AGRICULTURE TRIBUNE Monday, June 25, 2001, Chandigarh, India
Timely paddy transplantation — solution to declining watertable
G.S. Hira and Aneesh Chawla

URING the last three decades, there has been a rapid decline in the ground watertable in Punjab except a few areas of the south-west region. In fact 43 lakh ha area 86 per cent has a falling watertable problem. Often the cultivation of paddy is considered a cause in bringing down the watertable, because of its high water requirements as compared to the other kharif crops.

Crop diversification and its scope
Dr Gurbhagwant Singh Kahlon, a distinguished scientist, who has dedicated his life to improve the dairying techniques and marketing of milk in Punjab, has written a well-researched and documented book, "Dairying and Farm diversification". Excerpts from one of the chapters of the book are published here for The Tribune readers.

Biotechnological genes ushering in another Green Revolution
M.I.S. Gill and S.S. Gosal
THE ongoing drastic global changes like a rapid increase in population, decrease in cultivable land area, changing crop scenario, lowering of ground water level and exhaustion of other natural reserves have started fading the impact of the Green Revolution. The indiscriminate use of chemical fertilisers, herbicides and insecticides with an aim to sustain and increase in the crop yield has resulted into soil, water and air pollution.


  • Horticultural Operations

  • Dairy and animal health




Timely paddy transplantation — solution to declining watertable
G.S. Hira and Aneesh Chawla

DURING the last three decades, there has been a rapid decline in the ground watertable in Punjab except a few areas of the south-west region. In fact 43 lakh ha area 86 per cent has a falling watertable problem. Often the cultivation of paddy is considered a cause in bringing down the watertable, because of its high water requirements as compared to the other kharif crops. As such the cultivation of paddy may not be the real culprit for lowering the watertable some associated wrong practices, especially early transplantation, continuous ponding of water in the fields, etc. have increased the water requirement and made paddy an eyesore for the water conservationist.

The introduction of paddy in the state was made about 50 years ago to reclaim waterlogged and salt-affected soils. Subsequently, because of profitability, paddy replaced maize, groundnut, pulses and cotton crops.

The recommended period of paddy transplantation is June 10 to 20 for medium duration and June 20 to 30 for short-duration rice varieties. Some transplant it earlier than the recommended period. Water requirement is the highest in the months of May and June-transplanted crop because of hot and dry weather. Evapo-transpiration of rice transplanted on May 17 is 761 mm whereas it is just 564 for June 17 transplanted crop.

Research investigations have shown that the major cause of rapid decline in the watertable is the early paddy transplantation. An annual additional fall in the watertable due to earlier rice transplantation is 16 cm per year, while the actual fall is about fall is about is about 30 cm per year. Thus, more than half of the rapid decline in the watertable could simply be checked without reducing the area under rice by delaying transplanting of rice after June 10. The watertable data showed that area under watertable below 10 m in the central districts of Punjab was only 3 per cent in 1973, which increased to 25 per cent in 1990 and 46 per cent in 1994. However, this area reduced to just 25 per cent in 1996, but again rose to 42 per cent in 1998. For Ludhiana district alone, rise in the watertable was 24 cm per year during 1994-96, which otherwise was going down by 38 cm per year during 1990-94. Analysis of the rainfall and rice transplantation data showed that rise in the watertable by 16 cm per year during 1994-96 was due to the delay in rice transplantation. During this period, the rice transplantation was delayed because of the shift in rice procurement date from September to October. However, the relaxation for procurement of paddy after 1997 again inspired farmers to transplants paddy before June 10.

Farmers, by early transplantation not only evaporate the ground water into the atmosphere but also wastes their huge money on deepening the tubewells pits, purchasing diesel-pump or generator sets and diesel to keep water standing in the fields. Further, this practice of early transplantation increases the pest population, especially stem borer, which affects the yield of the timely sown paddy and basmati rice.

Experiments during the early eighties have shown that the highest yield of paddy were obtained when transplanted between June 20 and 30. However, research trials during 1997-99 gave the highest paddy yields when transplanted between May 30 to June 10. Later transplanting resulted in a lower yield. The yield was less not because of any physiological reasons but due to the shift to stem borer from the early transplanted crop to the timely transplanted young and tender crop. There lies the need for concerned effort of the farming community of Punjab which can delay the transplantation and still get higher yields along with saving the precious ground water. This will also help in producing superior quality of rice. Paddy harvesting during the dry month of October help in reducing moisture percentage in the grains, which could easily meet the standards of rice procurement agencies. Additionally, this will help in reducing multiplication of pest which subsequently reduces the costs on insecticides and make the environment clean.

