|AGRICULTURE TRIBUNE||Monday, September 2, 2002, Chandigarh, India|
Farm operations for
For a new dawn to the Green Revolution, it’s time to plan ‘precision’ diversification based on site, zone and region-specific selection of crops and cropping patterns, efficient management, natural resources and inputs to produce cost-effective and eco-friendly consumer-acceptable quality products.
OVER the years there has been a deluge of reports and recommendations, research papers, discussions, debates and brainstorming sessions of men who felt concerned over how to salvage Punjab agriculture, retrieve farmers and farm labour from ruination and give the state’s economy, anchored as it is in the soil, strong roots.
To this list of concerns is now added another document, "Precision Crop Diversification in Punjab," that’s worth consideration for its seeming applicability. Its author is Dr M S Bajwa, a retired Director of Research at Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana.
The document’s 73-pages are filled with a wide range of statistics—world hunger to malnutrition and under-feeding in Punjab villages, soil type and texture to precipitation data, flood-prone zones to variables in agro-climatic zones and is also studded with maps, graphs and tables.
All of these focus on one theme that uniformly threads the document: it’s time to plan ‘precision’ diversification based on site, zone and region-specific selection of crops and cropping patterns, efficient management, natural resources and inputs to produce cost-effective and eco-friendly consumer-acceptable quality products.
To ensure the suggested paradigm shift, equal focus is on shift in attitudes and mind-set of the farmers and farm scientists, economists and policy-planners. The need is for ‘demand-driven’ quality produce and products, enlarging the agro-industrial base and creating on-farm and non-farm employment opportunities and improving rural economy.
The document, perhaps, holds the key to any future policy programmes because Punjab agriculture is headed straight for more trouble and crises, once the quantitative restrictions under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) regime are removed. Punjab’s agricultural and agriculture-based economic problems (often resulting in social tensions, including suicides and increasing debt) will further aggravate if action is not taken at once. Already 16 years have been lost since the talk of diversification started.
Dr Bajwa’s hypothesis of ‘precision’ diversification shows a road map to sustainable, profitable agriculture. It takes cognisance of the past and present to predict the needs of future food security for the millions of poor and also profit security of farmers, vis-à-vis the country’s population growth and the changing world economic order. He talks of putting into practice ‘knowledge’ and ‘experience’.
Without getting bogged down by known agricultural statistics pertaining to area, yield, production, consumption of farm inputs, stored and rotting grains that have converted Punjab into a ‘graveyard’ of tiny kernels of rice and wheat, lets have a look at the suggestions based on the profile of Punjab:
Agro-ecological zones: Punjab has been divided into five zones: 1) Dry, sub-humid/moist sub-humid; 2) Dry, sub-humid, north-plain, alluvial soil; 3) Semi-arid, north-plain, alluvial soil; 4) Arid, western-plain, desert soil; and 5) Arid, western-plain, desert-type soil. (In the last the two difference is of rainfall and temperature). The ‘precision’ diversification map has been drawn keeping in view the characteristics of each of these zones.
Cutting area under rice: Taking into account wide variations in agro-ecological and soil and groundwater characteristics, rice cannot be replaced by other crops in areas having heavy-clayey soil, salt-affected ‘kallar’ soil (even after reclamation), water-logged soil, flood-prone areas and basmati-growing areas.
However, rice can and should be shifted at the earliest from sandy and loamy sand soils, areas receiving saline (brackish) irrigation water and areas recently brought under cotton in southwest (Malwa) districts. Essentially, go for precise area-specific shift, and not blind diversification.
Reducing wheat area: This is one crop that will continue to occupy major area as it can be sown in all types of soil, requires less water and can be irrigated with even marginal water supply and requires almost no insecticides. But the need is to shift from the existing ‘bread’ varieties to ‘durum’ wheat varieties, which can grow in parts of Gurdaspur, Amritsar, Ludhiana, Fatehgarh Sahib, Patiala and Sangrur because they are suited to well-drained, medium (loamy sand to loam) textured, medium to high organic matter, medium to high fertility, non-saline/alkali soil, with good quality irrigation. But rain-fed conditions are not suitable.
