AGRICULTURE TRIBUNE Monday, October 29, 2001, Chandigarh, India
  Role of testing soils for micronutrients
V. K. Nayyar and I. M. Chhibba

S
OIL testing till today has been used mainly to formulate precise recommendations for the major nutrients i.e. nitrogen, phosphorus fertilization of crops in different soils and to recommend appropriate doses of amendments for salt-affected and acidic soils. Micronutrients, comprising zinc, copper, iron manganese, boron, molybdenum and chlorine, though required by plants in much smaller amounts, yet are as essential for them as the major nutrients. Despite that, little attention has been paid to employ the soil testing for assessing the micronutrient status of soils and determining soils’ requirement for micronutrient fertilisers for growing crops.

A world beyond wheat, paddy
P. P. S. Gill

P
UNJABIS still do not think beyond wheat and paddy. Therefore when a group of Punjabis recently visited Andaman and Nicobar and were shown around a 40-hectare soil conservation and horticulture demonstration centre at Sipighat, their excitement was understandable. The centre provides technical knowhow for commercial cultivation of arecanut, black pepper, clove, cinnamon, cashew nut, nutmeg, pineapple, etc. Some of the visitors were seeing these plants for the first time.

Asia’s useful trees and plants
K. L. Noatay

B
AN is a large-sized evergreen tree. Its scientific name is Quercus incana. Family is quercineae. Its other names in regional languages and dialects are kharanj, tikia banj bari, etc. Starting from Shan hills in Burma in the East, its natural habitat spreads up to Afghanistan in the West. The altitudinal range varies from 600 m to 2500 m above mean sea level. Ban is quite a common tree at and around hill stations like Shimla, Nainital, etc. It generally grows in gregarious crop with a few occasional associates like rhododendron, pieris, chir, kail, deodar, etc. In addition to ban, the genra Quercus has three other important species in the Indian sub-continent. These are Quercus semecarpifolia (kharsu), Quercus dilatata (moru), Quercus (phanat or bini). On the entire Asian scene, however, the number of the Quercus species is seven.

FARM OPERATIONS FOR OCTOBER

  • Dairy and animal health

  • Poultry



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Role of testing soils for micronutrients
V. K. Nayyar and I. M. Chhibba

SOIL testing till today has been used mainly to formulate precise recommendations for the major nutrients i.e. nitrogen, phosphorus fertilization of crops in different soils and to recommend appropriate doses of amendments for salt-affected and acidic soils. Micronuterients, comprising zinc, copper, iron manganese, boron, molybdenum and chlorine, though required by plants in much smaller amounts, yet are as essential for them as the major nutrients. Despite that, little attention has been paid to employ the soil testing for assessing the micronutrient status of soils and determining soils’ requirement for micronutrient fertilisers for growing crops.

Today’s exploitive agriculture laying emphasis on high crop yields as well as quality of the produce through intensive and extensive cultivation of fertiliser responsive high-yielding crop varieties, together with the use of heavy doses of micronutrient-free high analysis NPK fertilisers, has been depleting our soils of their limited micronutrient reserves leading to the emergence of deficiencies of micronuterients in different soils. Good crops of paddy (6t/ha) and wheat (4t grain/ha) remove on an average 350,50,3000 and 550 g/ha of zinc, copper, iron and manganese, respectively. As such, the replenishment of the micronuterients used by the crops grown therein is indispensable to sustain the high level of crop yields and desirable quality of the produce.

The deficiencies of zinc, manganese and iron have been found to limit crop yields in Punjab. The optimum crop yields under deficient conditions of any of the micronutrients in soil is not possible with the use of only NPK fertiliser unless the deficiency is corrected by applying the yield limiting micronutrient. Experiments on different soils of the state have shown that the average response to applied zinc may range from 3.4 to 9.5q/ha in cereals, 1.1 to 2.7 q/ha in oilseeds, 1.5 to 1.9 q/ha in pulses and 2.3 to 4.1 q/ha in millets. The responses to applied manganese, whose deficiency in conspicuous in wheat following rice in highly permeable coarse-textured soils, may vary between 2 and 29 q/ha depending on the degree of the deficiency. Yields of rice, chickpea, sorghum ad sugarcane, suffering from iron deficiency in the coarse textured soils, have been observed to increase with the application of iron.

The nature and degree of micronutrient deficiency in soil can only be assessed by testing the soil by using suitable techniques. Once the available micronutrient status of a soil is known, it becomes easy to formulate the recommendations for applying different micronutrient materials to ensure sustainable crop yields and produce quality. According to general standards, the Punjab soils can be rated as deficient in available zinc, copper, iron and management if their available contents in the soil fall below 0.6, 0.2, 4.5 and 3.5 mg/kg soil, respectively.

