|AGRICULTURE TRIBUNE||Monday, February 12, 2001, Chandigarh, India|
Scientists x-ray Shivalik region
Is dairying losing credibility?
Mushroom is meat for vegetarians
Scientists x-ray Shivalik region
THE Shivaliks or the outer Himalayas, according to Hindu mythology, derive their name from the tresses of Lord Shiva.
The word was first used by Cautley (1832) in a purely geographical sense for the sedimentary sequences exposed between the Ganga and the Yamuna near Hardwar. He had spelled it as Siwalik. Since then it has been variously spelled in literature Siwalik, Sivalik, Sewalik, Shiwalik and Shivalik.
May that be so. These Shivaliks of north-west states, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, are spread over three million hectares and, perhaps, represent the most fragile eco-system in the country. The Shivalik range extends to a length of 2,400 km with a width of 24 km, possessing a great potential for biomass production.
The Shivaliks, besides much else, also form a splendid backdrop to the City Beautiful. It is synonymous with it. Over a period of time, these low hills, criss-crossed and dotted with perennial springs and gentle streams got morphed into wide, deep and ferocious torrents (choes). Gone too was a period when the Shivalik hills were strictly preserved for hunting and no cultivation, grazing or exploitation of timber was permitted.
With the advent of time, the once lush green hills were denuded and stripped of vegetation affecting flora and fauna.
Soon unrestricted tree felling and over-grazing began to play havoc in the hills. Human population increased and so did density of livestock much beyond the caring and carrying capacity of the Shivaliks. Mismanagement and squandering of nature’s habitat resulted in degradation of land as well as water resources. Alarm bells sounded and in-stepped scientists from the Central Soil and Water Conservation Research and Training Institute’s Chandigarh-based Research Centre. It is playing the lead role.
These scientists were soon joined by fellow researchers of the states concerned. Thus, began a study of the Shivaliks, how to re-seed and preserve (till posterity) its pristine glory, tackling problems and needs of the people nestling in the hills and creating a model for the country to emulate. All this while "man" and "nature" were kept in focus.
Scientists took upon themselves the responsibility to re-do the Shivaliks by strengthening its ecology, economy and biodiversity. Only 18 per cent of the Shivalik hill area is irrigated.
In the process of reviving the Shivaliks, scientists encountered undulating topography and a plethora of problems, mostly man-made. They had also to change the mind-set that made community participation as arduous a task as growing crops, conserving, recharging and storing water for drinking as well as irrigation. Earthen dams came up. Keeping grazing at bay was as much of a problem as stopping women from gathering firewood or cutting grass to serve as fodder, raw material for hut-building or rope-making.
Today the Shivaliks show off the metamorphosis that has changed the very face of the place infusing a new spirit in the people and rehabilitating the degraded eco-system. One has just to drive down to villages like Sukhomajri, Bunga and Relmajra to see the change. If all the five states in shadow of the Shivaliks were to pool their sources and resources, much of the problems that man first created then helplessly suffered, can be countered.
All the effort made by way of investment in time, labour, dedication, patience and perseverance by scientists in the Shivaliks is compiled in the form of a 506-page book: Fifty Years of Research on Sustainable Resource Management in Shivaliks.
It is a painstaking effort by three scientists, S. P. Mittal, R.K. Aggarwal and J. S. Samra, who have compiled and edited the scientific works, research, field surveys and studies and experiences of as many as 86 scientists who have contributed to the publication recounting their experiences gained through experimentation and involvement of the hill people.
S.P. Mittal is a principal scientist at the Central Soil and Water Conservation Research and Training Institute, Research Centre, Chandigarh, R.K. Aggarwal is head, coordinating research and development projects on integrated watershed management of the Shivalik region and J.S. Samra is a Director at Dehra Dun.
The book, a reference guide, is divided into seven sections, each giving a distinct profile of the Shivaliks. The minutest details mentioned in the chapters literally x-ray the hills and scan the people. These sections deal with geology, soil and appraisal of natural resources; problems and prospects of forest management; watershed management and community participation; hydrology and soil conservation; water resource development; land use planning and productivity; and grassland management and eco-system.
These themes form a pattern portraying a perspective. It is a book which should serve as an eye-opener for those who fiddle with the nature’s preserve and have scant respect and care for the mine of wealth it provides. In the foreword, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research Director-General, Dr R. S. Paroda, writes "Natural resource conservation should be at the core of land planning in the Shivaliks. The common property resource management, joint management of forests, equity issues and empowering of women and the landless are important issues which should be interwoven in natural resource management programme."
The Shivaliks today present a highly dissected "bad-land topography" created by ephemeral streams of various genetic types. Weathering effect and denudation have produced a variety of erosional land form features as rills, gullies, scraps, and variously shaped ridges and amphitheater-shaped basins, say the editors.