Introducing variety: The last four decades have seen diversity in natural vegetation and crops get depleted. Any crop variety developed from a single gene and cultivated repeatedly over a period time can one day be a major concern in case of breakout (epidemic) of a disease or pest attack. Variety in the gene bank is essential to maintain diversity. For this Punjab needs to enact a biodiversity Act to effectively protect and conserve biodiversity not only of natural but also cultivated crops.
Commodity specialisation: For any success in diversification, general or precision, establishing different crop/commodity-specific zones is imperative. Such zones must have export promotion parks as well. Since crop diversification and quantitative restrictions (under WTO) are closely related, a proactive approach is needed to prepare Punjab for the competitive world market to find a niche for its produce/products.
Corporate farming: It is already late in the day to have induced corporate sector into contract farming for quality- and demand-driven agriculture and establishing a strong, viable small industries sector with agriculture as its base in terms of processing as also machinery and equipment manufacturing. For such a success, farmers’ associations and their linkages with the corporate sector as well as changes in revenue/land laws in favour of owners are required, so is development of infrastructure to take care of the produce and products.
Diversification as business: There is a need for a practical socio-economic analysis of the ‘production-processing-marketing-consumption inter-relationship’ to reorient and prioritise demand and quality-driven farming. Social scientists have as important a role to play as scientists and economists to educate and train farmers for new unavoidable changes in agriculture.
Productivity-cum-quality: For global competition quality is of essence. Certain countries conduct DNA tests to determine quality before allowing import of foodgrains and other products. A careful selection of crops and varieties is the key to enter the world markets, as only quality produce and products will have acceptability abroad.
For example, Punjab needs to introduce high-yield, high-quality Karnal bunt-resistant wheat (containing more than 12 per cent protein), basmati rice having strong gluten and low-yellow grains with 65 to 70 per cent milling recovery and grain length/breadth ratio of more than 2, maize with high lysine and tryptophan, brassica oil seeds/ ‘canola’ type varieties having less that 2 per cent erucic acid and nutritious rice, like the golden-rice that is fortified with Vitamin A and iron.
This calls for setting up state-of-the-art quality control laboratories in different zones/regions. Likewise, making use of information technology, remote-sensing techniques, geographic information system, market intelligence, biotechnology, etc., will require special attention.
The cogent conclusion is
adoption of concept-based precision farming and crop diversification
system. Punjab’s myopic vision and short-term/ad hoc fire-fighting
approach will help in only ‘managing,’ not ‘mitigating,’ the
THE word ‘diversification’ first seeped into cold print in the context of agriculture 16 years ago. It was used by Dr S. S. Johl (at present Vice-Chairman, Punjab State Planning Board) in the context of shifting 20 per cent of the area in Punjab under rice and wheat to maize, pulses, oil seeds, sugarcane, cotton, fruits, vegetables and forests and doubling the area under fodder. This was to be achieved by 2000. It is two years past that ‘deadline’.
Against that benchmark, the area under wheat has increased from 3.15 million hectares in 1985-86 to the 3.39 million hectares at present (2000-01) and the area under rice, in the same period, has shot up from 1.70 million hectares to 2.60 million hectares.
This not only shows the stranglehold of the rice-wheat cycle but is also a grim pointer to the utter callousness and casualness of men who matter—agricultural scientists, sociologists, economists, bureaucrats and politicians. Consequently, Punjab today is again at the same crossroads, as in 1986. And yet again talking of the same ‘diversification’ that it had failed to accept and adopt.
Though granaries and godowns have continued to fill to the brim, production, productivity and profitability first reached a plateau and then started to plummet. This has hit hard the resource-poor small and marginal farmers, 40 per cent of whom are uneducated and ignorant.
