|AGRICULTURE TRIBUNE||Monday, February 18, 2002, Chandigarh, India|
Asia’s useful trees and plants
High income prospects from mushroom
Diversification idea fails to click
Asia’s useful trees and plants
Kaamal is a small sized, evergreen, broad-leaved tree. The scientific name being Mallotus phillipinensis, it belongs to the plant family Euphorbiaceae. The plant is called by several regional names like kambal, kumila, ruen, rinua, ronia, roila, roadi, panag, etc. The local name kaamal, pronounced as Hindustani word ‘kaamal, which means sobre, appears to have been assigned to this species because, though small in stature this tree has a special exquisite aura around it.
Whereas being a native plant of Philaphines — as is indicated by its specific name — kaamal is quite common from Andamans, Ceylone, Burma to parts of Pakistan and beyond. In fact it is a widespread plant of temperate zone all over the globe. However, in Asian scene its natural habitat comprises of Indo-Gangetic plains, the Shivaliks as well as the outer ranges of the Himalayas, Decean Platue, in fact, from sea coast to hills having an altitude upto nearly 1500 m.
Kaamal generally comes up naturally and abundantly in mixed broad-leaved forests of the Terai area. At some places, however, it is found growing in gregarious (pure) stands as well. It also grows happily over earthern bunds and fallow dividing buts (narrow land strips) between terraced cultivated fields.
Kaamal has nearly 5 mm thin, dark brownish rough bark. Young shoots however, wear brown velvet coat. The tree is a reasonably fast growing species. It matures in about 50 years when its height is about 9 to 12 m and a girth of about 2 m.
The leaves of kaamal are alternate, simple, oblong, ovate, even lanceolate of varying size viz length 5 to 15 cm and width 2 to 5 cm. These are glabrous above and pubescent with red velvety below. The petiole is longish, measuring 2 to 5 cm.
The flowers of kaamal are brownish to brick red. Male flowers are clustered in arrangement and globose in shape. Female flowers are small and solitary.
Kaamal fruit is three-lobed capsule, 7 to 15 mm in diameter, globose in shape with brownish velvety cover. The seed is small, about 2 to 3 mm in diameter, smooth, globose and black in colour.
Kaamal wood is grey to light red in colour, soft in texture, close-grained and moderately hard. It has no separate heartwood. Annual rings are there but not very distinct. It weighs nearly 20 kg per cubic foot, and is used only for handles for agricultural tools not subject to much of stress or strain. In fact this wood is mainly used as firewood.
The bark of kaamal is used in the tanning industry. Its most economical product is "kamela" powder, a dye obtained from the red glands occurring on the outer surface of the fruit capsule. The powder can be obtained either by shaking the capsules or by stirring these in lukewarm water. Though the powder is available in substantial quantity, its manual extraction proves costlier and uneconomical in comparison to the production cost of similar dye from mineral sources.
Kaamal powder is also used as medicine as anthelmintic, remedy against tape worms and ring worms, antioxidant, aphrodisiac, blood purifier, purgative — some times nauseatic — an ingredient for various ointments against skin diseases like scabies, pimples, boils, bile disorder, etc. The preparations out of this powder are like "tinture kamale" and "krimighatini vati" of the trade. The powder can and is also used as a local vermilion in religious rites as well as cosmetic for women in Hindu homes.
The foliage of kaamal serves as a nutritious fodder for cattle, especially milch animals.
So far as regeneration is concerned, in its natural habitat, kaamal regenerates itself profusely from the natural seed reaching the soil around mother trees. The species also coppices easily from stumps of freshly felled trees. Nevertheless artificial regeneration can also be achieved by sowing mature seed during late spring or early summer viz. April-May. The seeds are sown in liberal number to avoid any possibility of lesser germination or drying of seedlings if subsequent weather turns out to be very hot and decicating. Regular weeding, howing and thining for the young saplings goes a long way in creating a textbook type even stand of the species.
Lastly, when cultivated diligently and trained with care, kaamal develops a beautiful umbrella like crown, which gives an exquisite look when covered with brick red influorescence, flowers and fruit from November-December to March-April. The species, thus, has got an excellent potential to make a very beautiful avenue along the malls in newly raised and well-organised colonies, model towns, residential and educational institutions, etc.
High income prospects from mushroom
The green revolution, which has resulted in the creation of surplus food economy, has also resulted in rather adverse consequence of such unplanned growth where we do not have sufficient plans wither to dispose of the surplus stock in the international market or have plans of processing which could convert such surplus into high-value products.
