|AGRICULTURE TRIBUNE||Monday, August 20, 2001, Chandigarh, India|
Beekeeping as hobby
for retired persons
A millennium study on state of Indian farmers
Asia’s useful trees and plants:
How much irrigation do we really need?
HOW much irrigation do we really need? The answer to the question may vary from person to person depending upon the discipline of irrigated agriculture science he is related to and in case of those actually engaged in irrigation i.e. farmers, it would depend upon the mode of irrigation adopted by them. But considering the ground realities in the Punjab region, an attempt is made next to answer the question posed.
But with the development of the groundwater for irrigation using privately owned shallow tubewells run with diesel and electric pumps, there occurred tremendous change in the concept of irrigation and the farmers began to aim at growing three crops in a year i.e. aiming at intensity of 300 per cent the tubewell water was used in many cases as supplemental irrigation.
As per reliable estimates, in Punjab more than 50 per cent irrigation could be attributed to groundwater sources. In the case of farmers at the tail-end who were inadequately served by the canal irrigation systems, they try to overcome the shortage by the use of groundwater for irrigation. Even in the areas with groundwater for irrigation of marginally safe quality, the farmers made full use of the groundwater potential by safeguarding the soil quality with the use of gypsum and making alternate irrigation by canal water i.e. to dilute the marginally safe groundwater for use. This pattern led to ushering in the Green Revolution in Punjab.
But the groundwater equilibrium was upset in Punjab. In the south-western districts the water balance reached a very high plus value, resulting in waterlogging and salinity, and in the sweet-water zone a severe groundwater decline came to be registered. At this juncture there are two schools of thought prevailing. According to one, irrigation is an absolute necessity and needs to be expanded, but according to the other, irrigation is a sheer waste of precious water which has cost the public crores of rupees and yet failed to deliver the promised results.
Impact of increased productivity in agriculture
According to the World Bank report published in 1997, "irrigated farming provides 60 per cent of the world’s foodgrain production", which got doubled during 1966 to 1990. The irrigation land working synergistically with high-yielding varieties of seeds and inorganic fertilisers was responsible for 92 per cent of the total irrigation and key to developing high-value cash crops. By helping guarantee consistent production, irrigation sponsored agro-industry as well. Finally, irrigation created significant rural employment.
Irrigation vs rain-fed agriculture
A most often posed question is why not to concentrate on food production in rain-fed areas instead of irrigated areas. The total cultivated area of the world is put at one billion hectares and one-third of the area is irrigated and two-thirds is rain-fed.
It is argued that a mere 10 per cent increase of productivity of the rain-fed agriculture would have twice the impact as the same increase in the irrigated agriculture. As the beneficial impact would be on the poor marginal farmers in the marginal areas, this appears to be an highly attractive idea. It must be realised that though rain-fed areas have been pursued for at least a century using all the tools of agronomic science, yet the results obtained are not very encouraging. One important but misplaced belief is that the rain-fed agriculture uses less water in food production compared to the irrigated agriculture.
Hitherto drought-resistant varieties of crops have not been evolved. The low yield potential of rain-fed agriculture is uneconomical or unable to respond to favourable conditions.
Another problem in rain-fed agriculture with inorganic fertilisers is that plant density is low and so it cannot extract nutrients from the soil. Consequently the crop canopy is open and non-beneficial evaporation from the soil increases.
These reasons have not led to any shift in rain-fed agriculture in marginal areas. However, under specific agriculture conditions, small-scale farming can be made productive in marginal rain-fed areas through supplemental irrigation.
Supplemental irrigation is a technique specifically designed for water scarce regions where water is stored and used only in limited quantities at the critical growth stage of crops. For this percolation tank technique is adopted. Percolation tank is the most promising technology comprising small reservoirs that capture run-off and hold water for percolation into shallow water table. The water is pumped into fields when and only when it is most needs. Groundwater storage avoids the high evaporation loss of the surface storage. With pumps the water table provides a cost-free water distribution system to farms and percolation losses from irrigation are automatically by water table for use.
These percolation tanks can be
combined with high efficiency irrigation techniques of drip or
sprinkler irrigation to provide just the right amount of water when it
is most needed. It is likely that increasing proportion of the world
food supply will have to be given from irrigation and the supplemental
irrigation may play an important role in the marginal rain-fed areas
using advanced technologies.
Beekeeping as hobby
for retired persons
THE service people after leading a busy life, on retirement require some work to do for keeping their activity going on for better sustaining. Most of them engage themselves in some business or agriculture, whereas others keep themselves busy in one or other hobby. Beekeeping is one of the few hobbies that furnish both pleasure and profit. The bee gives us honey, the liquid gold of nature. No honey purchased from the market can equal the distinctive aroma and flavour of the one procured from one’s own apiary. Honeybee also gives other products such as wax, pollen, propolis and royal jelly.