Many farmers resorted to early transplantation due to easy availability of labour (after wheat harvest) and comparative ease in the supply of electricity to tubewells and canal water supply during summer. One of the solutions for checking the farmers from early rice transplantation would lie with making the mechanical transplanting a success to avoid labour problem. But the actual solution to check the early transplantation lies with the farming community itself. Let the panchayats unanimously decided that no farmer should start transplantation of paddy before June 10. This is the high time for young, educated, progressive and committed farmers of not only Punjab but also of the adjoining states to come forward in saving this precious and vital resource.

This year again many of the farmers have resorted to early transplantation of paddy. The repercussions of the ground water depletion will come in next few years when the present tubewells with centrifugal pumps will have to be replaced with the costly and high-powered submersible pumps. These submersible pumps are beyond the reach of small and marginal farmers. This class, which is already under debt, may eventually finish with that type of situations.

It is also to understand the plant physiology of paddy in relation to heat radiation requirements. Photosynthesis, which accounts for the dry matter accumulation in plants, is directly proportional to radiation until the saturation point is reached. Photosynthetic activity of paddy, which is a C3 crop, increases rapidly at low radiation and become light saturated at much lower irradiance than in the months of May and June. Thus, advancing the transplantation of paddy in the high radiation period of May-June in no way increases crop yields.

To sustain the present rice production levels and check the rapid fall of watertable in the central zone of Punjab, the long-term solution lies in reducing the dependence on tubewell irrigation during the monsoon season. During monsoon rains, many a time heavy downpour in short periods results in surplus water in rivers and causes floods. This flood water could be channeled to rice fields using the existing surface drainage systems that already exists in all the falling watertable areas of Punjab. No crop other than paddy can withstand ponded water conditions. This property of paddy should be used to recharge the ground water resources, besides controlling flood waters. This will also give boost to the production and saving in electricity from pumping water. Thus the paddy crop, which is considered as curse on Punjab by many, can be used as a tool to increase the ground watertable.

A proposal for construction of a barrage across the Sutlej, near Phillaur, to divert the excess monsoon flow into paddy fields was conceived sometime. With the construction of the barrage, non-perennial channels can be taken off from both banks of the Sutlej. These channels can also be linked to the existing system for making additional supply of water for paddy cultivation in the areas of Ludhiana and Jalandhar districts. Similarly, in other area of falling watertable, additional supply of canal water during monsoon season can be diverted to paddy fields. However, the existing surface drains have normal slope in the reverse direction as that of canal water and are passing through low-lying areas. Possibly, we have to make use of lift irrigation system from drains. Surface drains will have to be remodeled to convert into a canal-cum-drainage network system.

Water requirements of the crop can further reduced by other cultural practices. The duration of ponded water at transplanting could be reduced from three to two weeks without affecting the crop yield. Thereafter an interval of two days can be allowed between infiltration of ponded water and subsequent irrigation, depending upon the prevailing weather and thus saves 34 per cent irrigation water without any loss in yield. The last irrigation to rice may also be suspended two weeks before harvest.



Crop diversification and its scope

Dr Gurbhagwant Singh Kahlon, a distinguished scientist, who has dedicated his life to improve the dairying techniques and marketing of milk in Punjab, has written a well-researched and documented book, "Dairying and Farm diversification". Excerpts from one of the chapters of the book are published here for The Tribune readers.

THE print media has a great responsibility towards society and the people. It is very heartening to note that newspapers of Punjab are playing a very significant and the important role in the dissemination of information regarding the crisis of the plenty of foodgrains, which India may not be able to put under the carpet. Important newspapers have published very valuable articles from eminent authorities on the subject under various captions: Punjab twins; Poverty and plenty; growing frustration of kisans — agriculture needs fresh strategy; what to grow and where — time to shift from strategy to action, Punjab to cut area under wheat. Agriculture economy at cross roads; A way out of paddy wheat routine; comparative economics of crops does not favour diversification Punjab’s paradox, produce to perish etc.

It is a crisis of plenty of food grains rotting due to glut. It has become a herculean task to safely stock over 422 lakh tonnes of foodgrain worth Rs 30,000 crore. Already 180 lakh tonnes are in excess of the buffer stock requirement, and the stock pits continue to swell.