Incidentally, the size of operational
land holdings in Punjab shows that the percentage of small farmers,
owning less than 2 hectares, has increased from 39 (1980-81) to 49
(1999-2000). The percentage of semi-medium farmers, owning between 2
hectares and 4 hectares, has declined from 28 per cent to 24 per cent
in the same period and so has the percentage of large land holdings
from 33 to 27. No doubt, this crisis in agriculture has affected alike
families of farmers and farm labourers as much as the economy and
ecology. This has rung alarm bells, reminding the powers that be of
Darwin’s Theory of Survival of the Fittest. But this theory cannot
be allowed to dissolve the small and resilient ones, not in the age of
knowledge and technology!— PPS
VARIATIONS in the Indian agro-climate from tropical to temperate conditions have lead to the development of indigenous skills based on innovations at farmers’ fields. Unfortunately, these skills do not find much appreciation, as these are not tested in the field by researchers. Although many of these traditional practices are supported by scientific findings, yet these have not been converted into technological recommendations to enable farmers to reduce their costs and make agriculture more sustainable. Such skills are termed as indigenous technological knowledge or (ITK).
Farmers constantly learn and unlearn, choosing appropriate knowledge in their struggle for a sustainable livelihood. Let’s take a look at a few important examples of ITK still prevalent in field:
Milk treatment: Reduction of viral diseases has been found to occur mostly in infected plants of Solanaceae, Piperaceae and Malvaceae families by milk spray. It was tested that fresh milk spray reduces nearly 73 per cent of TMV infections in tobacco. Fermented buttermilk (1l in 20 l of water) sprayed on tobacco plants cures leaf curl disease. Fresh goat milk sprayed over plants like chilli (Capsicum annum), brinjal and species like black pepper also helps control fruit and leaf curl. The neutral to near-neutral pH of milk not only washes off the fungal spores but the adhesive property of milk fat also prevents germination of spores.
Neem and ash: Before transplanting paddy, seedlings are kept in small plots of pounded water mixed with ash and pulverised neem seeds. For a plot of 15 sq. feet, half a kilogram of neem seeds and a kilo of ash is sufficient for mixing with water to accommodate 50 bundles of seedling at a time for a period of one hour. Treated seedling produce a crop free of pest and diseases.
Lantana leaves: Leaves of lantana, an obnoxious weed, can be utilised to preserve and process sweet potatoes. Insect attack can be restricted to a bare minimum with no use of poisonous insecticides.
Inducing conception: An indigenously developed concept of giving tonic to dairy animals is gaining popularity. When cows fail to conceive, a tonic made of the bark of Cassia fistula, tender leaves of jackfruit tree, roots of Plumbago zeylanica and leaves of clerodendrum inerme are powered and the mixture is fed to animals along with jaggery.
Deworming: A reddish-brown powder collected from the fruit of the widely grown kaamal tree (Mallotus philippinenis) is used for the treatment of worm infection/constipation in cattle and buffaloes. Depending on the type of ailment, 50-60 g of kamila powder mixed in lukewarm water/butter milk is administered orally.
Treating fractures: A paste for treating a fractured bone of an animal is prepared by mixing 500 g bark of khakhra (Butea monosprema) and 500 g seed of guvar (Delonix elata).
A few days after calving, dairy cows suddenly stop milking due to
swelling of the udder. To treat this, pulverised quartz stones are
passed through a muslin cloth, mixed with butter and smeared over the
udder. It is applied twice a day till the animal is cured.
operations for September
— Prop up the sugarcane crop in the beginning of this month by using trash-twist method. Irrigate at regular intervals for better yields.
— Rogue out the canes affected by red rot and wilt. Collect and destroy those infested withGurdaspur borer. Repeat this operation at weekly intervals.
— To control Pyrilia, spray 500 ml of Thiodan 35 EC or 350 ml Sumithion/Accothion 50 EC per acre in 150 litres of water.
