|AGRICULTURE TRIBUNE||Monday, March 4, 2002, Chandigarh, India|
Asia’s useful trees and plants
Farm operations for march
Tough time for tea
TEA is a very significant beverage crop of India. At the global level, there is hardly any single product category in which India can claim world leadership. The outstanding exception is tea. The country is not only the largest producer of tea but also one of the important exporters.
Historically, tea was first grown in China around 2737 BC. Next to water it is the largest beverage intake in the world. Tea grows well in deep and fertile well-drained soil. It requires warm and moist climate throughout the year. Frequent showers well distributed over the year ensure continuous growth of tender leaves.
The tea industry in India is about 160 years old. It occupies an important place and always plays a useful part in the national economy. Tea cultivation on commercial scale was first started in Assam in 1839. Therefore, it was extended to other parts of the country between the fifties and sixties of the 19th century. However, owing to certain specific soil and climatic requirements its cultivation was confined to certain areas only.
The tea plant, though indigenous to Assam, had not been cultivated for use in India previously. There were, therefore, no farmers or peasants already engaged in its cultivation in the country. The British pioneers of the industry, whether individuals or companies, began to develop the industry in comparatively large nits or plantations.
Tea plantations are essentially large agricultural undertakings but they also have certain industrial characteristics. The employ a large labour force, which is mainly resident on the estates and under the control of a more or less elaborate management.
The requirements of capital, technical equipment and an organised marketing service explain why, by and large, the units of production in the tea industry have taken the shape of comparatively large estates or plantations, instead of small holdings. The areas of the estates themselves, however, vary within wide margins, and there are also in certain regions a large number of small holdings with problems peculiar to themselves.
Tea estates can be broadly classified in the following heads according to the types ownership:
1. Small holdings which may be anything from one to 25 acres (10.12 ha) in extent owned by proprietors.
2. Small garden having tea area below 200 hectares owned by single proprietor or partnership firms. This again may be subdivided into:
3. Estates owned by limited liability companies. These again may be further divided into public limited and private limited companies.
4. Estates owned by companies which come under the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act.
5. Estates owned by government undertakings.
In the initial years, tea cultivation was taken up only be the organised corporate sector. Later on, encouraged by the remunerative returns, small farmers started growing tea in their holdings, either by shifting from annual crops or on the fallow lands adjacent to the big tea gardens. At present nearly 40,000 small gardens whose individual area size is less than 10.12 ha coexist along side 3347 big gardens whose individual area ranges from 10.12 ha and above 400 hectares. In 1950-51,over three lakh hectares area was under tea plantation. By 1997-98 it stood at four lakh hectares.
The bulk of the country’s total production comes from the gardens owned by the organised corporate sector which in fact accounts for 65 per cent of the tea area and 76 per cent of the total production. It will be of interest to note that for several years following the establishment of tea plantations in India, the tea industry had a near-total export orientation. Exports exceeded 97 per cent of the total production in 1900. This pattern of tea disposal continued for the next five decades. It was only in the late fifties that internal consumption began to rise rapidly and the share of export started declining. In 1997, India accounted for 18 per cent of the world export in comparison to 45 per cent in the late forties.
While the part it plays as an earner of foreign exchange by itself makes tea an industry of great importance to the economy, the fact that it provides gainful employment to a large number of people, makes it particularly more important. The tea plantation industry provides direct employment to more than a million workers and an equal number indirectly. Thus, it is a labour-intensive industry. It is also the largest employer of organised labour force drawn from tribal and socially weaker sections of society. About half the labour force consists or women workers.
Though India still is the largest producer of tea in the world, the overall situation here is quite different from that of other major producing countries. Its increasing domestic intake, in the days to come, is likely to jeopardise the country’s capacity to export, if the production does not rise at a rate higher than the growth in the rate of domestic consumption. The per capita availability of tea in India has risen up to 636 gm in 1996-97 from 362 gm in 1955-56.
Much of our failure to increase exports could be attributed to the increasing internal consumption. While at the time of Independence only 79 m.kg or about 31 per cent of the production of 255 m.kg was retained for home consumption, in 1997-98 as inch as 660 m.kg or 80 per cent of the production of 838 m.kg was domestically consumed. Indian tea accounted for 30 per cent of the world production.
