AGRICULTURE TRIBUNE Monday, September 23, 2002, Chandigarh, India

Banish the pests feeding on our grain
D. D. Narang
oodgrains have necessarily to be stored after harvest for varying periods. Under improper conditions, these stocks are attacked by insects, rodents, fungi, etc., and suffer loss both in quantity and quality.

Rural godowns: facility nearer home
V.S. Mahajan
move is afoot again to revive the system of rural godowns. These had been created with much zeal, particularly in Punjab, during the late 1970s and early 1980s in the wake of the Green Revolution. 

Need for reprioritisation of agriculture
The Punjab Agricultural University played a key role in making the dream of Green Revolution a reality. The objectives of the deficiency era having been met, today new challenges and problems are being posed by the very strategy that saved India once. This makes it imperative upon us to rethink our policy and reorient our approach to agriculture, says K.S. Aulakh.

Bungling in canal budgets
V. P. Prabhakar
unjab had a total of 14,482 km of canals and distributaries at the end of March 2001. A review of the Irrigation Department has indicated deficiencies in planning and execution of works.

Beri, the love of kids
K.L. Noatay
egend has it that Lord Rama and Laxman in their search for Sita, tired and famished, came across a Bhilni—a tribal woman—who, to honour and please the Lord, offered her collection of the fruit ber. To ensure that she offered only the sweet pieces, she took a small bite from each to taste before passing them on.

Farm operations for October
Prepare for sowing wheat, pulses



Banish the pests feeding on our grain
D. D. Narang

Foodgrains have necessarily to be stored after harvest for varying periods. Under improper conditions, these stocks are attacked by insects, rodents, fungi, etc., and suffer loss both in quantity and quality. Every year nearly 10 per cent foodgrains are lost during post-harvest handling and storage in India. Increased production would hardly have any significance unless protected from waste.

Out of the total production, nearly 70 per cent of the grain is retained with growers. Under the circumstances, particular attention has to be paid to rural storage and action suited to the agriculturists’ means, meeting the requirements of simplicity, low cost and adaptability to local conditions taken.

Origin of infestation: Insect appearance is not spontaneous. Infestations are the direct result of egg laying by insects that are already present in a godown or enter it along with the grain. If insects do not get access to the grain, it will remain free from infestation. There is not much infestation in the field or on the threshing floor. Stray instances of field infestation by sundwali susri (rice weevil) and dhora (pulse beetle) have been observed, but infestation usually originates from contaminated receptacles and godowns.

Moisture: Dampness causes a rise in temperature in godowns, causing grain to become mouldy. Insect development and microbial activity is also accelerated by moisture content. Certain types of fungal and bacterial activity produces toxic results in grain, rendering it unfit for consumption.

Drying grains prior to storage is a good principle, because the sundwali susri cannot develop in grains having less than 10 per cent moisture; the development of other insects is also retarded. Leakproof structures provided with appropriate insulation materials are the main precautions against moisture. For bagged grain, the dunnage—material that is recommended to prevent seepage of moisture—is straw, bamboo, matting, or paddy husk, depending upon availability. For bulk storage, grain husk is good. More effective dunnage is polythene sheets, wooden grills, wooden batten or crates. Aeration also helps reduce dampness.

Pests and treatment

A number of insects belonging to two main groups, moths and beetles, cause damage in storage. The major insect pests are rice moth, grain moth, susri (Red flour beetle, rice weevil and lesser grain borer), khapra and dhora (pulse beetle).

Hygiene: The stores should be thoroughly cleaned and the debris removed and buried or burnt. