|AGRICULTURE TRIBUNE||Monday, September 3, 2001, Chandigarh, India|
Need for new models in agriculture
India needs farmer-friendly policy
Amla — suitable fruit tree for
Amla is very hardy, productive and can be successfully grown in variable agro-climatic and soil conditions. The matured tree can tolerate a temperature as high as 45°C as well as freezing temperature. Thus, it is not much influenced by hot winds and frost. It is a potential crop for the commercial growing in the marginal soils and various kinds of degraded lands such as salt-affected soils, salines and dry and semi-dry regions. Amla is the only fruit to fill the gap of astringent food recommended by ayuervedic system of medicine for a balanced diet and sound health. The fruit contains a chemical substance known as gallic acid (polyphenol) which retards the oxidations of vitamin C, hence it has antioxidant property. Fruit is acrid, cooling, laxative and diuretic.
Amla is usually propagated by seed but seedlings plants are not true to type, so vegetative propagation by patch budding has been found a successful method which gives the highest success (90 to 100%) when performed in June-July months. The pits of 1x1x1 m are dug in a normal soil. These pits should be filled with the mixture of normal soil plus 25 kg of well-rotten FYM and 100 g gamma BHC and fertile soil up to a height of 6 to 10 cm above the ground level. Irrigate the pits to settle down the soil. Budded plants should be planted at a distance of 8 x 8 M in square system during late February and July-September. However, self-incompatibility has been observed in amla, hence few varieties i.e. NA-6+NA-7 or NA-7+ NA-10 should be planted in alternate rows for higher productivity.
Young plants are allowed to grow straight in order to provide good framework of individual tree. The framework should be developed by encouraging the growth of 4-6 well-spaced branches on trunk at a height of 60 to 75 cm from ground level. Only dead, diseased and weak cross branches and suckers appearing from rootstock are pruned.
Young plantation should be irrigated at 10 to 15 days interval during summer. Apply 10 kg of FYM, 100 g of N,50 g of P2O5 and 75 g of K2O per plant to one-year old plantation. This dose should be increased every year in same proportion up to the age of 10 years. Bearing starts in budded plants after the 4 to 5 years of plantation and tree starts to give full economical yield at the age of 8 years. An Average yield at this age is about 100 to 150 kg/tree.
The major insect pests of amla is shoot gall maker which affects the apical shoot of young plants and trees. This can be controlled by pruning the galled shoot and spray of monocrotophos (0.05%) during rainy season.
Need for new models in agriculture
On a recent visit to Paris, I had an opportunity to look at the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) adopted by the 15-member European Union (EU). It was during a chance meeting with the First Secretary, Economic and Commerce, Mr Sanjeev Singla, the issue of CAP emerged.
CAP, an imaginative instrument in vogue since 1963, aims at transforming and keeping agriculture alive and becoming more productive. It has shaped the lives of millions of European farmers and consumers as also protected the environment. The policy has enabled introduction of new farm strategies and entailed new industrial activities.
The resultant production growth has fostered quantitative and qualitative expansion of agribusiness and spurred growth of trade with other countries. Today, the EU is world’s second agricultural exporter while remaining its number one importer. CAP, in sum, is historically an integrated and advanced common policy that serves as the bedrock for construction of Europe.
With the passage of time, CAP has been fine-tuned with member countries mutually deciding on its continuous financing to serve their communities in a better manner. New proposals are occasionally incorporated into CAP. It now has a road map till 2005.
Mr Singla gave me a copy of the ‘’Comprehensive Survey of agriculture and agribusiness in France’’. It is only the second (latest) edition providing a clear insight into the French and European endeavours and experiences as also how CAP operates. Today, ‘’multi-functional’’ agriculture is the bottom-line for integrated rural development. This concept recognises the contribution of agriculture and livestock to the national heritage and goals. CAP underscores the need for maintaining food and food processing quality, health standards and production ethics, environmental protection, social role of land use and its management. In Europe, agriculture finds a high berth in national policies because of its contribution to national economies, in the process weaving together into a tight independent web agriculture, industry and services. No wonder, agriculture and food-processing are valuable assets for economy and trade. Moreover, there can not be any agricultural or rural development by disregarding the role and contribution of agriculture to rural employment, preserving socio-economic viability or by overlooking the special cultural and historic role of agriculture.
Thus, as the survey reports, ‘’emergence of the term ‘multi-functional’ agriculture in the international legal corpus should be understood as an operational break-through furthering sustainable agricultural and rural development’’. The seven-chapter report mirrors French agricultural facets. There are lessons galore in the survey to be learnt by Punjab.
The first and foremost: why cannot we have a similar regional Common Agricultural Policy? The National Agricultural Policy, sired by the NDA, is flawed. It cannot be made applicable or implemented all over India, given the diversity of agricultural regions, soil and climate variations, different geography and topography and wide variation in social and economic factors.