— Control whitefly by spraying 1.0 to 1.5 litres of Malathion of 50 EC in 150 litres of water per acre.
— Start sowing of early maturing sugarcane varieties like CoJ 85, CoJ 83, and CoJ 64 from second fortnight of this month after recommended seed treatment. Keep 90 cm distance between rows.
First fortnight of September is the optimum period for sowing. Use short-duration variety PBT 37/TL 15 for better yield and getting the field vacated well in time. Toria may be sown after applying 55 kg urea and 50 kg single superphosphate per acre.
Do not allow the crop to suffer for want of water at the pod development stage. Any stress at this stage can cause drastic reduction in yield. Control tikka disease by spraying wettable sulphur @ 500-750 g/acre in 200-300 litres of water per acre or with Bavistin/Derosal/Agrozim @ 50-60 g/acre in 100 litres of water per acre.
Sesamum leaf webber and capsule borer can be checked by spraying 100 ml Sumicidin Fenval/Agrofen 20 EC or 150 ml Decis 2.8 EC per acre.
— Check various caterpillars feeding on foliage/pods of moong/mash by spraying 500 ml of Thiodan 35 EC or Ekalux 25 EC or 200 ml of Nuvan 100 in 80 litres of water per acre. Pod borer complex infestation on arhar can be reduced by spraying 700 g Sevin 50 WP or 400 ml Hexasulfan 35 EC in 80 litres of water in dwarf variety and 120 litres on tall variety per acre with manually operated knapsack sprayer at the time of 50 per cent flowering.
— To control Cercospora leaf spot, spray the mung crop with Zineb 75 WP @ 400 g/100 litres of water per acre at 10 days interval twice or thrice.
— Sow maize for fodder production till mid-September to have fodder for the scarcity period.
— Prepare the land for sowing berseem during the last week of September. Mix oats and Sarson raya in berseem to get first cutting early. Berseem seed should be free from kasni seed. Inoculate the berseem seed with Rhizobium culture. Apply 20-25 kg urea and 185 kg super phosphate/acre at the time of sowing berseem. If 6 tonnes of FYM has been applied then 125 kg superphosphate/acre will be sufficient; where rye grass has been mixed in berseem apply 10 kg N (22 kg urea/acre) after each cut.
— Before sowing berseem, spray 400 ml/acre Basalin for the control of Poa grass (guien).
AMERICAN textile manufactures are exploring an innovative way of making clothing, furniture upholstery, and other products from corn. It’s a way of making a synthetic product from natural, renewable resources. For environmentalists, the process is more eco-friendly than making polyester from oil. The process emits less carbon dioxide than the process from crude oil products.
For textile manufacturers, it will mean freedom from expensive imported crude oil. For farmers, the product could offer a new use for a major domestic crop. Fabrics made from maize corn (makka/ makki) have many inherent benefits, including superior feel and fall.
In 2000, researchers found that the starch in corn could be used to form a fibre that’s very similar to conventional polyester. It could be used in a number of products, from clothing and carpets to non-textile items such as biodegradable plastics.
The fabric looks, acts, and feels like polyester. The upholstery fabric from corn is less flammable and more resilient. There are a few subtle differences, but it behaves almost exactly the same.
The fabric is biodegradable, which means it will decompose relatively quickly in a landfill. For crude-oil-based products, that process requires hundreds of years.
They first extract the natural sugar from corn, which is then fermented to make lactic acid. The lactic acid is then formed into thread to produce fibres. Finally, pellets of these threads are treated like molten polyester and extruded to form raw yarn, which cannot be distinguished from polyester by a layman.
Textile mills knit or weave the yarn into material that can be cut and sewn into clothing. The fabric should be available to consumers in clothing and upholstery very soon.
Some non-textile products are already available to consumers. One company is making plastic trash bags, cups, plates and spoons, which decompose very fast. Sony has been wrapping its mini-discs in packaging made of such material, and Dunlop has used golf ball coverings. It may even be possible to use sugar beets or rice as raw material.
