AGRICULTURE TRIBUNE Monday, April 1, 2002, Chandigarh, India

‘Ketaki’ — a cursed but useful flower
H.C. Gera
lowers have been part of our culture and heritage since ages. Flowers are also used for various purposes in our daily life like worshipping, religious and social functions, wedding and self-adornment.

Need to boost dryland farming
Radhakrishna Rao
ith the much-acclaimed green revolution strategy losing its punch as highlighted by a near total stagnation of the yield, the once lacklustre dryland farming is receiving increasing attention as part of the strategy meant to boost agricultural output.

Asia’s useful trees and plants
K.L. Noatay
ainth is a medium-sized deciduous tree. Its scientific name is Pyrus Pashia. The family is rosaceae. Its other regional or local names are keint, kaeth, tang, batangi, patangi, shinder, katari, kithu, ku, shegal etc.

Farm operations for march




‘Ketaki’ — a cursed but useful flower
H.C. Gera

Flowers have been part of our culture and heritage since ages. Flowers are also used for various purposes in our daily life like worshipping, religious and social functions, wedding and self-adornment.

Can you imagine about a flower debarred forever from being offered in worship? Ketaki is a forbidden flower cursed by Lord Shiva for bearing a false witness of Lord Brahma. According to a legend, Lord Vishnu was lying on the serpent couch in the sea of eternity. Lord Brahma, while passing by felt insulted when Lord Vishnu neither rose nor greeted him. Both flew into rage over the question of supremacy. The argument prolonged each claiming to be creator of the other. The heated discussion led to a fight. The Devas were horrified at the intensity of the battle. Ultimately, they rushed to Lord Shiva for aid. On the request of Devas, Lord Shiva proceeded to the battlefield. There in the midst of battle, Lord Shiva assumed the form of a huge pillar of light. Both Brahma and Vishnu were awestruck by the cosmic pillar of light. Brahma and Vishnu set off to explore the limits of the mighty pillar of light. Vishnu was unable to touch the base came up and admitted the defeat. Whereas Brahma on his journey upwards came across ketaki flower wafing down slowly.

Inquiring from the flower from where she had come from, ketaki replied that she had been placed at the top of huge pillar of light.

Unable to find the uppermost limits Brahma decided to take the flower back to Vishnu to bear witness that he had reached the top of the pillar. He gloated over the defeated Vishnu. This infuriated Shiva. Brahma was punished for telling lie and the creator was banned from being worshipped. Similarly, ketaki was also cursed that she would never again be used in worship of Shiva. Thus, ketaki is debarred forever from being offered in worship.

Ketaki though punished by Lord Shiva for perjury, has long been absolved by the human beings. The plant as a whole and the flower in particular despite being cursed and debarred for worshipping is being widely used in one form or the other. Ketaki is a Sanskrit name, which means "dhuli pushpika". Ketaki is also known as "keura" in Hindi. The botanical nomenclature of this plant is "pandanus odoratissimus". In English it is known as umbrella tree or screw pine.

Ketaki is a densely branched shrub. It is rarely erect and is generally found along the coast of India and the Andaman islands. The stem is usually up to 6 m high. It is always supported by aerial roots. The tree is considered a good soil binder. Leaves are glacicous-green in colour ensiform and pointed. There are spines on margins and midriff of the leaves. Both male and female flowers are produced on different plants. The ancient Hindus called male plants as "ketaki-viphala" or "dhuli pushpika". The female’s plants were known as "sawarana ketaki". Male and female plants when together were called as "ketaki dvayan" (a pair of ketaki).

There are two trees in the medicinal section of Botanical Garden of Panjab University, Chandigarh. Another plant has also recently been grown in Ayurvedic Dispensary, Sector 24, Chandigarh.

The spadices of male flowers are 25 to 50 cm long and are equipped with numerous spikes. The male flowers are fragrant and white in colour. The spadix of female flowers is solitary 5 cm in diameter. The fruit grow to approximately 20 cm long with many prism-like structures. The fruit resembles the fruits of pineapple. The colour of fruits changes from green to yellow to bright orange or red as it matures.