Beekeeping hobby, besides providing various products as mentioned before, also benefits the community as a whole. The bees forage for nectar and pollen in the vicinity of their location and during food collection they bring about pollination of various crops, leading to increase in quantity as well as quality of yields.
Before thinking of taking up of the beekeeping hobby, the area where the colonies are to be kept must be analysed for the suitability of beekeeping with respect to floral conditions. We have come across some persons saying that they are growing flowers in pots and beds at their homes and are interested to keep the bees also but it is not like this. Every flower is not important as far as beekeeping is concerned. There are certain flowering plants which are important for the purpose. Some of these are maize, mustard, sunflower, eucalyptus, soapnut, shisham, jamun, toon, litchi, citrus, mango, peach, plum, apricot, apple, etc. The abundance of these flowering sources within the bee flight range (1 to 1.5 km) is of prime importance and must be kept in mind.
The hobbyists need to concentrate on the fundamentals of beekeeping in order to achieve early success in the husbandry of keeping the bees. Knowledge of biology of honeybees, including their behaviour and management will permit the beginner to make rapid advances while reducing the setbacks, which of course, are common in all the undertakings.
To acquire the beekeeping skill it is good to spend some time in the apiaries of some experienced beekeepers. At present, beekeeping hobbyists are fortunate enough as there are a number of training organisations such as state agricultural universities, state agricultural/horticultural departments, khadi and villages industries commission which are engaged in imparting training from time to time. For more perfection one can go through the literature and keep liaison with officials engaged in the beekeeping industry.
In India, two honeybees — Indian and Italian — are there for domestication. Whereas former is more suitable to hill regions, latter perform well in the plains and low valley areas. So depending upon the conditions, the species can be selected and work can be started with three to five bee colonies. With the experience the number of colonies can be increased. One can capture and hive the swarms of the bees.
The bees as well as the hives can be procured either from the government agencies (also provide loans) or from private sources of repute. The hives can be got manufactured at their own if suitable wood (kail, mango or any other suitable wood free from strong smell) is available. However, one should be very cautious that all the hives are made of standard dimensions, the specimen of which can be procured from some government concern or from reputed private source. Besides, some of the equipment such as gloves, bee veil, hive tool, smoker, etc need to be procured in the beginning.
The beekeeping hobby has the
limitation. All desirous to take up this cannot be successful. Only
those who have the courage to tolerate bee stings are successful. Some
people are allergic to the bee stings, so this hobby is not advised to
A millennium study on state of Indian farmers
THE Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Union Ministry of Agriculture, has taken the initiative to organise a major study titled "State of the Indian farmers — a millennium study". The study is planned to be conducted in three phases, to be implemented under the overall guidance of a technical committee and supervision of a steering committee of experts.
Unlike many past studies, which had focused on the agriculture this study has been conceived with the farmer as its focus.
The study seeks to record the impact of the transformation inducted by public policy, investments and technological change as well as the well-being of the farm households at the end of five decades of planned economic development. It also aims, according to the annual report of the department, at enquiring into the conditions of the Indian farmers at the commencement of the millennium. The analytical work carried out as part of the study would enrich the understanding of socio-economic and professional environment of the farmer, which, in turn, would help in determining the appropriate future policy directions for the welfare of the farmer.
The phase I of the study, which is already under process, will bring out a series of status papers on various aspects of agriculture impacting the farmers, on the basis of the existing data sources and research material. The output of this phase would provide a historical perspective of last 50 years of agricultural development in the country to the planners in the coming decades.
During phase II, a country-wide situation assessment survey (SAS) has been planned to obtain a snapshot picture of conditions of farming community as characterised by their professional and socio-economic environment.
The phase III of the study would be concentrating on analysis of the farmers as a consequence of past macro-policies and programmes. The research output of the phase I as well as the data generated SAS will be the main input for analysis during the phase III.
In the phase III the focus of analysis would be on the micro level impact of agriculture development during the past 50 years on the farmers. The study in this phase will bring out the process of transformation in the socio-economic conditions of the farmers as viewed from the angle of employment, income levels and reduction in poverty together with an evaluation of the past trends in variables, past policies and the current issues will appropriately be linked with the economic and social well-being of the farmers. The output of this phase is expected to be analytical rather than being prescriptive in nature.
Areas which will be specifically focused in the phase III for enquiry will include the Green Revolution states, eastern states, north-eastern states and hilly regions. These regional reports would bring out an indepth analysis of special characteristics of farmers and farm practices in these regions and would help in finding lasting solutions to the problems of local production and productivity as also diversification to tackle the problems of food and nutritional security of the farming communities in these areas.
There will also be some issue specific reports on topics like dryland agriculture. Some group specific topics like resource rich farmers, tribal cultivator, rural youth and women in agriculture would also be included in the analysis.
Attention will also be given to issues relating to agro-biodiversity, intellectual property rights, globalisation of agriculture, WTO Agreement on agriculture, risk management and sustainability of agriculture in the overall economic and demographic perspective of the 21st century.
