/Emisan 6%.

— To check the attack of terminate and early shoot borer to the germinated crops. Sprinkle 2 litres of Lindane 20 EC diluted in 500 litres of water or apply 7.5 kg granules of Sevidol 4:4 G per acre on cane setts in furrows at the time of sowing.

— Application of Atrataf 50 WP (Atrazine) Sencor 70 WP (Metribuzin) or Karmex 80 WP/Hexuron 80 WP (Diuron) @ 800g/acre as pre-emergence application provide effective control of annual grasses and broadleaf weeds.

— Sugarcane may be planted after applying 65 kg of urea per acre.

— Progressive Farming, PAUTop