The Green Revolution in Punjab during the late 1960s and 1970s ushered in a ray of hope for the starving millions of the country. Punjab achieved the highest yield of wheat and paddy in the country — 3944 and 3393 kg per hectare, respectively. The state contributes about 21 per cent to India’s wheat, 9 per cent to paddy and 21 per cent to cotton production. Over the last three decades, other Indian states have slowly caught up on food production and become Punjab’s competitors. For a Punjab farmer, the issue of survival has taken precedence over service. Once the nation’s provider, today he himself is famished. Punjab farmer responded to the national call "produce or perish" with enthusiasm. Today he is wondering if he has not produced to perish.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal got a relief package of Rs 350 crore from a friendly Central Government and temporarily bailed out the farmers. Improved quality and abundance of foodgrains from other states in bound to trigger off a similar crisis following every rabi and kharif crop. But each time the government at the Centre may not be so obliging as it is now. The peasants’ dilemma is not very difficult to comprehend, especially when one realises that the state government itself has been caught napping and is in no position to help, except through alms called relief packages.

Government agencies buy only wheat and paddy, so even if the farmer goes in for diversification to break the wheat paddy cycle and grow sunflower, mustard, lentils or any other crop, the farmer will be at the mercy of traders. Despite a support price of Rs 1200 per quintal for soyabean, farmers in the south are finding no buyers even at Rs 500. Therefore, farmers in Punjab prefer to stick to the wheat-paddy cycle for security.

The present two cropping pattern has caused extensive damage to nutrients in Punjab’s status of soils besides lowering the water table. In the Majha belt, the area between the Beas and the border with Pakistan, the watertable has fallen to over 70 feet below ground level due to large scale cropping of paddy that is known to be thirsty crop. At the same time the water level in the Malwa region, which used to grow cotton, has risen to the sub-soil level, making the region unfit for cotton cultivation.

The need for diversification is proclaimed from every platform. Though the farmers too seem to agree in principle, the real push for it has to come from policy makers. But given the lack of coherent policy and planning, the farmers find it difficult to introduce any meaningful diversification in their farm plans.

Diversification, however, is not restricted to choice of crop alone. Dictionary meaning of agriculture is raising of crops as well as livestock, each supplement or complement the other. So far our development effort has been concentrated largely on crop improvement, and livestock has received very little serious attention. However, in the present state of the farm economy and the unviable condition of the Punjab farmer, time has come when due recognition to the potential contribution of livestock cannot be delayed, Punjab has the highest potentials to develop the livestock on scientific lines for the production of milk and meat, and thereby provide an alternative at this crucial juncture.

Denmark’s experience

We can benefit from the experience of Denmark. Denmark has an area of 42936 sq km against Punjab’s 50362 sq km. In the earlier days in Denmark, the chief income of agriculture, was largely from the sale of grain and beef cattle, but in the years around 1870 large quantities of grain flooded the European markets. It came from newly cultivated prairies of North America, from Baltic states, from Argentina and was placed at the European market at a price far below the current prevailing prices upon which Danish farmers had depended or the sale of their grain. While other European countries tried, by their tariff measures and subsidies to protect their economy, Denmark chose to make a change in its pattern of farming. Instead of producing grain, the Danish farmers took advantage of the low prices, decided to buy grain for livestock products, prices of which had become more favourable due to demand created by an increase in population in Europe, and which were capital intensive and difficult to produce and market. The dairy industry is in constant development, each day offering new activities and possibilities and the members of the Danish dairy industry put forth their very best efforts to keep abreast with latest developments. It is the world’s second largest butter exporter, and the world’s third largest cheese exporter. It ranks first in Europe in the per capita ice cream consumption.

Pig production

After milk production as a major factor in farm economy, comes pig production. The two are closely linked because the dairy industry supplies a very significant part of the feeding stuffs for pig industry as by products in the form of separated milk, butter milk and whey in the process of butter and cheese production. The first breeding stock of pigs was imported from various places — Germany, England, Spain, West Indies and China — little more than a century and half back. This gave the Danish land race pig breed a certain cosmopolitan background. By crossing, a suitable first class bacon pig was produced. In Denmark, bacon pigs are slaughtered when they are about six months old.

Poultry production

There are poultry units on almost every farm in Denmark, and this branch of husbandry has become increasingly important to Danish farming economy in general during the last 100 years. Eggs and poultry now account for about one-eight of the total value of agricultural exports, mainly in eggs. Denmark is, in fact, the biggest exporter of eggs in the world, and it all started in 1865 with the establishment of the first regular steamship line between Denmark and Britain. The United Kingdom is by far the biggest customer, but Danish eggs are also marketed to many other countries, notably Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France, etc.