While the government is aware of this situation, it has been quite slow in tackling it. The often talked-about remedy to tackle this situation has been diversification of the farm economy, replacing much of the paddy land by alternative crops which are more environment friendly. But here the problems faced are (a) slow emergence of alternative environment friendly crops where the research already undertaken in the farm universities has not resulted in viable solutions and (b) the alternative crops that have been encouraged are not economically viable (where both productivity as well as marketing pose big problems). Thus, the farmers are slow to take to alternative crops and continue to stick to paddy where output continues to rise, causing more damage to the environment as well as misery to the administration which finds it more and more difficult to face the storage problem.
Thus, the situation is pretty grim and calls for a more aggressive and planned strategy on the part of the government. Here, besides alternative crops which are good income yielders and more acceptable by farmers, we also need to tap other areas of economy which are found favourable with small farmers and landless labourers whose number has been steadily rising and whose income simultaneously declining. These people, who constitute around one-third of the country’s population, need to be brought in a circle of productive activity where they can look to sustained, viable and growing income. Of course, simultaneously we have also to look into the problems of large players, for ultimately it is the combined effort of both large and small producers that would bring long-term prosperity to the country.
Here apart from other areas, it is the commercial exploitation of mushroom which promises a high return. While India has been traditionally major mushroom growing country we have so far paid only lip service to tame it for earning income in the global market. We yet continue to hold a very small share in the world trade of mushroom, which it is estimated to be growing at an annual rate of 25 per cent. Its demand is high in the western countries because of its high nutritional contents.
As far as return obtained from per unit land of mushroom cultivation, it is estimated that one could have a return of Rs 6.2 lakh within five months on a small plot of 1000 sq. yards by investing Rs 4 lakh. This just gives an idea of the high income that can be earned through systematic cultivation of mushroom. Further it doesn’t require any arable land, for it can be grown inside a room on various farm wastes, dry leaves, etc. Also the produce of mushroom has a good market and unlike floriculture it doesnrequire fresh marketing.
Thus, if we can create appropriate environment for the growth of quality mushroom through proper awareness, inputs and training of our people who are also offered suitable credit and marketing facilities, we should be able to create good income for them and wean them away from the current excessively practised farm activity where now mushroom and other similar products could open up new vistas.
Interestingly it is China which has been shrewd enough to take advantage of the situation and encourage cultivation and marketing of mushroom on an extended scale. Currently it occupies almost one-third share of its global market which is indeed remarkable.
As fresh mushrooms have a very short shelf life, a very large international trade is in its processed form. This is all the more so in case of India where its domestic market is very small. We have by and large to depend on the processed export market which needs to be tapped by the government through planned effort. We have a golden opportunity to exploit the fast growing international market for the processed mushroom.
Diversification idea fails to click
While experts of Punjab Agric-ultural University (PAU)and the Department of Agriculture have been advising the farmers to diversify and shift the area from wheat and paddy in lieu of the open market, the farmers seems to have paid no heed to the suggestion as there has been a negligible decline in the area under wheat cultivation.
As per the reports of a survey conducted by the Department of Economics and Sociology, PAU, there has been only 1 per cent decline in the area under the cultivation of wheat. According to Dr H.S. Dhaliwal, a scientist in the department, last year the area under wheat cultivation was around 33.60 lakh hectares and, thus, no considerable shift.
The fact has been disturbing for the experts of PAU who feel that the suggestion of diversification did not click with the farmers. They were, however, expecting that with so much of publicity done by them in favour of diversification, the shift would be considerable. They attributed many reasons to the prevailing scenario with the minimum support price (MSP)for wheat and paddy being the most important one.
According to Dr Govinder Singh Nanda, Director, Research, PAU, it was very difficult to divert the area from wheat to some other crop. As the wheat crop gives an assured return to the farmers, it is near impossible for the farming community to switch on to some other crop.
Dr Nanda said that the experts were now concentrating on diversifying the kharif crops. Stating that the area under paddy definitely required to be diverted keeping in view the depleting water table, Dr Nanda said while the paddy is being grown on 2.6 million acres not in our state but all parts of the country, around 1 million acres required to be diverted from this crop which was being quoted to be responsible for the water table depletion.
The PAU experts voted for withdrawal of the MSP if the Indian farmers wanted to make their mark in the international market. The experts said that while the MSP for wheat was Rs 610 in India, the wheat was being sold for $10 per quintal in the international market. "This means that at the maximum Indian wheat would be sold for Rs 500. If the MSP is withdrawn the farmers would be forced to compete in the international market and hence would produce better quality." said Dr Nanda.