In view of the wide variation in the micronutrient status of soil from one field to another, the recommendations, for the micronutrient applications are highly local and crop specific in contrast to the generalised ones for macronutrients. As the deficiencies of zinc, iron and manganese are generally encountered in soils with coarse texture, poor organic matter, high calcium carbonate, high pH (sodic soils) as well as flood-plain soils, exposed sub-surface soils and the soils irrigated with sodic water, it is essential to get such soils tested for available micronutrients before seeding/transplanting of crops in order to take appropriate measures for timely and effective supplementing and/or correcting the micronutrient deficiency, if any, to realise potential crop yields. Since the kharif crops are more responsive to the applied micronutrients, it is suggested to get the soil tested for micronutrients after the harvest of the rabi crop.

Though the testing in the laboratory requires only a few grams of the soil sample, yet the sample sent to the laboratory must be a true representative of the field in question. In a homogenous field, soil samples from plough layer (0-15cm) should be selected randomly in a zig-zag manner. Be sure that the samples are not collected from near the bunds, water channels, field paths and heaps of crop straw, stubbles, manure, etc. While the samples can be removed with the help of Khurpa “kassi” or an augear, it should be ensured that these tools are free from rust or any foreign material to avoid contamination of the sample.

The sample collected from the selected sites should be composited and mixed thoroughly in a container. From this lot a representative sample, about 500 gm should be taken out and air-dried under shade. The air-dried sample should be transferred into a clean cloth bag bearing a slip with a mention of complete address, field number, cropping sequence being followed, source of irrigation (tubewell/canal), soil type (coarse textured fine textured, alkali or waterlogged), fertiliser/manure schedule followed in the preceding crops and any other specific observation about the soil and/or the crops grown therein. Then the sample should be taken to the laboratory where facilities for testing soils for micronutrients are available.

With an objective to extend the advisory service to the farmers of the state regarding the micronutrient problems of soils and crops and suggest appropriate remedial measures for efficient correction of the same, Punjab Agriculture University and the Department of Agriculture have established soil testing laboratories for micronutrient. Farmers are advised to make the best use of this free service rendered by these laboratories.
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A world beyond wheat, paddy
P. P. S. Gill

PUNJABIS still do not think beyond wheat and paddy.

Therefore when a group of Punjabis recently visited Andaman and Nicobar and were shown around a 40-hectare soil conservation and horticulture demonstration centre at Sipighat, their excitement was understandable. The centre provides technical knowhow for commercial cultivation of arecanut, black pepper, clove, cinnamon, cashew nut, nutmeg, pineapple, etc. Some of the visitors were seeing these plants for the first time.

Andaman and Nicobar comprises 572 islands, 1,200 km south of Kolkata and occupy 8,249 sq km area of which 86 per cent is covered by thick forests and 14 per cent is for rehabilitation, including agriculture spread across 50,000 hectares of red sandy loam clay soil.

Unlike Punjab, these islands have topical and humid climate with an average rainfall of 3,180 mm in eight months — May to January. The topography is undulating with steep terrain and much exposed to soil erosion due to heavy rainfall.

Though organised agriculture is not an ancient practice, in the primitive phase people of Andaman were dependent on forest products, wild animals and fish, and of Nicobar on naturally grown coconut and pandanas. Cultivation of crops, as we know today, was unknown to them. Then came the subsistence phase. By 1931 about 10,000 hectares were cleared — 3,625 hectares were put under agriculture and 4,000 retained as grasslands. The Department of Agriculture was established in 1945 to promote farming on scientific lines. There are 34 demonstration farms and plantations. The developed phase came in the post-Independence period when refugees from East Pakistan (Bangladeshis migrated after the 1971 war), repatriates from Sri Lanka, Myanmar, landless from Kerala and about 350-odd families of ex-servicemen were settled and rehabilitated. Each farmer settling here was given four hectares, of which two were forest land. Major stress is to encourage intensive cropping and inter-cropping to check soil erosion, explained farm manager Joy Thomas.

Agriculture began to shape between 1957 and 1961. Consequently, today paddy is grown on 12,000 hectares with an annual production of 30,000 tonnes. There is multiple cropping on 7,000 hectares. The crops sown include sugarcane and ginger.

Punjabi visitors were naturally impressed by the new plants and were happy to see paddy, pulses, oilseed and vegetables sown here. All vegetables grow here, except potato and onion.

Thomas informed at what stage cloves are harvested or how spices are sun-dried and when the picking is done.

One of the major problems in the islands is of giant African snail; a gift of the Japanese after World War II. The Japanese used to ''eat'' this snail. But today this is a major destroyer of plantations, said Thomas as he unplucked one clinging to an arecanut tree.

Incidentally, agriculture is taught as a subject in the Rashtriya Mahavidalya. The college was affiliated to Panjab University, Chandigarh, till 1985. Thereafter, affiliation was shifted to Pondicherry.

In these islands, 16 agriculture schemes are being operated aimed at gradual transition to modernisations through the latest technology and techniques to provide higher economic returns to the farmers. Therefore, training of farmers is getting more attention.
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Asia’s useful trees and plants
K. L. Noatay

BAN is a large-sized evergreen tree. Its scientific name is Quercus incana. Family is quercineae. Its other names in regional languages and dialects are kharanj, tikia banj bari, etc. Starting from Shan hills in Burma in the East, its natural habitat spreads up to Afghanistan in the West. The altitudinal range varies from 600 m to 2500 m above mean sea level. Ban is quite a common tree at and around hill stations like Shimla, Nainital, etc. It generally grows in gregarious crop with a few occasional associates like rhododendron, pieris, chir, kail, deodar, etc. In addition to ban, the genra Quercus has three other important species in the Indian sub-continent. These are Quercus semecarpifolia (kharsu), Quercus dilatata (moru), Quercus (phanat or bini). On the entire Asian scene, however, the number of the Quercus species is seven.