The difference between the growth rates adequately reflects the task before the Indian tea industry, namely sustained and accelerated augmentation of production and productivity. The challenge before the industry is to increase production, improve quality and ensure that tea is available at a price remunerative to the producer and affordable to the domestic consumers and yet have sufficient surplus to meet the export requirements.
Micro-level studies already carried out, however, do indicate that that there is a good potential for increasing output; if correct production strategies are adopted. It has been estimated that India will require about 1000 m.kg of tea by the end of the Ninth Plan in 2001-02. This estimate is based on projected internal consumption plus the demand for export calculated on the basis of retaining India’s share of the world tea market.
Though productivity depends a great deal on natural endowments and climatic factors, some tea estates have been achieving substantial increases in production from the same area through better crop husbandry practices. In other words, scientific awareness and greater attention to individual aspects of agricultural operations have paid handsome dividends. It is important to note that yield which was 971 kg/hectare in 1960-61 had risen up to 1875 by 1996-97. In export arena, Sri Lanka very closely competes with India. Kenya has also emerged as a new exporter of tea.
The Tea Board is now gearing itself to move ahead to the 21st century and to act as a facility rather than a regulator of industry which it has been serving since 1950s. The marketing development and export promotion schemes of the Tea Board cover marked research survey, uninational campaign for Indian tea in select markets, brand promotion support to Indian companies for launching in international markets, generic campaign in new markets and setting up of an umbrella unit in India to meet the requirements of product and packaging standards in international markets.
Research and Development schemes cover agricultural/agronomic aspects including biotechnology and plant-protection measures, manufacture and quality improvement, product diversification development of multiple tea products made from regular tea, processed tea and tea extracts, health aspects of tea drinking, strengthening extension service and use of non-conventional energy resources.
It is hoped that the tea industry
will be able to deliver goods and rise above the inevitable cyclical
ups and downs that affect in the short run. Being an agro-industry
with a long gestation period, an urgent need is for replantation, the
industry has many challenges ahead.
Asia’s useful trees and plants
PAJA is a medium-sized deciduous tree. Its English name being bird cherry, scientific being Prunus padus or the synonym therefore as Prunus comuta, it belongs to the plant family Rosaceae. Its other local names in various regional languages and dialects are paras, kalakat, gidar-dak, bart, zum, zampu, jamu, padmakh, paddam, padmakasha, etc. It is indigenous to the temperate hill zone starting from Kashmir in the West, covering Sikkim, Bhutan eastwards to the Akai-Khasi hills in Assam, Manipur and beyond. In addition to the Indian subcontinent, it is also found growing in suitable areas all over the globe. The altitudinal range of its natural habitat varies from nearly 1500 to 3000 m. It tends to occupy still higher slopes on exposed sunny aspect. Its common associates are maple, ban, yew and various pines naturally occurring in its habitat.
The leaves of paja are variable in their size i.e. length and breadth. These can be 10 to 15 cm long and 2.5 to 6 cm wide. Their shape is oblong, elliptic or lanceolate with close serration. These can be slightly cordate or conduplicate at the bud stage. In matter of colour these are dark green — glabrous and shinning above and pale green beneath.
Paja tree flowers during October-November. The flowers, existing on long slender peduncle in 5 to 12 cm long fascicles, are white in colour. Individual flowers have attractive pinkish white tinge. The inflorescence can stay on till even December-January at certain places in higher reaches of its habitat.
Paja fruit appears during April-May. It is a pinkish brown globose drupe, measuring about 10 to 12 mm in diameter. These are ovoid in shape and yellow in colour when young, tending to become ruby red on ripening. The berries taste sweet with slight acridity. These are enjoyed as such by children as well as wild animals and birds. That perhaps is the reason that the plant is called bird cherry in English. Paja seed is globose, smooth, shinning and somewhat hard.
In the Indian scenario, paja has a kind of religious aura attached to it. The followers of Vedic theology consider this plant venerable. They use its leaves in religious rites and or ceremonial pooja in place of banana leaves where the latter plant is non-existent. Paja leaves sometimes have viscous shinning liquid drops on their upper surface. The fluid is honey-like in taste as well as effect.
