|AGRICULTURE TRIBUNE||Monday, December 31, 2001, Chandigarh, India|
Biopesticide to control American bollworm
Take-home food and girl education
Growing organic wheat
Biopesticide to control American bollworm
American bollworm has posed a big challenge to cotton cultivators in the cotton belt of the North comprising Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan. The cotton cultivators of this area, which includes Sirsa district too, have been financially stressed for the past several years due to weather atrocities as well as the attack of American bollworm on their cotton crop. With little control over the vagaries of nature the farmers have been given a crucial breakthrough in pest technology for the control of American bollworm in the form of nuclear polyhedrosis virus (NPV).
Under the prevailing conditions depressing for the cotton cultivators, the scientists of the Regional Centre of the Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR) gave a ray of hope by successfully testing for the first time in North India this technology and effectively demonstrating it under farmers’ field conditions. This biopesticide is not only effective but is also environment-friendly.
Cotton occupies an area of about 18 lakh hectares in North India. Cotton production in this belt touched an all-time high of around 50 lakh bales during 1992-93. There has, however, been a continuous decline in cotton production in the area and the lowest production of 32 lakh bales was recorded. This became a cause of concern for farmers, policy makers and research scientists.
A number of factors have been attributed to this decline which include erratic weather, attack of American bollworm and cotton leaf curl virus, development of resistance in insects and diseases against pesticides, spurious pesticides and poor quality of seeds. Among these the American bollworm attack in recent years has become the single most important factor responsible for all decline the cotton yield in the northern belt.
The American bollworm (helicoverpa armigera) has developed resistance to most of the known insecticides due to their indiscriminate and excessive use. Higher doses of insecticides are often required to control the bollworm which also become ineffective once the larva crosses a particular stage. The cost of plant protection measures is increasing making it difficult for the farmers to keep the spray operations going throughout the season.
Dr Monga, Head of the CICR Regional Station, disclosed that this biopesticide is quite effective under farmers’ field conditions. The NPV is a virulent pathogen of insects which develops and multiplies in the body of a live insect. He says that this virus is found in nature and naturally infects the bollworm larvae. The virus was isolated from these dead infected larvae by scientists and they got the idea of using this virus for the control of American bollworm. Later, laboratory techniques were developed and standardised for multiplication and mass production of this virus. The NPV of helicoverpa armigera is produced by raising the larvae on artificial diet followed by inoculation with virus solution. At least 100 larvae equivalents are recommended for each acre. The NPV may be mixed with water and sprayed on the infected crop preferably in the evenings. Once the NPV is ingested by the larvae, it starts taking less and less food from the third to fifth day. Shortly before the larvae cease to move and the integument becomes very shiny. Some of the larvae die in a normal upright position, although the characteristic sac hangings by the prolegs occurs commonly. Shortly after death the intact body and enclosed fluids begin to darken becoming first green, then brown and finally black.
Interestingly, Dr Monga says that this technology has unique characteristic of recycling. These dead larvae can be collected from the field and mixed in water for further spray in the field. This technology can control the problem of bollworms if used properly on a large scale.
The production of the NPV for its demonstration and successfully control of the American bollworm under field conditions in the cotton belt of Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan was initiated for the first time at the CICR Regional Station for the benefit of farmers of this region.
A small unit has been established at this centre which is producing the NPV for on-farm demonstration. During this cotton season the NPV produced by this Regional Station was distributed among many farmers and an area of hundred of acres was covered. The feedback received from farmers has shown very encouraging results and this technique was successful in the management of American bollworm.
This technology can be successfully transmitted through consultancy to the progressive farmers and small entrepreneurs and they can establish their units for the production of the NPV. Further the strengthening of facilities at this Regional Station can also help in the large-scale production of the NPV to the benefit of farmers.
Take-home food and girl education
The World Food Programme (WFP) is considered to be an important food assistance strategy for improving girl education. In several countries in Asia and Africa the World Food Programme has had considerable success in using take-home food rations for getting girls to school.