Ban is a plant of the temperate region. It comes up happily in hills receiving 100 to 240 cm of annual rainfall. The tree attains a height of about 12 to 18 m and a girth of about 1.5 to 2 m in the span of about 70 to 80 years. In some favourable locales, its bigger specimens having height up to 30 m and girth up to nearly 5 m have also been seen.

Ban tends to grow into an irregular bole with massive branches and a round spreading crown. The leaves are 7 to 15 cm long and 5 to 7 cm wide and are of oval shape. The colour of leaves is dull green. The bark is grey to greenish brown.

The influorescence of ban constitutes densely hairy and clustered male spikes and female flowers. The female ones are generally sessile. The flowers generally appear on new shoots. The male flowers are pendulous (hanging downwards).

Quercus incana starts putting on new leaves in the beginning of April. The influorescence appears during May. The fruit appear in June/July and ripen to be seed worthy by September/October. Old leaves are generally shed between April and July or even later. The nut weighs about 1.5 to 2.5 gm each.

The sapwood of ban is reddish white to pale. The heartwood is light greenish brown — at times with dark streaks. It has even texture and no special characteristic odour or taste. Growth rings do exist but are not distinct for naked eye. Ban wood is reasonably workable and pliable when newly cut, but tends to get very hard on seasoning. In fact it is one of the very hard woods weighing nearly 30 kg per cubic foot. It is difficult to saw and plane and does not take a wire nail easily when fully seasoned. Accordingly this wood is used only for cheap buildings and for making agricultural implements like plough, meat cutter platform, rollers for crushing sugarcane etc.

Here it is worth mentioning that the ban charcoal is one of the best coals. It can be ignited easily, gives excellent flame, radiates a good quantum of heat but also emits a lot of carbon monoxide. The use of this coal for warming offices and living rooms, therefore, calls for special care. Good ventilation is essential. Carelessness in this regard causes loss of lives in the hills year after year. Further, the foliage of ban is good for milch cattle. Dry leaves collected from the forest floor are used for cosy bed for domestic animals. The bed when replaced makes very good farm manure.

The plant comes up on its own in its usual habitat. New plants can be raised in nurseries as well as filed through direct sowing of seed. However, the nursery beds need to be guarded carefully as the young seedlings tend to be invaded by rodents and various insects. These are at times attacked by stray cattle as well as wild animals.
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Farm operations for October

Dairy and animal health

— Animals must conceive within 60 to 90 days after calving. For this, watch the animals regularly in the morning and evening for heat symptoms like mucous discharge, decrease in milk yield, etc.

— When oestrus signs are observed, get the dairy animals inseminated/mated by adopting morning-evening formula. Animals seen in heat in the morning are to be inseminated in the evening and vice versa. Double insemination can be done in cows if their heat is prolonged.

— Provide clean, dry and good bedding, especially for young calves. Colostrum must be fed to calves within 30 minutes of birth. Get the new calves disbudded and dewormed within 10 days of birth. Apply antiseptic cream on wound regularly after dehorning.

— Keep the record of milk yield and cull the uneconomical animals to have more profit.

— Do grooming of calves regularly to keep them clean. This practice will also help in detecting wound or tick infection.

— The cross-bred animals are more susceptible to various diseases associated with change in climatic conditions. These animals and their calves are likely to get diarrhoea and other digestive troubles. The diarrhoea may be due to internal parasite. Seek veterinary advice early.

— Do milking quickly, cleanly, quitely and correctly with full hand for more milk yield.

— Regularly feed the mineral mixture to the animal and give fresh water and green fodder.

— The adult animals should be dewormed with broad spectrum antheimintic. The antheimintic used earlier should be changed in consultation with local veterinary doctor to avoid antheimintic resistance.

— Prophylactic measures for control of tick, flies and mites should be taken.

Poultry

— Provide 14 to 16 hours lights, including daylight, to your flock if the flock has come in production.

— Provide extra grit in addition to marble powder in feed for better quality of egg shell.

— Keep the litter dry by stirring it tow to three times in a week. If there is any wet part of litter, remove it immediately. Keep the litter depth 4 to 5 inches.

— It is good time for raising broiler chicks. Get your chicks from a hatchery of repute.

— Provide broiler chick-feed for the first four weeks and then broiler finishes ration for two to three weeks to attain proper weight.

— Cull and sell the uneconomical birds to increase the profit.

— Always use good quality feed free from dust and molds to avoid infections and drop in egg production.

— Be prepared for winter season and keep the curtain in good condition for prevention of winter chill.

— Progressive Farming, PAU
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