AGRICULTURE TRIBUNE Monday, November 12, 2001, Chandigarh, India
 

Paddy crisis and related issues
Manoj Gupta
G
lobalisation and libralisation of the Indian economy under the WTO regime will open many avenues to the progressive farmers of Punjab and Haryana but these avenues are challenging and require quality assurance and cost effectiveness of agricultural produce. Present paddy crisis (or coming wheat crisis) has awakened us to the harsh realities of coming time.

Asia’s useful trees and plants
K.L. Noatay
K
ikar is one of the very important trees of the Indian subcontinent. It is a medium-sized, evergreen tree generally found growing naturally in dry to nearly arid regions. The scientific name being Acacia arabica, it has several regional and vernacular names like, babool, babar or babur, kali kilkar, gabur, babola, tuma, gobli, jali, karri, jalli rama kantha et. el. It belongs to family mimoseae of the main plant order leguminosae.

FARM OPERATIONS FOR NOVEMBER

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Paddy crisis and related issues
Manoj Gupta

Globalisation and libralisation of the Indian economy under the WTO regime will open many avenues to the progressive farmers of Punjab and Haryana but these avenues are challenging and require quality assurance and cost effectiveness of agricultural produce. Present paddy crisis (or coming wheat crisis) has awakened us to the harsh realities of coming time. It may be a tip of the iceberg and many other such crisises of varying degree may crop up in the future when the WTO agreement will become fully operational. This agreement calls for withdrawal of subsidies and free import of goods including agricultural commodities. Withdrawal of subsidies will raise the cost of cultivation, while free imports will bring in cheaper agricultural goods, thereby making the farmers do feel the heat of competition. This crisis has been temporarily averted by the intervention of the Central Government through release of financial packages to the affected states, but it is doubtful that such packages will come to the rescue of the farmers in future due to the WTO restrictions and tight financial condition of the Central Government. This crisis has awaken us to the harsh realities of the WTO agreement and raised many issues which needs to be examined properly to meet the challenges of the agreement.

Our foodgrain production has increased manifold after Independence and presently we are lacking warehouse space for storing it. Export of these surplus foodgrains may not be possible as major proportion of these foodgrains don’t fulfil the quality requirement of the export markets. Under this situation, the foodgrains purchased by the central agencies may have to disposed of in the domestic or foreign market at a very lower rate to minimise the losses to the procurement agencies. So paddy crisis has highlighted the flaws of present foodgrain procurement policy which needs to be addressed in the light of the WTO threats. Under the WTO controlled business environment, market condition will be dictated by the domestic and foreign consumers preference. Changed scenario calls for the reorientation of the foodgrain production policy to accommodate the quality standards of market and block the threat of cheaper imports before they control our markets and cause havoc for the economy as agriculture is still a major sources of employment and income generation in the rural sector.

India has been blessed by the nature with the diverse agroclimatic conditions, perennial rivers and fertile soils. These resources if complemented with the suitable technology can create wonder for the Indian economy. Present need is to focus upon the quality of agricultural production so that a niche is created for Indian agricultural products in the domestic and foreign markets. Areas where climate is favourable and resources are available to produce exportable produces should be identified and encouraged to produce quality products. These pockets should be developed on the pattern of export promotion parks where production should be targeted at the overseas markets only. Basmati rice producing areas is one of such examples. Even the minimum support price (MSP) mechanism should be oriented to encourage production of export quality agricultural goods. Quality standards should be notified in advance and must be adhered to. State agricultural universities and ICAR institutions should suggest varieties and cultural practices keeping the above factors in mind so that farmers don’t face problem in meeting the quality requirements of the procurement agencies.

The Green Revolution in Punjab and Haryana has achieved its objective but with some negative externalities such as decline in the watertable, soil salinity, decline in the biodiversity, etc. Now country is self-sufficient in foodgrains, but still we have to depend upon the imports for the pulses, edible oil and sometimes even sugar. There is no justification in producing surplus substandard foodgrains on one hand and importing others. This anomaly in the cropping pattern of Punjab and Haryana needs change and diversification in to low volume and high value crop alternatives. Dominance of the paddy-wheat rotation in these states is the root cause of the present crisis. It must be diluted as production of these crops has been increasing steadily in other states and their dependence upon Punjab and Haryana to meet their foodgrain demand, is reducing year after year due to the spread of latest agricultural technologies in these states. At least 10 to 20 per cent area under this rotation in Punjab and Haryana must be shifted to the other crops such as oilseeds, pulses, vegetables and horticultural crops keeping in view the market conditions, environmental issues and above all the interests of the farmers. These crops have been ignored by the farmers of these states due to higher risks in their production, labour intensive nature and unfavourable market prices. Diversification of farming systems in these states will not be an easier task and will require major initiative on the part of their state governments to remove these bottlenecks before suggesting the farmers to change the existing cropping pattern. The present minimum support price mechanism is also biased towards paddy-wheat rotation and must be reshaped to encourage agricultural diversification in these states. This will also help us in reducing our dependence upon the imports of the agricultural goods, particularly edible oil and pulses. Shift in area from paddy-wheat rotation to pulses will improve soil health as their production require lesser irrigations, and chemical fertilisers due to their nitrogen fixing properties.