The experts have suggested to shift the area from paddy to gram, oilseeds, barley, etc. The emphasis on post harvest technology is also the need of the hour.
Another factor that is
worrying the experts is the fact that PBW-343, a wheat variety
developed by PAU has taken over 85 per cent of the total area under
wheat — reason being the good yield of the variety. While durum
wheat was also being recommended by the university, it could not do
Farm operations for February
The second half of this month is the best time for sowing the seeds of summer season annuals like orange cosmos, cailaridia, gomphrana, kochia, vinea, zinnia, portulaca, etc. Sow the seeds of these annuals on the raised beds, enriched with well rotten FYM.
The deciduous ornamental plants such as Lagerstroemia indica (sauni), weeping willow, camposis-grandiflora, etc. can be transplanted without earth ball just before their buds start sprouting. Pruning and training of established deciduous plants can also be done in this month.
Weeding of winter season flowers (if required) should be done. Off type and diseased plants should be removed if seed of that particular annual is to be collected. Water at proper time is also very important.
The bulbous plants like amaryllia, football lily (naemanthus), tube rose, zephyranthes, etc. can also be planted in this month. The bulbous plants prefer sandy loam soil enrich with well decomposed farmyard manure.
If some new area is to be landscaped, then soil should be preferred well for the ornamental plantation in the end of February or in March. Whenever trees, shrubs or creepers are to be planted, pits should be dug of proper size. Additions of 2-3 baskets of well-rotten farmyard manure is also recommended per pit of 3 ft x 3 ft x 3 ft size. For shrubs and creeper, smaller pits of 1’to 2’ size can be prepared.
The deciduous fruit plants like pear, grapes and phalsa should be planted before they start new growth. Citrus, mango, gauva, loquat and ber being evergreen fruit plants should either be planted in late February if the weather warms up or in the next month. However, August-September is preferable season of planting.
The frost covers, which were erected to protect the plants against possible frost injury should preferably be kept intact during this month. Grape prunning should be completed by mid-February. If the late pruned vines show bleeding there is nothing to worry about as the liquid does not contain any nutrient matter.
Remove dead wood in citrus and mango before the new growth starts. Apply 2:2:250 Bordeaux mixture immediately and apply Bordeaux paste to the cut surface and the trunk of the trees. Apply Bordeaux paint to the trunk after a week.
This month is ideal for fertilisation of fruit plants. Apply 400 to 800 g per plant of ureas to full grown trees of citrus. Add 250 g of urea and 500 g of muriate of potash to full-grown mango and 800 g of urea to litchi trees during this month. Loquat plants need 500 g of urea as second dose of fertiliser during this month. To papaya add 20 kg FYM and 0.25 g per plant mixture of urea: superphosphate: muriate of potash 1:2:1/3 during this month. Deciduous trees like peach, pear, plum and grapes need fertilisation for flowering and growth during this month. Apply 500 g of urea to pear, 500 g of urea to peach after flowering, 180 g of urea to plum plants during this month. Apply 500 g of urea and 400 g of muriate of potash per plant to grapes after prunning. The fertiliser should be carefully broadcasted below the canopy of the tree uniformly. Then mix the fertiliser in soil by hoeing and give light irrigation.
In citrus, utmost care needs to be given to irrigation before sprouting in February. Loquat trees which have already set their fruits, will need one to two waterings. Ber trees should also be watered so that fruits can develop good size. To grapes, one irrigation should be given after pruning.
To check citrus psylla, citrus leaf mine and whitefly spray 625 ml Nuvacron 36 SL or 670 ml of Rogor 30 EC in 500 litres of water on spring flush before flowers open. Give the third spray of 100 ppm Streptocycline for the control of citrus canker. Bordeaux mixture (2:2:250) or copper oxychloride can also be sprayed.
Mango hopper is usually very active during February-March. To check this pest spray first at the end of February and second at the end of March with 500 g Sevin or Hexavin 50 WP or 400 ml of malathion 50 EC or 350 ml of Thiodan 35 EC in 250 litres of water. To check powdery mildew, give one spray with 0.1 per cent Karathane or 0.25 per cent wettable sulphur before flowering.
To control pear scab, pre-blossom and post-blossom sprays of 0.2 per cent Captan beginning from the dormant stage and continuing till petal-fall at 10 days intervals should be given.
In ber, to check the fruit fly spray 350 ml Rogor 30 EC in 250 litres of water at fortnightly interval. Spraying of Rogor should be stopped atleast two weeks before picking of ber.
— Progressive Farming, PAU