The male fluorscence's are valued for the fragrance emitted by the tender white spates covering the flowers. Valuable attar is obtained from them. The flowers are also used for hair decoration. The commercial use of this plant is mainly centered mostly around Kollapali, Meghra and Agrraran in Ganjam district of Orissa. Flowers are used for extraction of "kweda attar" and "kewra water" and kewda oil. It is estimated that there are 300 to 400 thousands trees in Ganjam district.

"Kewda attar" is one of the most popular perfumes extracted and used in India since ancient times. It blends well with almost all types of fancy perfumes and is used for scenting clothes, bouquets, lotions, cosmetics, soaps, hair oils, tobacco and agarbati. Kewda water is used for flavouring various foods, sweets syrups and soft drinks. The use of kewda water is very common on festival occasion, weddings and other social functions in North India.

The tender leaves of ketaki are eaten raw or cooked with condiments. In the Philippines the leaves are cooked with rice for imparting the smell of new rice. Its leaves are also used to flavour icecreams. The dry leaves are used for covering huts for making matting, hats, baskets and other fancy items. They are also used in making umbrellas. The leaves are said to be a good paper making material. The cut length leaves are beaten and are commonly used for making brushes for painting and white-washing.

All the parts of the plant are having tremendous medicinal value. The roots are used as anti-septic, besides curing urinary astringent. In ayurveda these are useful in vitiated conditions of "kapha and pitta", skin diseases and leprosy. The roots juices are also used for curing wounds, ulcer, fever, diabetics, sterility and spontaneous abortions. The leaves are said to be valuable for leprosy, scabies and diseases of heart and brain. The anthers of male flowers are given in earache, headache and diseases of blood. The juice of the flowers is quite useful in rheumatic arthritis. The kewda oil is considered as stimulant and antispasmodic and is useful in rheumatoid arthritis.



Need to boost dryland farming
Radhakrishna Rao

With the much-acclaimed green revolution strategy losing its punch as highlighted by a near total stagnation of the yield, the once lacklustre dryland farming is receiving increasing attention as part of the strategy meant to boost agricultural output. Dryland farming, confined to 92-million hectares in India, contributes 45 per cent of the country’s foodgrains production. Basically, dryland farming involves crop cultivation in the regions receiving less than 115 cm of rainfall a year and with no assured irrigation.

Because dryland is practised mostly by small and marginal farmers who lack political clout, it has not received the kind of attention it deserves. Even so, farm experts are clear in their perception that dryland farming has great potential for increasing the annual food output of India. They say that the scientific dryland farming involving appropriate treatment of land for conservation of moisture is the need of the hour. Of course, traditionally, the dryland farmers have been adopting crop varieties and practices suited to the moisture availability of the region. As such, crop rotation is key to the success of dryland farming.

Significantly, the productivity range of dryland depends on the behaviour, timing and volume of the monsoon. Further, being impoverished and deficient in plant nutrients, dryland has failed to attract sufficient investment and modern technological inputs. The tragedy of dryland farming is further heightened by the total indifference of agricultural research institutions to its needs. Perhaps, the conspicuous negative feature of the dryland farming zone is widespread unemployment and underemployment.

Because crops in dryland were mainly grown for their food value than for hard cash, dryland farming continues to languish in obscurity. As a young African agricultural scientist put it, "The poor man’s staple food have until recently received very little scientific attention. This unfortunate bias is because they are substitute crops in which there is hardly any trade nationally or internationally. This lack of commercial stake is one reason why so little work has been done on them in contrast with concerted efforts put into wheat, rice and maize."

One major constraint in improving the technological base of dryland farming is the poorly developed or non-existent infrastructure to transfer evolving technologies to dryland farming areas. Moreover, the share of dry areas and dryland crops in the budgetary allocation for agricultural research is quite insignificant.