One stunning example will do to show what the Shivaliks have suffered with the passage of time. The land affected by choes in Hoshiarpur district alone increased from 194 sq km in 1852 to 286 sq km in 1886 and to 2,000 sq km by 1939. Today, about 3,000 sq km area is affected by choes in Punjab.
Is dairying losing credibility?
INFLUX of foreign milk into the Indian market has made the situation panicky. Milk cooperatives and various milk unions have slashed rates in anticipation of the price war. But do we need to be panic. There is a need for introspection. Today the market scenario is a more consumer-oriented. Providing quality food for growing population without environmental degradation is the greatest challenge in this century. While demographic projections indicate that the human population will expand to seven billion by the year 2020. The statistics reveals that a considerable demand of milk and value added livestock products would prevail in future. Indian market has to target foreign market for exports, besides catering to the domestic needs. It is, however, worth noting that dairying in the western countries is fast approaching a plateau.
While Indian dairying has a sliver lining, it has an ample scope for adopting some strategic livestock production techniques and raise productivity. Scientific dairying coupled with evolution of a good market can synergistically take care of the dairy industry. The market for dairying is evergreen but is yet to be fully tapped. As per FAO estimates, Third World countries will have to produce 143 million tonnes of meat and 248 million tonnes of milk annually by 2010. To meet the food requirements of the world, a growth rates of 3.8 per cent for meat and 2.5 per cent for milk has to be sustainably maintained. Indian farming happens to be a fragmented lot with small land holdings. This has resulted in a farming system involving a large number of small holder farmers who are essentially poor and disorganised. Frequent natural calamities like floods, typhoons and earthquakes also threaten the crop-farming system. A vast area of the country is semi-arid and arid. Crop production in such areas is difficult and the land can sustain only grass, shrubs and draught-resistant trees suitable for livestock production, which is the only means of survival for millions of cattle heads. Owing to a severe competition in the sector, some steps are to be taken at the grass roots level.
Milk Industry: Economic milk production is the key word in the era of competition. All efforts ought to be directed at producing cheap and good quality milk. Selection of a milch animal should be in accordance with the land holdings. During the past two decades, cross-breedings has been prevalent countrywide. To boost productivity crosses with European breeds have provided a good combination of heat tolerance and disease resistance, besides improving milk production. Cross-breeding experiences have clearly shown that 50 per cent exotic inheritance is most ideal for growth, production and reproduction performance. Exotic genes should be stabilised at this level through cross-breeding first generation cross-bred; utilising proven 50 per cent cross-bred bulls. In our country friesian and jersey are the two breeds used by and large for cross-breeding. In areas where green fodder is available in plenty and cool climate prevails holsteins are recommended. Jersey has been recommended for plains and hilly areas.
Buffaloes, which are considered to be the base of the Indian dairy industry, lack any breeding policy in field conditions. The Indian subcontinent is endowed with breeds of high genetic potential like murrah, nili, jaffrabadi, surti, nagpuri and bhadawari. Nili and murrah are heavy and they are the best milk producers, giving 1,650 to 2160 kg of milk per lactation. They are very much resistant to deadly diseases and drought conditions. Apart from this, they are efficient in utilising course fodder and converting into milk.
Improving of non-descript buffaloes, grading up may be done with murray or surti according to agro-climatic regions. Surti is preferred in coastal areas because of compact size and better heat tolerance. Murrah may be used for grading up of non-descript animals in dry plains, all over India for improving milch production.
Meat Industry: Today the world market is moving towards a free trade zone. Besides production, export potential has a vital role in sustaining our economy. Quality management is prime in every agri-business. The meat industry seems to be under exploited till yet. In India the outstanding potential of buffalo as source of quality meat has not been utilised so far. The species do not have any religious taboo against slaughter. The sector is highly unorganised and marred with high male calf mortality which could be utilised to export quality meat. The annual slaughter rate of this species is only 1.5 per cent as against the world’s average of 5.6 per cent Annual buffalo meat production in India is around 14 million metric tonnes, which is only 10 per cent of the total buffalo meat production of the world. While Pakistan with 10 per cent of the world buffalo contributes 25 per cent of the world’s meat production. Strategies to inhance production of buffalo meat on commercial lines is to devise an action plan that ensures farmers get organised and market meat in domestic as well international markets.
Role of information technology
Extreme poverty, lack of education, low economic power and inability to acquire advanced technology have prevented much progress in this sector. However, the experience of the Anand model in India, which harnessed millions of small-scale dairy farmers into an effective milk production network of massive scale, shows that these small holders can become effective agents for enhancing livestock production. Better Internet services at the district and block levels and agricultural dissemination centres like krishi vigyan kendras could enhance connectivity with markets, and counselling to farmers for value-added livestock product can be given. There happens to be a great deal of effort by agriculture extension agencies to convince farmers to organise themselves, create their own markets and reduce their dependency on government for subsidies. The role of government should act as a facilitator to the farmers.