The technology should be developed in India to utilise the locally available maize corn, rice and sugar beet. — Shirish Joshi
LANKY sunflowers may become latex and rubber factories of the future. This might happen if tests by US Agricultural Research Service scientists and their university colleagues continue to provide encouraging results. The researchers joined forces to improve the quality and quantity of latex from sunflower plants, according to a story on the US Department of Agriculture Website.
Inside plants, latex consists of rubber particles surrounded by water and other compounds. Latex can be made into such products as household or surgical gloves or rubber goods like automobile tires.
This innovative use of sunflowers
could reduce dependence on latex, natural rubber and manufactured
rubber products, according to plant physiologist Katrina Cornish at
Albany, California. Although the quantity and quality of latex from
sunflowers is not yet good enough for commercial use, Cornish and
co-investigators expect to improve it further through genetic
engineering. — www.usda.com
"Jithe wanna, basuti be barya, uthe, banda kimwen marya?"
Translated, it means:
"Where Wanna, basuti and barya exist, how can a man die?"
THE essense of the quotation is that wherever these three common plants grow, humans can have a long life. These plants grow abundantly in the Asian continent. Their natural habitat starts from lower Shivaliks and goes up to about 1500 m msl. Their scientific names are Vitex negundu, Adhatoda basica and Acorus calamus, respectively. While Basuti (Adhtoda basica) has been discussed in these columns, Wanna is taken up this time.
Wanna (Vitex negundu) belongs to the plant family Verbenaceae. The genera Vitex, however, has some 13 species in the Indian sub-continent. Wanna is most common.
A large deciduous shrub, it grows naturally in vacant land, especially along watercourses in the plains as well as hills. The main stem is characterised by thin grey bark and spreading branches. The foliage is similar to that of the pulse arhar. Its leaves are tri- to penta- foliate, distinctly crenate on luxuriant shoots. Individual leaflets are lanceolate, 3 to 5 cm long and 1 to 3 cm wide. The lowest pair has the smallest, sessile or sub-sessile leaflets. These are glabrescent above. Their lower surface is pubescent grey.
The plant bears greyish white flowers during March-April as well as June-September. The corolla being 5 lobed, its diameter is usually 2 to 4 mm. The compound panicles are nearly 10-inch long. The calyx too is 5 toothed and 2 to 4 mm in diameter, the panicles measure up to 30 cm in diameter.
The wood of wanna is greish white with a hard texture. Its stem shows annual rings of growth marked by a narrow belt of numerous pores on the inner edge.
The leaves of wanna contain a kind of bitter juice because of which cattle don’t browse on it. Various parts of the plant are used in ayurvedic as well as Unani systems for treating a variety of ailments. These are also used for religious ceremonies, especially at funerals, as well as put in packing cases and grain bins to ward off insects.
The branches are used for wattle work, hedges and or for making rough baskets. The root is used as an antipyretic. Its twigs make an excellent tooth brush.
The wood of wanna is though — weighs nearly 18 to 20 kg per cubic foot. It has a moderate rate of growth and has nearly seven annual rings per inch of the radius. It is generally used as firewood.
Wanna regenerates abundantly on its own. However, when it is to beused as a hedge, it can be raised by planting cuttings or by root suckers. The plant displays wide adaptability in its choice of environment, but is cultivated best in moist situations in open wastelands having sandy loam soil.
The plant has a succulent fruit. In
ayruveda as well as Unani systems, the plant as a whole is considered
anodyne, antiarthritic, antiparasitic, appetiser, aromatic,
astringent, cardiac demulcent, emmenogogue, expectorant, febrifuge and
a nerbine tonic. Dried leaves are put in grain bins to repel harmful
insects. The smoke from its leaves repels mosquitoes. Dried leaves
sell at about Rs 10 to 15.