Free trade of agricultural goods among various countries will start after January, 2005, when GATT will be implemented in toto. Cheaper agricultural goods will put more pressure on our farmers to reduce their cost of production to complete with the cheaper imported goods. This objective can be achieved by increasing the mechnisation of agricultural operations, spread of latest varieties and following the recommendations of the agricultural scientists from time to time.

Post-harvest handling of the foodgrains is another area of concern. Huge amount is being spent by the procurement agencies on packing and transportation of foodgrains. A bag of foodgrain is loaded and unloaded many times before it reaches the final consumers. Cost of handling a bag of foodgrains is almost equal to the cost of foodgrains. Post-harvest management can be made efficient by mechanisation of operations by procurement agencies, development of economic transportation models and public and private investments in the storage infrastructure. Efficiency in this aspect will make the local agricultural products cost effective, thereby can go a long way in checking the threat of cheaper imported goods.

Presently all the farmers rush to the markets after harvest of the crop. This leads to excessive supply in the markets and exploitation of the farmers by middlemen. Even procurement agencies find it difficult to handle the produce, thereby leading to the huge losses in quantity and quality of foodgrains. This problem can be diluted by encouraging big farmers to develop storage facilities on the farm and sell the produce later when market prices are suitable. Even the higher MSP should be assured in later parts of the year after harvest of the crop.

Present crisis has once again pointed towards drying government investments in the agricultural infrastructure, particularly in the irrigation facilities, and research and development. This trend needs to be reversed immediately, otherwise our agricultural sector will be highly vulnerable to the external forces.

So this crisis has raised many issues which needs to be addressed properly before it is very late. Such problems have also cropped up earlier in the Indian economy and have been tackled efficiently. This crisis has awakened us to take some corrective measures in our agricultural sector so that we may convert this challenge in to opportunity for the benefit of the farmers of our country.
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Asia’s useful trees and plants
K.L. Noatay

Kikar is one of the very important trees of the Indian subcontinent. It is a medium-sized, evergreen tree generally found growing naturally in dry to nearly arid regions. The scientific name being Acacia arabica, it has several regional and vernacular names like, babool, babar or babur, kali kilkar, gabur, babola, tuma, gobli, jali, karri, jalli rama kantha et. el. It belongs to family mimoseae of the main plant order leguminosae. A legend has it that of scientists assigned the specific name ‘arabica’ to the common generic name acacia’ of this plant because the tree finds mention in several fables and folk tales of Arabia as well India. And, it is perhaps because of the latter nexus that some scientists call it as Acacia Indica as well.

Kikar can come up naturally on a variety of soils. However, it does better in porus alluvium consisting of sand and shingle.

Kikar is found growing naturally all over the Indian subcontinent-from sea level to about 1000m altitude, experiencing not much of rains or waterlogging. Dry arid regions suit pretty well.

Kikar is a slow growing species. It matures in 40 to 50 years, by when it is about 8 to 12 metres high with diameter of 40 to 50 cm. It may have one or more straight trunks and a spreading crown. Its bark is fissured, greyish dark in colour, and nearly 10 to 15 mm thick.

Kikar generally sheds old leaves during January-February. The new ones start appearing simultaneously. The process is more brisk during April-May.

The leaves of kikar are compound. The tree has 2 to 5 cm long white, straight and paper pin-like spines.

Kikar generally flowers twice a year, once during winter in November-December and then during March-April. Kikar inflorescence is pale to yellow in colour. The florets are spherical measuring about 5 to 10 mm in diameter.

Kikar fruit is a pod, about 7 to 12 cm long and 1 to 1.5 cm wide. It is brown in colour and contains nearly 10 to 12 seeds of nearly 1 cm diameter.

The sap wood of kikar is greyish in colour. It is comparatively soft and liable to attack by insects. The heart wood is pretty hard. It weighs nearly 25 kg per cubic foot and is highly prized for making wheel-curves, cart wheels, rollers for crushing sugar cane and extracting oil seed, agricultural implements like plough, handles for tools, including swords and knives, etc. It is very good for charcoal and firewood as well.