We can learn a lot from Denmark about the infrastructure developed for the production, processing and marketing of highly perishable commodities like milk, meat, vegetable and fruits. At present there are 1,93,000 farms in Denmark, out of which about half are of less than 25 acres. A lot has been said about milk production centred on developing a profitable dairy herd, capable of providing a decent livelihood for the owners and producing milk in quantity of the highest quality for having an economically viable dairy industry in Punjab. Quantity without quality is meaningless.



Biotechnological genes ushering in 
another Green Revolution

M.I.S. Gill and S.S. Gosal

THE ongoing drastic global changes like a rapid increase in population, decrease in cultivable land area, changing crop scenario, lowering of ground water level and exhaustion of other natural reserves have started fading the impact of the Green Revolution. The indiscriminate use of chemical fertilisers, herbicides and insecticides with an aim to sustain and increase in the crop yield has resulted into soil, water and air pollution. As an alternative, the recent gene revolution involving gene cloning and their selective transfer to crops through genetic engineering has shown tremendous potential to overcome foreseen problems, major being the food production/food security and clean environment for upcoming generations.

In plant genetic engineering, unlike conventional breeding, only the cloned gene (s) of agronomic importance without the co-transfer of undesirable genes from the donor. The recipient genotype is least disturbed and there is no need for repeated back crosses. The gene of interest may come from viruses, bacteria, fungi, insects unrelated plants, animals, human beings and even from chemical synthesis in the laboratory. Several vector and vectorless methods have been developed to introduce cloned gene (s) into plants. Among the vector methods, the agrobacterium tumefaciens mediated transformation is now being routinely used. While, the particle gun approach is one of the important vectorless/direct-gene transfer methods. The crops have been engineered for various useful agronomic traits such as disease resistance, insect-pest and herbicide resistance, abiotic stress tolerance and for improved food quality and enhanced shelf lie. Moreover plants have been engineered for molecular farming or a mass-scale production of chemicals, pharmaceuticals and several other useful products.

Disease resistance involves resistance against viral, fungal and bacterial pathogens. Viral resistance has been achieved through introduction of coat protein gene, satellite RNA or antisense RNA technology. While fungal resistance has been achieved using gene (s) for antifungal protein and/or antifungal compounds, Important antifungal genes being include chitinase gene, gluconase gene, gene for ribosome inactivating proteins (RIP), stilbene synthase gene, microbial and plant genes for osmotin, thionins, lectins, phytoalexins and HzOz. The bacterial resistance has been achieved using different approaches such as production of antibacterial proteins, inhibition of bacterial pathogenicity, enhancement of natural plant defences and introduction of artificially programmed cell death. Important genes used for bacterial resistance include a-thionin gene from barley, bacteriophage T4 lysozyme gene and human lysozyme gene.

Insect resistance has been achieved through introduction of Bt toxin and non-Bt toxin genes such as Bt, cpTi, PIN II, a AI, GNA. While herbicide resistance involves introduction of genes such as bxn, bar, ifdA, aroA, ALS whose enzyme product either become insensitive to herbicides or detoxify herbicides.

Cold tolerance has been achieved through introduction of desaturase gene from cyanobacteria or gene encoding glyceral-3 phosphate acyl-transferase from arabidopsis. While introduction of antifreeze protein gene from fish has helped in frost protection. Enhanced mannitol production by introduction of E.coli bacterial gene mannitol-I phosphate-dehydrogenase (mt ID) have role in heart/drought tolerance. However, enhanced proline synthesis by introduction of enzyme r-pyrroline-S-carboxylate synthase (PSCS) or Hal2 impart salinity tolerance. Transgenic plants have been developed which can extract and store toxic metals like copper, mercury, aluminum, cadmium and which at later stage of growth can be harvested and insinerated thus cleaning the soils in a natural way. This process is also widely known as phytoremidiation.