Since 1972 the International Crops Research Institute for Semi Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) — based in Pattancheru on the outskirts of Hyderabad — has been striving to improve the lot of dryland farmers. One of the trickiest problems facing the impoverished and hardy dryland farmers is how to find sufficient water to raise at least one crop a year. The timing and method of preparing the fields innovated by ICRISAT has been found to be effective in the retention of moisture in the soil before the rainwater runoff. The ICRISAT technique involves forming a mix of furrows and unfurrowed patches in the fields which decreases erosion and allows rainy season run off to be collected in storage tanks for the dry season. Under congenial conditions, this method can increase the yield fivefold.

Another significant contribution of ICRISAT to improve the quality of dryland farming is the development of a high-performance bullock drawn implement called "Tropiculator". Designed by the celebrated French engineer Jean Nolle, whose life mission has been to engineer low-cost farm equipment, the Tropiculator can be used to plough, ridge, sow, fertilize or level ground almost as efficiently as a tractor-drawn equipment.

In the Indian context, one major drawback in enhancing the technological base of dryland farming is the poorly developed infrastructure to transfer evolving technologies to dryland farming zones. Though the Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA) — set up in 1970 — has been successful in evolving efficient techniques for raising dryland crops, the diffusion of technology under actual field conditions continues to be a major constraint.

Experience in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka go to show that intercropping and companion cropping suitable to the topography is the best option to ward off the threat of a total crop failure. According to agricultural experts, judicious use of available dryland technologies can help boost the production three-four times under normal rainfall conditions. By all means, the yield of this magnitude can make a vast difference to the foodgrain stock of the country.

As it is, conservation in natural watersheds helps enhance soil moisture status during rainfall periods. Ponds, check dams and related structures can go a long way in facilitating the storage of rain water. During the periods of droughts crop yields are relatively more in areas where watershed conservation measures have been applied.



Asia’s useful trees and plants
K.L. Noatay

Kainth is a medium-sized deciduous tree. Its scientific name is Pyrus Pashia. The family is rosaceae. Its other regional or local names are keint, kaeth, tang, batangi, patangi, shinder, katari, kithu, ku, shegal etc.

Kainth occurs naturally, and in abundance, in mountainous tracts with an altitudinal range varying from 300 m to 3000 m above mean sea level. It occurs in the Shivaliks as well as the Himalayas-starting from Burma, passing through north-eastern Indian states to Bhutan, Nepal and westwards right up to Afghanistan.

It is a common sight in terraced agricultural holdings in the hills. At places it forms a middle storey in mixed broad-leaved trees and or pine crops. Its common associates are rhododendrons, oaks, chir, kail etc.

Kainth grows quite luxuriantly on dry and open hill slopes at appropriate altitude. At some places at lower altitude, however, it can be seen constituting itself as an under growth below normal forest crops of the main species like chir or kail, etc., especially in freshly thinned open stands.

Kainth is a fairly fast growing plant. It usually matures in nearly 40 to 50 years by when it attains nearly 1 m girth (at breast height) and a total height of about 8 to 10 metres with crown spread of about 3 to 5 metre in terms of diameter. The straight bole (main trunk) can be 2 to 3 m high in a really good specimen. The branches spread in all directions.

Young leaves of kainth are generally pinnate shaped, with 3 to 5 lobes and serrate margin. Later these become lanceolate or even ocuminate, at times. In matter of colour and texture, these are shining green above and glabracent and wooly below. A normal mature leaf (compounds) is 10 to 20 cm long and 10 to 15 cm wide. While sheep and goats eat the kainth foliage quite greedily, other domestic cattle generally avoid grazing on them.

Kainth bears flowers during March-April. However, some trees can at times can be seen in inflorescence during June-July also. And, irrespective of flowering time, whenever kainth is in inflorescence, their phenomenal snow-white canopies tend to turn the countryside into an attractive, rather exquisite, all white fairy terrain.

Kainth fruit appears during April-May and ripens by July-August. These are glovose in shape measuring about 2 to 4 cm in diameter. Generally acrid in taste, these tend to become sweet when over-ripe.

