|AGRICULTURE TRIBUNE||Monday, February 11, 2002, Chandigarh, India|
Tough time for citrus growers
PAU develops virus-free kinnow plants
Regreening fields with villagers as agents of change
Tough time for citrus growers
Some time back Mr N.K. Arora Chief Secretary, Punjab, inaugurated a kinnow waxing and grading plant at Chhauni Kalan village in Hoshiarpur. While addressing kinnow growers he mentioned that the growers should not expect the kinnow price to soar every year because the prices are going to settle at a realistic figure. It would happen so soon, nobody guessed.
Though there are no prizes for imagining this situation a couple of years ago in these columns, it’s not late to understand the senior bureaucrat’s statement and take lessons. In reality he spelled out the basic philosophy of the WTO. Under globalisation only cheap and quality products are going to survive in the market. No horticulture produce is going to find a mass market till it is not cheap and is within the reach of a common man. The basic philosophy of the WTO is that if any country (or countries) has the capacity to produce cheap and quality food product, then that country (or countries) should specialise in that particular product only. The rest of the world doesn’t need to produce it. This means that all countries should cultivate their strength to seek benefits of open trade.
Though kinnow growers due to a substantial growth in the kinnow prices for the past couple of years have been having an illustrious innings, it is their turn to experience a tough season. In fact this harvesting season raises questions that why this situation?
There are several reasons being attributed to the beaten sentiment.
* Is the farmer himself to be blamed? Has the farmer dumped poor quality fruit in the yet establishing far-off markets and upset the upbeat sentiment prevailing in the past couple of years. There is likelihood that he has but there is a reason attached to that. Due to delay in the onset of winters, kinnows didn’t ripen at an appropriate time. Lack of cash flow and over enthusiasm to hit the market before everybody else saw them dumping poor quality fruit leading to a glut in the market. Secondly, with the fruit ripening a month late the marketing timeframe has shrunk by that much time making it pertinent for farmers to market their produce within the limited time.
* Is it the middleman up to his tricks again? As the rumour goes the middleman or the commission agent has decided to bring down the wholesale price of kinnows because he feels that a farmer is earning much more money by growing kinnow than the traditional crop. So If he (commission agent) was to take bigger margins from the income, the kinnow farmers wouldn’t resent much keeping in mind the present agriculture scenario. This argument may hold validity as kinnow in retail remains expensive.
* Another argument that is doing the rounds is that kinnow over the years has thrived on account of the orange crops failing in Maharashtra. Since Nagpur has a bumper crop this year, kinnow prices have come down suggesting in clear terms that kinnow could never establish itself as a citrus brand vis-a-vis orange. And kinnow growers’ success lies in hoping for a bad season for fellow orange farmers.
So by all means the kinnow bubble has burst? If it has, then the above mentioned explanations are too fragile to cause him. It is the absence of a bigger picture in the government’s mind vis-a-vis citrus that such a situation has erupted? For giving an occasional pat on one’s own back because Punjab managed sending kinnows outside the state is no great an achievement for the stature of a state government. Setting up of waxing plants, packaging and grading centres to facilitate kinnow marketing is a welcome step but harping on it as a momentous effort only goes on to show the yardstick the government has set for itself. Such activities should fall as part of the big picture rather than they being the goal. The big picture is analysing the WTO at a micro level. Can Punjab become a provider of cheap citrus products for the entire India? It involves thinking in terms of citrus and not kinnows alone. Can citrus change the face of Punjab?
Citrus as a whole has an enormous capacity to emerge as a significant industry. It has the potential to create profitable farming ventures and generate employment.
The Punjab Horticulture Department has identified 10 lakh hectares that can be brought under citrus. As a matter of fact a paper was submitted to the Chief Minister some months ago on the potential of citrus.