In the context of surplus food stocks in the country, the WFP would like to recommend take-home rations for girls as an effective strategy for states with low female literacy and poor girls’ enrolment in schools. Children from food insecure families are invariably engaged fully in household activities in order to enable elders to engage in tasks that can obtain food for the households. The girl child has a larger burden to share. She is also the sibling caretaker in the family. She is conveniently kept away from school. Through participatory appraisal techniques, it was learnt that an attractive take-home ration can influence the family’s decision to send their daughters to school.
The WFP launched a pilot project in Jhabus district, a characterised by high levels of food insecurity and illiteracy rates. Under the project, an incentives of 10 kg of cereals was provided every month to all girls who attended school up to 80 per cent of school days. This project was implemented in collaboration with the district administration which worked through the village panchayats at the village level. Within six months of programme implementation, the project has shown very positive results. Girls’ enrolment increased from 1500 to 2,000 which was quite dramatic.
The success of this initiative has prompted the WFP to consider this as an important food assistance strategy for improving girls education. In several countries in Asia and Africa WFP has had considerable success in using take-home food rations for getting girls to school.
In the context of surplus food stocks in the country, the WFP would like to recommended take-home rations for girls as an effective strategy for states with low female literacy and poor girl enrolments in schools.
Food insecurity hampers social development. Food insecurity is a multi-dimensional problem relating to issues such as the amount and quality of food people can grow, their possibility to access food, the way food is utilised by different members of a family or the particular food vulnerability of specific groups. Education, particularly girls education, is a key factor to all these dimensions of food security. Educated women tend to have fewer, healthier and better fed children and know better how to look after their own health. Education is also central to the people’s ability to defend their rights and seek out opportunities to improve their condition. Education should, therefore, be a central element of any strategy to improve food security.
Growing organic wheat
A lot is being talked about organic foods now. Go to a supermarket in the metros of India or abroad and don’t get surprised on seeing aisles dedicated to organic food only. Undoubtedly, organic food is a lot safer, more nutritious and environment friendly. Whether out of an actual concern for health or out of mere fad, there is certainly a market burgeoning for organic food.
The basic food even today for most Indians, especially those belonging to the farming community, remains cereals. And, in cereals, it is wheat for most of us.
So lets try some organic wheat for domestic consumption. Choose a desi variety that is known to be growing well in your area. The reason a desi variety should be chosen is because these varieties are habitual of growing well without artificial, post sowing nutrition sing. C-306 is one such variety that can still be found in the market. RJ-1482, developed in Rajasthan, can also be grown organically. It is not a desi variety but it is excellent in colour and taste.
To start with, put at least 16 to 20 tonnes of fully decomposed manure in an acre. To make the manure available to the crop, manure the field at least two months in advance. This practice will transform the manure into its consumable form. Soak your seed overnight into cow’s urine diluted with water in equal proportions. This will help in better and faster germination of seed.
Burn one quintal of dung cakes. When it gets reduced to ash, add equal (approximately 40 litres) amount of cow’s urine. Apply this mixture immediately after the first irrigation. This practice should be done before the sunrise or after the sunset. Though the rationale is unknown, but the observation of the ancestors of those practicing, has been such. This can be repeated after 15 days but certainly not after the crop attains a height of 15 inches. Ensure that this application is always done after the irrigation or on sufficient moisture in the field. This will provide nitrogen and potash to the crop.
The land may not need additional fertilising if it is prepared well. But as a matter of fact our lands have become so weak and dependent on chemicals that they would certainly demand additional fertilising. A weak soil will start sending signals through the colour of the crop.
Crops, which are not given chemical fertilisers, are observed to be less susceptible to pest attack because they don’t provide a sudden dose of nitrogen resulting in a sudden growth. Sudden growth in a plant generally makes its exterior soft and pulpy, thus attracts pests to feast on it.
Sucking, pests like aphids generally start attacking when the weather warms up and the crop is on its ears. Using a foliar spray made of well ground chillies mixed with neem oil and cottage soap can control this. Cottage soap acts as an adjuvant or a sticking agent, which enhances the instant effect of chillies on the pests and prolongs the systemic repellence of neem.