The phase I of the study is being
coordinated by a consortium of three national level institutions —
the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, the Institute of
Economic Growth, Delhi and the Institute of Social and Economic
Change, Bangalore — which have entered into an MoU with the
department. The survey planned in the Phase II will be conducted by
the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO). Personal enquiries
will be made in about 1.2 lakh cultivator households scattered all
over the country in four sub-rounds of the survey beginning shortly.
Asia’s useful trees and plants:
SHISHAM or tahli is a large handsome deciduous tree found growing luxuriantly in the Indo-Gangetic plains. It is seen coming up naturally along the banks of rivers, streams, hill faces and butts and bunds of agricultural fields. In fact it grows naturally anywhere and everywhere from nearly 150m to 1200m or so above mean sea level — from the coastal belts to the lower Himalayan tracts. It is extensively cultivated as an avenue tree along roads and canals. It is also grown artificially as a nurse crop for tea bushes in tea gardeners. It prefers soil and easily adapts itself to areas having less rainfall. The species is also not averse to areas falling in the monsoon belt but the soil should neither be too clayee nor the terrain inundated.
The English name of shisham being sissoo, its scientific name is Dalbergia sissoo. Some more regional Indian names of the species are yette, sessai, shin, nelkar, shewa, etc. It is a member of the main plant family leguminaseae and sub-family papilioneae or papilionaseae. The Asian subcontinent has some 36 members of this group, of which nearly half are trees. The others are either shrubs or climbers. Of the trees two important are D. sissoo and D. latifolia, which alone yield high-quality timber. The wood of D. latifolia is superior, but from the angle of the distribution, ease of cultivation and availability of the species on the ground, D. sissoo is more common. The natural habitat of shisham start from east of Assam and extends to west of the Indus basin. Also from Sri Lanka north wards, including Deccan plateau.
It has good rate of growth in early years of its existence which tends to slow down as the tree grows in years as well as size towards maturity. At favourable sites it attains a height of nearly 20 to 25 m and diameter of approximate 60 cm or so in 60 to 70 years. At that stage the tree is considered reasonably mature for exploitation for conversion into timber. The species seldom grows a straight bole. Its crown generaly tends to be umbrella like. The bark is grey with straight vertical furrows.
The leaf of shisham is compound with its rachis nearly 5 to 10 cm long. Individual leaflets are roundish, alternate and 2 to 6 cm in diametre. Its flower are whitish pale, 2 to 3 mm long on recemes measuring about 3 to 5 cm. The fruit are flat and thin pods about 5 to 7 cm long and 10 to 15 mm. wide. The seeds too are flat and kidney shaped, measuring nearly 3 to 4 mm in length.
Shisham sheds its leaves in November-December. New leaves appear during March-April. The flowers start showing during April-May. The fruit, i.e. pods, i.e. pods, appear during May-June and ripen by October-November.
Shisham is one of the very important revenue earning forest trees. Its sapwood is nearly white in colour. But being liable to fungal action and also damaged by borers and betteles, it is not so durable. The heartwood is light brown in colour. Weighing nearly 18 to 22 kg per cubic foot it is fairly light and yet strong and close grained. It has annual rings, though not very distinct. It is somewhat elastic ad seasons well. Easy to saw and plane, it takes good polish and is thus highly prized for all purpose from making furniture to construction of boats, ships, buildings, bridges, as also ordnance wheels and electric fixtures. Further, the foliage of shisham is also lopped for fodder, especially when other fodders are in short supply and is thus a very important tree for the cultivators.
Dalbergia sissoo regenerates itself profusely in its natural habitat. Its pods and seeds being light, these get disseminated easily even to difficult pockets of ground, may be quite far from the mother trees, by wind and water action. This quality of the seed helps the species to regenerate itself easily and abundantly. New plants also come up as copies from the stumps of recently felled trees. These also come up from exposed roots in the form of roots suckers, whereby the species quickly occupies by exposed slope, especially in the Shivaliks.
For planting the species as an avenue tree, the seedlings can be raised in nurseries by direct sowing in open beds or in polythene bags. For that purpose transplanting 2 to 3 years old stock from the nursery gives optimum survival in the field. Transplanting of shisham plants is best done during monsoons.
Further, with a view to promoting
afforestation of barren areas and or raising ornamental avenues along
new roads, cannals, colonies, etc. the forest departments of nearly
all states raise a lot of shisham plants in their departments
nurseries. These plants are issued to the interested growers at a
highly subsidised rate.
Farm operations for August
— For control of fruit rot, spray the crop with 750 g of Indofil M 45 or Blitox in 250 litres of water per acre at 10 days interval.
Bhindi and brinjal:
— In brinjal, 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 250 ml Rogor 30 EC in 250 litres of water.
— Progressive Farming,