The bark of paja is smooth in appearance and brown in colour. It contains a medicinally useful alkaloid known in trade as flavone, sakuranetin, genkwanin, isoflavone prunetin or isoflavonone padmakastin. It also contains small quantities of the glycosides named in trade as sauranin, padmakastin, amygdaline, prunaletin, sakurametin, puddumetin, etc. These devivaties are considered as anti-abortificient, analgesic, carminative, expectorant, febrifuge, etc. The alkaloid also acts as a tonic, useful against stomach disorders, burning sensation in the skin, cough, cold, seminal weakness, etc. and also as special diet during pregnancy. For a limited medicinal use, small paja branches are crushed and soaked in water and then administered internally to prevent abortion. In commercial market it is used as a tanning agent also.
Paja seeds are used in treating stone and gall bladder problems. The foliage is useful as a fodder for cattle, especially during grass femine.
Paja is a slow growing species. It has distinct annual rings and attains a height of about 5 to 10 m and 30 and 50 cm diameter in a span of about 50 years when the plant is considered to be mature. The wood is pinkish white in colour with beautiful silver grain on a radial section. It weights nearly 20 kg per cubic foot and is faily hard in texture. It is used mainly as fire wood, through its carbon content being comparatively less, it does not give very efficient flame. In a limited extent it is used for making walking sticks, tool handles, etc.
So far as regeneration of paja is concerned, it reproduces itself from root rockers as well as seed, which germinates readily, especially out of excreta of the feeding animals, birds, etc. The species can also be propagated from cuttings and by sowing the seed by broadcast in the field or in nursery beds where polythene bags are generally used. The orchardists use paja seedlings as a rootstock for raising sweet cherry plants by grafting. The species is also a good shade bearer for delicate horticulture plants like apple, pears, kiwi, cherry, etc.
Paja tree looks very handsome in open
slopes, especially terraced agricultural fields — more so when it is
in full inflorescence. The species is accordingly valued, propagated
and tended well for beautification of landscape.
Farm operations for march
By this time the plants affected with flag smut disease become quite visible. These should be rouged and destroyed so as to reduce the inoculum in the field. Remove loose smut-infected ears from the field kept for seed production.
Check attack of aphids by spraying 150 ml of Rogor 30 EC or Anthio 25 EC or Metasystox 25 EC or Nuvacron 36 SL in 80-100 litres of water per acre.
Army worm and gram pod borer larvae feed on developing grains of wheat. Control them by spraying 200 ml Nuvan 85 SL or 800 ml of Ekalux 25 EC or 1.2 kg Sevin 50 WP in 100 litres of water per acre.
Check mustard aphid on raya/gobhi sarson by spraying 400 ml of Metasystox 25 EC/Rogor 30 EC/Thiodan 35 EC/Anthio 25 EC/Malathion 50 EC or 600 ml of Dursban/Coroban 20 EC or 100 ml of Dimecron 85 SL in 100 litres of water per acre. Spray the crop either in the morning or evening to avoid killing of pollinators/natural enemies, etc.
If severe attack of hairy caterpillar/semi looper is seen in the sunflower crop, then spray 500 ml of Thiodan 35 EC or 200 ml of Nuvan/Divap/Vapona 85 SL in 100 litres of water per acre. These insecticides will also control jassids and other sucking pests in case they appear. Irrigate the sunflower crop at two weeks interval.
The seed selected for planting should be free from red rot, wilt, smut, ratoon-stunting and grassy shoot disease. Disinfect cane setts in 0.5 per cent (500 g in 100 litres of water). Agallol (3%) or 0.25% (250 g in 100 litres of water) solution of Aretan (6%)/ Tafasan/Bagallol (6%)/Emican (6%).
To check the attack of termite and early shoot borer sprinkle on cane setts in furrows at the time of sowing, 2 litres of Lindane 20 EC diluted in 400-600 litres of water or 7.5 kg granules of Sevidol 4:4 G (Gamma BHC+Carbaryl) per acre or mix 15 kg Kanodane dust in soil before planting.
Application of Atrataf 50 WP (Atrazine)/Sencor 70 WP (Metribuzin) or Klass/Hezuron 80 WP (Diuron) @ 800 g/acre as pre-emergence application provide effective control of annual grasses and broadleaf weeds.
Sugarcane may be planted after applying 65 kg of urea per acre. Apply 1/3 rd N (30 kg N or 65 kg urea/acre) at the end of March to the autumn crop.
One row of summer moong/summer mash or mentha can be inter-cropped without any adverse effect on the cane crop.
Conserve surplus berseem as hay and oats as silage for cheap milk production in lean period. Take last cutting of berseem if it to be kept for seed production. Remove kashni weed from berseem seed crop.
— Progressive Farming,