Moreover, through genetic engineering it is possible to produce nutritive/healthy food and to enhance the shelf life of the end products such as fruits and vegetables. Recently, "golden, rice" has been produced. Golden grains attribute to the enhanced pro-vitamin A, the precursor of Vitamin-A, through introduction of a combination of cloned genes. Likewise, in preliminary experiment, the expression of ferritin gene from phaseolus vulgris or by decrease in level of phytin which reduces iron bioavailability, the iron availability has been increased in rice. The protein content and quality can also be improved. The introduction of gene which enrich amino acid content can enhance protein content as demonstrated in maize where increased lysine content increased seed protein content. Likewise, introduction of phaseolin gene and chicken ovalbumin gene enhanced protein quality in tobacco and alfalfa, respectively. In potato, it has been demonstrated that by introduction of ADP phase gene or GB5S gene or antisense orientation, the starch content can be increased or decreased at will. Polyunsaturated fats dempose on heating, hence genes are being cloned and introduced in plants such as soyabeans to reduce polyunsaturated fats or to enhance production of monounsaturated fats. Using antisense RNA against enzymes involved in ethylene production, the shelf life of fruits such as tomato has been increased. This eventually helps to prevent post-harvest losses.

Apart from several benefits of gene revolution discussed earlier, there are some concerns/fears over the use of GM crops as regards human health and environment. These include the development of resistance against antibiotics by human pathogens, allergic reactions to sensitive human beings due to use of gene from wide gene pool, development of resistance by insect-pests surrounding Bt crops, and ethnic issues. However, several of these issues are being addressed by current developments in genetic engineering and others need to be addressed as well.

Keeping in view the several advantages of genetic engineering, through the production of transgenic plants with improved agronomic traits, the onset of gene revolution seems to be a positive approach towards development of better mankind and clean surroundings.



Horticultural Operations

— Many fruit trees like citrus, mango, guava, etc. are carrying fruits crops. It is, therefore, essential that the irrigation be given as proper interval. During this month, apply irrigation at 3 or 4 days intervals to grapes. The young litchi plants need irrigation twice a week during this period at reduces cracking of fruits to a great extent and helps in proper size development.

— The young tender plants and newly planted plants should be protected from hot weather by giving white-washing or wrapping over the exposed trunk portions.

— The pruning of ber trees should be completed.

— The farmyard manure to ber trees should be applied after the completion of the pruning of ber trees. Inorganic fertilisers to guava should be added to encourage growth in July-August for getting the maximum flowering during August-September for winter season crop.

— To correct zinc deficiency in citrus, spray the trees with 0.3 per cent zinc sulphate solution without addition of lime to summer flush in June.

— Mango trees carrying good load of crop should be applied one additional kg of CAN during this month.

— To control insect-pests in citrus, spray 625 ml Nuvacron 36 SL or 670ml Rogor 30 EC in 500 litres of water per acre. To control peach black aphid, spray 500 ml Malathion in 500 litres of water on the colonies on the stem and limbs as soon as the pest congregates on these parts. To control fruit fly in peach, pick and destroy the infested fruits by burying deep in the soil. Stir the soil well during this month to expose and kill the pupae. To control chaffer beetles on different fruit plants, spray one kg of carbaryl in 500 litres of water as soon as the damage starts.

— To control citrus scab, give spray of Bordeaux mixture 2: 2: 250. In mango spray Bordeaux mixture 2: 2: 250 at fortnightly interval for control of diseases. To check rotting of grape berries, spray grapevine with 0.2 per cent Ziram at 7 days’ interval. Stop spraying a week before harvesting the bunches. To control pear disease, spray Bordeaux mixture 2: 2: 250 or 0.3 per cent copper oxychloride.

Dairy and animal health

— Grazing of dairy animals should be carried out in morning and evening hours. Feed the animal in the cooler hours of the day.

— Keep the animals in shade and provide wallowing or bath the animals 1-2 times daily.

— Concentrate should have 2-4 per cent more crude protein than winter concentrate. This can be done by increasing oilseed cakes in the feed.

— Silent heat is a major problem during this period, especially in buffaloes. Judge the heat symptoms of Animals in the morning and evening from mucous discharge from vagina rather than other symptoms in summer.

— Rains are due next month. Get your animals vaccinated against hemorrhagic septicaemis (gal ghotu) and black quarter (pat soj) if not done in May.

— Save your animals from ticks, lice and flies, These suck blood cause irrigation and spread diseases.

— If an animals starts bleeding from nose, don’t disturb it much and pour cold water over face and keep head lifted. Transfer animal to a cool shady place. Consult your veterinarian early.

— In case of high rise of temperature in dairy animals, get their blood tested for protozoan disease from the Department of Parasitology, PAU, Ludhiana or state district laboratories/polyclinics near to your place.

— Progressive Farming, PAU