The main reason for practical departure from organic to chemical must have been the intensity of hard work which the organic farming demanded. And the methods suggested above might seem a little inconvenient to practise at a mass scale. But farmers in the USA, Australia and New Zealand have been practising organic farming successfully. There the scale of operation is very large. Farmers there manage to grow their crops without collecting cow’s dung, which turns out to be very labour intensive and hence expensive. Instead they use various bacteria, fungi and parasites to counter all needs of a crop. A farmer in India can also practise organic farming on a bigger scale with the help of clinically approved bacteria, fungi and friendly pests since a variety of these products are now available in India.
Soil or seed treatment with bacteria like Azotobacters can expedite the germination of the seed. It is most suited for crops like wheat, barely and mustard since it not only fixes nitrogen but also solublises tricalcium phosphate. These bacteria are especially put to solublise present but unavailable phosphate. In fact phosphate is the second most important nutrient after nitrogen. There is a theory that emphasises use of phosphate in combination with the nitrogen just to enable the consumption of nitrogen since nitrogen and phosphate are opposite in charge. Nitrogen has a negative charge on it whereas phosphate has a positive charge on it. Besides, phosphate has a role to play in root formation and plant health.
There are a dozen other growth promoting formulae available which claim to eradicate all nutritional and mineral deficiencies. A selection can be made by carefully choosing the formula seeing its suitability to the soil. Predators like chrysoperla and even the most common ladybird can help in controlling aphids, whiteflies and in extreme cases caterpillars, too. A little research and an active scheduling can mame these practices easy to follow.
As far as economic viability is concerned, there are farmers in Ladwa village (near Hisar) who are successfully practising organic farming at a mass scale and manage to get up to Rs 1700 for each quintal of organic wheat. This is undoubtedly a very good price even if the produce is a mere eight quintals. It is observed that the yield picks up gradually if the same practices are repeated and no chemical is shown to the soil.
The only suggestion to the farmers is to at least it once. The harvest, though low in initial years due to incapacitated soil, will certainly improve in subsequent years and will give a healthy taste of your hard work.
Farm operations for December
— Keep the animals in the shade at night time and in the sun during the day. Allow the entry of sun rays inside the shed during the day.
— The concentrate mixture should have high energy. The protein in the concentrate can be reduced 2 to 3 per cent.
— Do not apply milk on teats. Application of desi ghee or Vaseline or butter after milking can save teats from cracking. Teat dipping should be done with a mixture of glycerine and Betadine (Povi done lodine solution1:6).
— If any animal is sick, the symptoms like discharge from eyes, nostrils are there, immediately get the animal examined by Vety doctor.
— Get the animals vaccinated against foot and mouth disease (FMD).
— Always handle the healthy animals first and sick ones the last.
— Feed well chaffed berseem to avoid tympany (aphara). Do not feed parali to the animals.
— Get your animals examined for pregnancy after 2 to 3 months of mating or artificial insemination.
— Deworm the calves first at 10 days of age, then 15 days and then monthly up to three months of age and then three monthly up to 12 months of age with piperazine.
— Keep the chicks warm by giving them heat according to the age. For the first week keep 90-95°F and go on decreasing 5°F per week, according to the season.
— Rear the newly purchased chicks away from layers. Avoid the entry of cold wind inside the shed.
— Poultry ration should have more energy. Increase cereals 5 to 8 peer cent in the ration, thereby reducing the rice bran.
— Do not apply any organic manure or inorganic fertiliser if the colour of the pond water is grass-green.
— Apply quick lime @ 50kg per acre to prevent the incidence of diseases during unfavourable winter temperature.
— Reduce feeding to a maintenance level of 500g of feed per day per 1000 fish.
— Book spawn as per your requirements.
— The first crop is terminated after 50 to 60 days of cropping and rooms vacated, cleaned and disinfected for second crop.
Progressive Farming, PAU