Take diversification. This word is in vogue in Punjab (and India) since the mid-eighties. Yet no visible change has come about in shift from the wheat-paddy rotation. Those enterprising farmers who risked adopting cash or commercial crops, including floriculture, vegetable cultivation, oilseed, sugarcane, sunflower etc. have burnt their fortunes in the absence of assured market and price. It is the minimum support price that sustains agriculture. But how long would farmers survive on the MSP crutches? A debate is on. Punjab is the front-runner speaking up against its withdrawal or dilution.
Meanwhile, deficit states have improved their performance in agriculture and do not need Punjab (or Haryana) wheat and rice any more. The consequences and cascading negative affects are well known to be recounted here. These range from post-harvest losses to foodgrain rotting in the over-flowing godowns to starving millions having no purchasing power to the collapse of public distribution system, etc.
Now comes knocking WTO and IRP regimes. We, as a nation, remain unprepared to meet new challenges and opportunities. Political exigencies, speaking of Punjab, overrun the economic necessities. Sustaining production is one thing, keeping expected social tensions owing to absence of buyers is quite another thing. Then there is growing debt on. The produce gets rejected by the procurement agencies on the ground of quality. There is lack of processing industry and stiff competition in the international bazar. All these factors left unattended will further squeeze the small and marginal farmers. With procurement already becoming a contentious issue, the future on the farm front is anything but bright. In highly advanced France, a ‘’social action fund’’ has been set up to ‘’help maintain those farmers whose presence is critical on the farms located in depressed areas, through the granting of aid appropriate to the unusual conditions of said farms’’. This was to avoid affecting the social and human balance of certain zones that warrant preservation. Why Punjab cannot evolve similar schemes for border, kandi and agriculturally backward areas?
India needs farmer-friendly policy
While it is from the month of April that mandis start overflowing with stocks of freshly harvested wheat, it is now becoming increasingly difficult for farmers to get a fair price for their produce. The government agencies which have been hitherto major buyers at a pre-announced price are now gradually withdrawing, thus putting the helpless farmers at the mercy of the private sector which offers much lower price than fixed by the government.
Finding it difficult to face such a situation for long, especially when the farmer needs money to pay back his creditors as well as to sow his next crop, there is hardly any other choice left with him than to sell his produce even at a distress price.
Till recently this two-crop cycle of wheat and rice has been the mainstay of an average farmer and he has been quite content with it. In fact this combination has enabled him to emerge from small and often undependable income to an era of plenty, thanks to his easy access to capital assets like tubewell, tractor, dependable power supply as well as encouraging infrastructure.
Unfortunately this very surplus situation year after year has also become the major factor behind declining fortunes of the farmer. Strange though it might sound, the recent events have shown how surplus harvest instead of bringing cheer to the face of the nation has become the cause for its gloom.
Why should it be so? a stunned farmer asks. He is simply nonplussed when he finds his efforts the year around and his rising investments in costly inputs are proving abortive. And with all this happening, he finds himself surrounded by hosts of problems like mounting debt and interest charges, inability to raise further funds, even support his family and honour social obligations. He is, thus, beset with a host of nerve-raking problems.
The question still arises as to why should this happen? Why an era of plenty — which otherwise is a major factor in the country’s prosperity — should instead turn the other way?
A host of factors have conjoined in creating this vicious circle.
While it was well known that year after year with encouraging monsoon, rising stock of farm capital and essential inputs available at highly subsidised rates, a bumper harvest had become a routine. But even then the authorities hardly bothered to strengthen the weak storage and distribution machinery.
Not only that, we have failed to update the storage capacity and even the existing capacity needed to be overhauled. Much of it was already under high pressure and had been created in haste, on temporary basis and was no longer proving effective.
The result has been that for the stocking of foodgrains that have been pouring in large quantity, there has not been sufficient space to accommodate it. Much of it finds its way into highly weather and insect exposed conditions causing great damage.
Thus the tragedy of storage has been that old stocks still continue to occupy storage capacity.
At the moment the country is already loaded with double the stock of foodgrains than what it can normally accommodate. Thus, there is a heavy backlog in the creation of new storage facility.
The government lacks any clear cut policy for the disposal of existing stocks.
There is no need to stretch out this issue for it is well known that the government’s attempts to sell its stocks of foodgrains in the international market have been a big failure. Who would buy this high priced and qualitatively less acceptable wheat when better quality and cheaper wheat was easily available?
Also the government has toyed with the ideas of selling wheat to the local population, to those who are victims of high poverty and their number is quite high. But then it is known that unless we give them free wheat they would not be able to afford it even if it were highly subsidised.