PAU develops virus-free kinnow plants
The kinnow growers in Punjab will start getting virus-free kinnow plants from next plantation period — September, 2002 — thanks to the imagination of Dr G.S. Kalkat, former Vice-Chancellor, Punjab Agricultural University. The Horticulture Department of Punjab Agricultural University has been propagating virus-free knnow plants for the fruit growers of Punjab.
Dr Kalkat, during one of his visits to the USA, found good quality virus-free knnow buds in the Research and Experimental Centre, Lindcov, University of California, and immediately ordered the procurement of the same at double the price. The Punjab Government was approached for funds and Rs 55 lakh was sanctioned. Under this scheme special emphasis was laid on the production of foundation and standard virus-free plants and as a first step 100 virus-free buds of kinnow were procured from the USA. From this plant material, a mother block of 95 plants has been established in insect-free screen house as a "foundation block". These plants are being schematically used for further establishment of mother blocks and also for supply to the lead growers and government and registered nurseries.
According to Dr Amrik Singh Sandhu, Additional Director, Extension (Horticulture), under this revolving fund scheme which is being operated with the Department of Horticulture, the propagation of virus-free kinnow plants is being done under strict phyto-sanitary condition in the vector-proof screen house. Further multiplication of plants has been planned to utilise the full potential of these limited sources of bud wood from originally established foundation block. The supply of plants to the fruit growers and nursery men would be from the planting season of September, 2002, when 5,000 plants will be available.
Dr Sandhu says that the production of these plants will be steadily increased in the coming years. As many as 10,000 plants will be supplied by September, 2004; 20,000 plants by September, 2005; 40,000 plants by September, 2006; and 80,000 to one lakh plants will be supplied in the state to kinnow growers by September, 2007.
In addition to this, emphasis is being laid on increasing the propagation of other fruit plants such as sweet orange, mango, pear, peach, plum, grapes, litchi and ber in large numbers as per the increasing demand of the farmers of the state.
Dr Sandhu maintains that this will definitely help in shifting the area from wheat-rice to horticulture in the next few years. It is proposed to shift 20,000 hectares under various fruit crops in the state in the coming years.
Regreening fields with villagers as agents of change
Climb to the top of any house in Johranpur village and take a look around. Everywhere, there is greenery. The occasional bald patches have been replaced with green fields, trees, grass and bushes.
Located 35 km from Chandigarh on the Kalka-Barotiwala road, the village is in Kasuali tehsil. It covers 19.6 hectares, out of which 16.5 hectares are under cultivation. The village has a population of 154, comprising Harijans and Rajputs.
Earlier, says a farmer, fields were barren. Women had to walk long distances to fetch water and fodder. They depended on the weather gods. There was an acute shortage of water in rabi season, so multiple cropping system could not be adopted. Most villagers opted for jobs in private factories at Baddi or as daily-wage labourers in nearby fields.
Today, the ambitious rainwater harvesting project, sanctioned under the National Agricultural Technology Project of the Central Soil and Water Conservation Research and Training Institute (CSWCRTI), Chandigarh, is going on and villagers are counting its benefits. The wheat yield increased to 17 q/ha and 31 q/ha with one and two supplemental irrigations, respectively, from a yield of 2.3 q/ha under rainfed condition. Crop diversification provided farmers with the most efficient utilisation of harvested water and maximum returns. About one-fifth of the area has been brought under orchards, mustard, tomato and ginger cultivation. Fodder is also available in the village. Groundwater level has increased and so has the milk yield.
Initially, data on land-use pattern, agriculture, animal husbandry, firewood, energy consumption pattern, etc. had been collected, said Dr R.P. Yadav, Senior Scientist (Soils), CSWCRTI. Similarly, two ponds, that were heavily silted up, were deepened and drainage channels were made to divert the water to the ponds. The catchment area of the ponds increased, but before this, majority of the run-off water was going to a choe through fields, causing soil erosion.
The watershed received 1,275 mm of rainfall in 2001, of which 1,075 mm was received between June and September. Out of the total rainfall in the catchment areas of pond Nos. 1 and 2, 27 and 33 per cent, respectively, were collected as run-off in the ponds. The harvested water was then supplied to fields. In 2000, 4.8 ha were irrigated, whereas it increased to 6.12 ha in 2001.