Kikar tree has some other uses too. Its green twigs make excellent tooth brush and are highly prized for that. The foliage make good fodder for cattle. Goats and camels greedily feed on dried as well as green leaves and twigs. Kikar gum makes a very good glue and is a prized item of office stationery. It is full of nutrients and is used as a tonic by putting it nutritious diet specially prepared for recuperating sick persons, especially women in their post childbirth confinement. Kikar flowers are used as a remedy in insanity. Bark dust is useful against snake bite. Various parts of the plant are also used against hairfall, earache, syphilis, cholera, leprosy, rinderpest, cough, diarrhoea, indigestion, sore throat also.Keeping in view the several uses of the Kikar tree, its wood, bark, roots, etc. it is of immense economic importance. The going price of a standing kikar tree is about Rs 1000 per foot.
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FARM OPERATIONS FOR NOVEMBER

Vegetables

Carrot, radish and turnip:

Apply 15 tonnes of farmyard manure per acre and mix it with the soil by ploughing about 10 days before sowing these crops. Drill 55 kg of urea and 75 kg of super-phosphate per acre at the time of sowing. For carrot, 50 kg of muriate of potash per acre should also be added.

Root crops:

— Start sowing English varieties of radish (Japanese White), turnip (Golden Ball, Snowball, Purple Top, White Globe) and carrot (Nantes)

— Irrigate these crops only when it is must, otherwise excessive vegetative growth will lead to hairy, cracked, deformed, small and forked roots.

Cole crop:

— Transplant four to six weeks old seedlings of cabbage, chinese cabbage and late season cauliflower in lines at 45 cm x 30 cm. Repeat watering once a week. Fill the gaps to obtain good control stand after a week and irrigate.

— Transplant fully developed true to type and selected plants of early cauliflower for seed multiplication along with the root system intact. Keep lines and plant at 60 to 45 cm, respectively. Scoop the heads from the centre to obtain more seed stalks.

Potato:

— Rogue out virus-affected plants from seed plots. Apply the second dose of 85 kg of urea per acre and increase the dose of urea to 115 N kg per acre in the case of light soils and do earthing up in 40 to 45 days old crop. At the time of earthing up, apply 4 kg of Thimet 10 G per acre in the seed plots.

— Spray crop with Indofil M-45 @ 500-700 g or Copper Oxychloride 50 WP @ 750-1000 g/acre in 250-300 litres of water before the appearance of disease followed by five more sprays at seven days’ interval.

Tomato:

— Sow 200 g seed of TH-2312, TH-802, Punjab NR-7, Punjab Tropics, Punjab Chhuhara, Punjab Upma, Castle Rock and Punjab Kesri on raised beds. One-marla area is sufficient to grow seedlings for an acre. At the time of preparing beds, add wellrotten farmyard manure @ 125 kg per marla.

In the last week of this month, start transplanting. Mark line at 1.5 metre for Punjab Tropic and 0.75 metre for the other varieties. Apply 10 tonnes farmyard manure and 55, 150 and 50 kg of urea, superphosphate and muriate of potash per acre, respectively. Transplant two seedlings per hill and keep 30 cm space between the plants. Irrigate immediately, fill gaps next week and irrigate.

— For kitchen gardening and for Local market, prefer hybrid (TH-2312), or varieties like Punjab Kesri or Punjab NR. For processing, sow Punjab Tropic or Punjab Chhuhara. For medium distance marketing, plant Punjab Kesri and for long distance marketing plant only the Punjab Chhuhara variety. In nemadote infested soils, plant only the resistant variety Punjab NR-7.

Garlic and onion:

Complete planting of garlic and onion in the first fortnight of this month. Plant four to six quintals of medium-size healthy, bold and duplication free bulbs of onion varieties Punjab Naroya, Punjab Red Round, Punjab Selection or Punjab 48 or Punjab White per acre for seed multiplication purpose. Plant bulbs on ridges spaced at 60 cm and keep bulbs at 30 cm. Apply light irrigation once after 10 days. Sow 4 kg seed either of the varieties in 8 marla bed area to raise seedlings for an acre.

Leafy vegetables:

— Start harvesting, grading, packing and marketing of spinach, chinese cabbage and methi. After each harvest apply 20 kg of urea per acre for quick rejuvenation and healthy foliage development. In case single harvest crop is to be taken resow the Punjab Green variety after preparing the plot.

— Irrigate methi and spinach once a week.

— Sow seed or transplant seedlings of lettuce (Punjab Lettuce 1) after applying 20 kg of urea and 150 kg of superphosphate and 50 kg of muriate of potash pe acre. Keep lines and plants 30 and 15 cm apart, respectively.

Pea:

— Apply 25 kg of urea and 155 kg of superphosphate/acre and sow Punjab-87 or Punjab-88 varieties.

— Use 30 kg seed per acre.

— After sowing spray Stomp 30 EC @ 1.0 litre per acre as pre-emergence herbicide.

Chilli:

Sow seed of CH-1, CH-11, CH-111, Punjab Surkh, Punjab Lal or Punjab Guchhedar in 15 cm high raised beds. For transplanting in an acre about 200-250 g seed is required for raising nursery.

— Progressive Farming, PAU
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