At the same time one wonders why it does not occur to our policy makers that since our rural areas lack basic facilities like roads, irrigation channels, houses and other capital assets, a countrywide programme of creating these programmes would also help to make an effective use of bulging stocks of food. In fact this would serve the dual purpose of creating essential capital stocks as well as empower the poor people with regular livelihood with which they could buy foodgrains and other essential items of daily need.
Not long ago Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had chosen his birthday to announce the alluring scheme of Gram Sadak Yojana for linking the entire length and breadth of the country through a national rural road network at a whopping cost of Rs 60,000 crore.
In fact this scheme itself if sincerely pursued would help to make productive use of idle stocks of grains for feeding the poor who are highly underfed and one finds that even under the current situation of plenty there have occurred starvation deaths in the tribal areas of Maharashtra and Gujarat.
Thus by putting across appropriate programmes of rural development to bring the vast rural sector in the national mainstream, we would be able to make productive use of surplus stocks of food.
This, of course, doesn’t mean that this alone would provide a long-term solution to the surplus food problem we face. In fact it is in the interest of the country that we would need larger surpluses to cope with the growing population as well as for those who are hungry and starved, for they do not have the purchasing capacity.
Here we need a long-term policy for agriculture where with more and more capital formation, new technology and knowledge we should be able to reduce pressure on land and more and more rural population should be absorbed in the alternative non-farm activities.
Farm operations for September
— Provide irrigation regularly to the crop getting better yield and stop irrigating the crop two weeks before harvesting.
— Rogue out the weeds and off-type plants from the paddy.
— Control leaf folder by spraying 150 ml of Lebaycid 1000 EC (Fenthion) or one litre of Coroban/Durmet 20EC or 560 ml Nuvacron/Monocil 36 SL in 100 litres of water per acre.
— White-backed plant hoppers sometimes become serious i coarse rice. The crop dries up in patches. The plant hoppers can be controlled by spraying Confidore 200 SL @ 40 ml or 250 ml of Labaycid or 800 ml of Ekalux 25 EC or 1000 ml Ekalux 20 AF or one litre of Coroban/Dursban 20EC or 560 ml of Thiodan 35 EC/Nuvacron 36 SL in 100 litres of water per acre.
— Paddy stem borers feed on growing points and cause dead hearts and white erect ears. Check attack of borers in basmati rice by spraying 560 ml of Monocrotophos 36 SL or one litre of Coroban/Dursban 20 EC (Chlorpyriphos) in 100 litre of water per acre. Repeat spray after 10 days’ interval. These pests can also be controlled by applying 10 kg of Padan/Kritap/Sanvex/Caldan 4 G or 7.5 kg Sevidol 4 G per acre in standing water.
— If high humidity and cloudy weather persists, the crop may be sprayed with Blitox/copper oxychloride 50 WP @ 500 g in 200 litres of water per acre to control false smut and repeat the spray after 10 days of its application. Start spray at the boot stage of the crop.
— To save the crop from sheath blight, keep the bunds of the fields clean by removing grass. On noticing the disease symptoms spray with Bavistin @ 200g/200 litres of water per acre.
— Maintain the adequate water supply to the maize crop, particularly at the tasseling and silking stages. Stress at these stages cause considerable losses in yield.
— The attack of maize borer can be checked by spraying 40 ml of Sumicidin 20 EC/Ripcord 10 EC or 80 ml of Decis 2.8 EC in 50 litres of water/acre.
— Do not allow cotton crop to suffer for want of water during the flowering and fruiting stages, otherwise a lot of shedding of flowers and bolis will take place resulting in a poor yield. To hasten boll opening last irrigation may be given at the end of September.
— Check the attack of bollworm by spraying 800 g Acephate 75 SP or 800 ml Quinalphos 25 EC or 850 ml Fenitrothion 50 EC per acre. In case a serious attack of Heliothis is noticed, then spray 2 litres of Chlorpyriphos 20 EC immediately. Repeat spray if it rains within 24 hours of spraying. In case mite/aphid/jassid or whitefly appear along with bollworm, prefer Monocroptophos/Triazophos or Ethion, etc. or mix 75 ml Phosphamidon with other insecticides used for bollworm control.
— Prop up the sugarcane crop in the beginning of this month by using trash-twist method. Irrigate the crop at regular intervals for getting better yields.
— Rogue out the canes affected by red rot and wilt. Collect and destroy the shoots infested with Gurdaspur borer. Repeat this operation at weekly intervals.
— To control pyrilla, spray 500 ml of Thiodan 35 EC or 350 ml of Folithion/Sumithion/Accothion 50 EC in 150 litres of water per acre.
— Start sowing of early maturing sugarcane varieties like CoJ-85, CoJ-86, Coj-83 and Coj-64 from the second fortnight of this month after giving recommended seed treatment. Keep 90 cm distance between rows.