Mushroom is meat for vegetarians
MUSHROOMS have a high content of proteins, vitamins and valuable minerals and salts like calcium, phosphorus and iron. Because of its high vegetative protein content, mushrooms are called meat for the vegetarians. In fact for a vegetarian country like India where daily diet is poor in protein content, nutritive food like mushroom with high protein content can find an important place in the daily diet of the people. Nearly a dozen edible varieties have been brought in to cultivation. Out of which only four varieties, agaricus bisporus (white button mushroom), volvariella volvacea (Chinese or tropical mushroom), pleurotus sajor-caju (oyster or dhingri), lentinus edodus (shiitake) have been in cultivation for centuries in different countries. Button mushroom, A. Bisporus is the only edible cultivar among the cultivated species which has attained importance as a commodity for international market. Mushrooms are a delicacy but are highly nutritive also. Along with the attempt to enhance the production of mushrooms, efforts should also be made to increase its consumption.
Rich in nutrients
Protein: The average Indian diet is primarily cereal-based and abundant in calories but highly deficient in protein. Widespread protein malnutrition (kwashioskar, marasmus, anaemia), particularly in children and women of the vulnerable groups, is the biggest nutritional problem in our country. Requirement of protein is more of quality than quantity. Based on the contents of the essential amino acids, the proteins have been classified as good, intermediate and poor quality proteins. In general, as single source, plant proteins (cereals, pulses, etc) are of poorer quality than animal protein (milk, egg, fish, meat). It has been recommended that one-third of the total protein intake should be of good quality protein i.e. of animal origin. Deficient intake of protein, particularly "first class" protein is the main dietary defect in India. Mushrooms contain 20-35 per cent protein (dry weight basis) which is higher than in vegetables and fruits and are as good as animal protein. Cereals, the staple constituents in Indian diet, are deficient in two essential amino acids, namely lysine and tryptophan. Mushrooms are very rich in these amino acids and can effectively supplement cereals in our diet. Keeping in view the declining per capita availability of pulses, mushrooms fit in very well in the diet of predominantly vegetarian population of our country for bridging the "protein gap". Mushrooms have been recognised by the FAO as food contributing to the protein nutrition of the countries depending largely on cereals.
Vitamins: In addition to good quality protein, mushrooms contain fairly good amounts of vitamin C and vitamins of B complex group, particularly thiamine, riboflavin and niacin. Folic acid and vitamins B12 which are needed by the pregnant and lactating women and are almost absent in vegetables, are present in mushrooms. These contain high quantities of potassium, sodium and phosphorus but are comparatively deficient in calcium. Though iron is in low quantity, it is present in available form and has been shown to maintain the blood haemoglobin level. As compared to other substances, the potassium: sodium ratio in mushrooms is very high which is desirable for the patients of hypertension.
Minerals: Mushrooms are a low caloric food with very little fat and are highly suitable for obese persons. With no starch and very low sugars, mushrooms are the delight of the diabetic. Fat content of mushroom, though low, is rich in linolenic acid, an essential fatty acid. Cholesterol is absent and instead ergosterol is present which could be converted by body to vitamin D. These have also been reported to contain specific blood cholesterol reducing substances. Mushrooms due to alkaline ash (high sodium and potassium) and high fibre content are highly suited to the patients with hypertension and constipation.
Source of income generation
Mushroom cultivation is done either in temperate areas under natural conditions or by rich entrepreneurs is sub-tropical areas under artificial conditions because mushroom is a climate sensitive crop and requires heavy investment to construct desired structures and air-conditioning. The disadvantage of temperate areas in that these are away from potential markets and mushroom is too perishable for transportation. Under artificial conditions, the cost of cultivation is very high and rich entrepreneurs are a few. On the other hand, demand of mushroom is highly income elastic. It is estimated that demand will increase in future with the increase in the level of income, supplement nutritional requirement and demand of canning units for exports. Therefore, the significant production in future is expected from small and marginal farmers having poor resources and are interested in supplementing their income as well as diet.
With the advances in mushroom cultivation research, it is profitable to grow mushroom by resource-poor farmers even under natural conditions of sub-tropical. An analysis done on such an experiment has shown a net profit of Rs 12,500 per year from two crops of button mushroom cultivated from October to March. During this period of the year, the temperature is conducive to mushroom cultivation and surplus family labour is also available in small and marginal land households. An initial investment of Rs 9,555, including room adjustments, enable the farmers to keep 400 bag (7.5 kg capacity) of compost. The total cost of Rs 19,271 is involved in taking two crops of mushroom in the season. The total return of Rs 51,500 in a season is generated from the sale of cut mushroom at the minimum rate of Rs 50 kg.