The project, that began in July, 2000, consciously used villagers as agents of change. In order to ensure their participation, a society, Krishi Vikas Sangh, was set up and registered with the Himachal Government. The society charged Rs 105 as membership fee and Rs 30 per hour as irrigation charges. In order to educate women, who constitute 52 per cent of the village population, tailoring, fruit preservation and processing programmes were organised by the society.
Dr Yadav said experiments on 15 farmers’ fields had been carried out to demonstrate impact of growing of improved varieties of maize with complete package of practices and integrated nutrient management. It was realised that the package enhanced the yield drastically. The maximum yield was recorded in T4 (recommended practices + 25 per cent replacement of N by FYM + ZnSO4 @ 10 kg/ha) followed by T3 (recommended practices + 25 per cent replacement of N by FYM) and T2 (recommended practices). The present increase in yield of maize was to the tune of about 50, 49 and 36 per cent in T4, T3 and T2, respectively, as compared to T1 (farmers’ practice).
Similarly, the cropping pattern was changed by including more profiting crops.
Farm operations for February
— As soon as the risk of frost is over, remove "sarkanda" from the crops sown in November-December and irrigate. Apply the remaining half dose of nitrogen in channels, earth up and train vines towards the bed. Thereafter, apply light irrigation once a week in sandy soil and after 10 days’ interval in heavy textured soil regularly.
— Draw bed marks east to west at the recommended spacing for each crop. Apply one quintal of CAN, 155 kg of single superphosphate and 50 kg of muriate of potash per acre in a band at 15 cm on northern side of each bed mark and prepare channels and irrigate. Soak 2 kg of seed in lukewarm water, wrap it in a woollen rag and place it in a warm place during night and in the sun during the day. After 48 hours dibble at least two or three pre-sprouted seeds per hill on the northern moist edge of beds. Apply two to three kg Furadan 3 G per acre along with the seeds while dibbling to check attack of red pumpkin beetle.
— In the second fortnight of this month, nurseries of musk-melon, water-melon, bottle-gourd, pumpkin, etc. should be transplanted on pre-decided spacings of the beds. Before transplanting remove plastic bags.
— Most ideal varieties are Punjab Komal and Punjab Round and Punjab Long of bottle-gourd, chappan kaddu No. 1 of summer squash, Punjab Sunheri, Punjab Hybrid and Hara Madhu of muskmelon. Sugarbaby and Shipper of watermelon, S-48 of tinda and Punjab-14 and C-96 of bittergourd.
Caution: Do not sow cucurbits in those fields where Atrazine/Simazine herbicide has been used for weed control in potato.
Prepare the field, apply one quintal of CAN, 155 kg of superphosphate and 40 kg of muriate of potash per acre in bands kept 45 cm apart from east to west. Prepare ridges and apply irrigations. Soak okra seeds in lukewarm water over night. Dibble at 4 to 5 cm depth keeping hills 30 cm apart. Pre-sprouting of okra seeds and sowing on ridges ensure quick germination and better stand of the crop. Varieties recommended for sowing in this season are Punjab Padmini, Punjab-7, Punjab-8 and Pusa Sawni.
— In the afternoon, when frost perod is over, remove "sarkanda" or plastic bags/sheets from the fields and irrigate the crop. After a week, apply one quintal of CAN per acre in channels. Repeat watering after 7 to 10 days.
— In the second fortnight of this month, sow 250 to 300 g of seed in a marla bed area to raise seedlings for transplanting in the next month.
— Under the heavy disease situation, spray the crop in the middle of February with Ridomil MZ @ 500 g per acre followed by three sprays of Indofil M-45 @ 600 g per acre in 200 litres of water of seven days intervals to control late blight. In case of low incidence of the disease sprays of only Indofil M-45 should be done
— Progressive Farming, PAU