These show a dark brown hue then. And, despite acridity in taste, young schoolchildren eat these greedily. Wild animals like bears, squirrels, birds, etc devouver the rest. The fruit though full of vitamins, does not cause any ill-effect on the over indulgent youngsters.

Kainth wood is light, in that it weights about 20 kg per cubic foot. The sapwood is off-white in colour. The heartwood is reddish brown. Though, structurally it is fairly hard grained, its susceptibility to cracks and warping and availability in only small size delimits its utility as a good construction timber. Its available pieces are as such allowed to lie in protected sheltered/shaded storage for quite some time before using for making walking sticks, combs, tabacco pipes, etc. Other than above sparing use the kainth wood is used mainly as a firewood only.

The kainth plant is very important to the agriculturists and horticulturists, in that its seedlings are the best host to receive the grafting of rosaceae fruit plants like pears, apples, etc.

So far as the regeneration of kainth is concerned, the species regenerates itself profusely out of the seed disseminated through excreta of wild animals feeding on the ripe fruit. The seedlings can also be raised in nursery by sowing the seeds separated from the fruit pulp manually and dried in sun for a couple of days. Further, keeping the seed soaked in lukewarm water for nearly 24 hours, helps in ensuring more satisfactory germination.

The nursery operation is generally carried out during September-October. Grafting is done during January-February. The pear plants are in their own turn very useful for planting up vacant bounds and corners of agricultural holdings in rural sector as well as vacant nooks and corners of the new/upcoming residential town-ship part of urban hill sector.



Farm operations for march


This is an ideal time for starting beekeeping. Brood rearing by the colonies is at full swing during this month and hence the colonies grow rapidly. So this period is also very suitable for multiplication of our existing stock of the bee colonies. The colonies may be multiplied by dividing the colonies or through mass producing the queen bees. Migrate the bee colonies to Eu-calyptus plantations in the beginning of the March. The migratory beekeepers, who have not extracted Brassica honey, should extract the honey before migrating the colonies to Eucalyptus plantation. If colonies are over-populated, provide more space by giving raised comb foundations and super chambers. Manage the colonies to check swarming. Control ectoparasitic mite by dusting powered sulphur 10 g/chamber (i.e. 1 g/frame) on the top bars of the bee frames. Migrate the bee farms to Eucalyptus plantations in the beginning of this month.

Mushroom Growing

1. Terminate the second crop of white button mushroom after 50-60 days (when temperature rises above 25-27° C).

2. The spent compost/trays are vacated from the growing rooms and cleaned them thoroughly.

3. The trays/shelves should be cleaned, disinfected and sundried before storing for next season.

Fish Farming

1. To avoid overstocking of pond from the wild breeding of common carp, harvest it completely and also remove the vegetation from the pond which may have its eggs attached to it.

2. In case of new excavated or renovated (dried up and refilled) pond, stock the pond with seed of common carp. In case of old pond, there is no need to stock common carp.

3. Apply organic manures [(120 kg/acre/week of FYM or 60 kg/acre/week of poultry droppings or 112 kg/acre/week of mixture of FYM (3 parts) and poultry droppings (1 parts)] and inorganic fertilisers (16 kg/acre/week of single super phosphate) in newly excavated/renovated/old pond.

4. Feed the fish with supplementary feed [a mixture of deoiled rice bran or wheat bran (44%), deoiled mustard/groundnut/sunflower cake (44%), fish meal/meat meal (10%), mineral mixture/bone meal (1.5%) and common salt (0.5%)] @ 2% fish biomass in newly excavated/renovated/old pond.

Rat Control

Kill rats by baiting rat burrows with zinc sulphate bait (smear 1 kg of wheat/gram/maize or bajra grains with sarson oil and mix with 25 g of zinc phosphide) @ one table spoon per burrow or fumigate the burrows with phostoxin/celphos/delilcia tablets @ ¼ to ½ of a 3 g tablet per burrow.

— Progressive Farming, PAU