There is a wrong notion, primarily due to higher price, that white button mushroom is more nutritious than other mushrooms, Pleurotus and volvariella are as nutritious as agaricus. It is generally thought that mushrooms are beyond the reach of poor malnourished people due to high cost but this notion has crept in when poor are thought as consumers only. In India, more than 80 per cent of the people below the poverty line live in villages where consumers are producers also as for as food is concerned. Moreover, mushrooms can be cultivated by landless workers also, can be cultivated indoors on a variety of agricultural wastes which are abundant in rural India. Pleurotus and volvariella should particularly be recommended in this regard due to simplicity of cultivation. Small farmers and landless workers should be motivated to produce and consume mushrooms.
— As soon as the risk of frost is over, remove sarkanda from the crops sown in November-December and irrigate. Apply the remaining half dose of nitrogen in channels, earth up and train vines towards the bed. Thereafter, apply light irrigation once a week in sandy soil and after 10 days interval in heavy textured soil regularly.
— Draw bed marks east to west at the recommended space for each crop. Apply one quintal of CAN, 155 kg of single superphosphate and 50 kg of muriate of potash in a band at 15 cm on northern side of each bed mark and prepare channels and irrigate. Soak 2 kg of seed in lukewarm water, wrap it in a woollen rag and place it in a warm place during night and in the sun during the day. After 48 hours dibble at least two or three presprouted seeds per hill on the northern moist edge of beds. Apply two to three kg of Furadan 3G per acre along with the seeds while dibbling to check attack of red pumpkin beetle.
— In the second fortnight of this month, nurseries of muskmelon, water-melon, bottlegourd, pumpkin, etc. should be transplanted on pre-decided spacings of the beds. Before transplanting remove plastic bags.
— Most ideal varieties are Punjab Komal and Punjab Round and Punjab Long of bottlegourd Chappan Kaddo No. 1 of summer squash, Punjab Sunheri, Punjab Hybrid and Hara Madhu of muskmelon, Sugarbaby and Shipper of watermelon, S-48 of Thinda and Punjab-14 and C-96 of bittergourd.
Do not sow cucurbits in those fields where either Atrataf/Tafazine/Hexazine/Simazine herbicides has been used for weed control in potato.
Chilli and capsicum:
— Remove "sarkanda" from the fields of chilli and capsicum in the afternoon when the risk of frost is over and irrigate the fields immediately. After a week, apply one quintal of CAN per acre in channels, earth up near the base of plants.
— Transplant the nurseries of chilli and capsicum raised under protection in the field at the recommended spacings. Before transplanting, apply 60 kg of CAN, 155 kg of superphosphate and 40 kg of Muriate of potash per acre in 45 cm apart bands and prepare ridges. Irrigate the field after transplanting of seedlings and repeat the irrigation once a week. Fill the gaps to ensure a complete plant population of the crop after 7 to 10 days.
— In case the seedlings were not raised earlier, chilli and capsicum can be sown directly by dibbling the seeds. For this purpose, apply 60 kg of CAN, 155 kg of superphosphate and 40 kg of muriate of potash per acre in 60 cm apart bands. Prepare ridges and irrigate the field. As soon as the filed comes to workable conditions, dibble 5 to 6 seeds per hill at 1 to 2 cm depth on sunny side of the slope of ridges. Use 1.5 kg of seed per acre for "chutki" sowing. When the plants are 20 to 25 days old, do thinning and keep two plants per hill. Varieties recommended are Punjab Lal, Punjab Guchhedar and Punjab Surakh and hybrids CH-1 and CH-3 of chilli and California Wonder and Punjab Mirch-27 of capsicum. Prefer sowing CH-1 and CH-3 because of better yield and resistance to diseases.
Prepare the field, apply one quintal of CAN, 155 kg of superphosphate and 40 kg of muriate of potash per acre in bands kept 45 cm apart from east to west. Prepare ridges and apply irrigations. Soak okra seeds in lukewarm water overnight. Dibble at 4 to 5 cm depth keeping hills 30 cm apart. Pre-sprouting of okra seeds and sowing on ridges ensure quick germination and better stand of the crop. Varieties recommended for sowing in this season are Punjab Padmini, Punjab-7, Punjab-8 and Pusa Sawni.
— For the control of purple blotch spray the crop with 600 g of Indofil M-45 mixed with 200 ml of Triton or linseed oil in 200 litres of water per acre as soon as first symptom of purple blotch appears in the crop. The spray should be repeated at 10 days interval.
— Onion maggot can be controlled by applying 4 kg of Sevin 4 G or Lindane 6 G or Thimet 10 G to the soil followed by light irrigation.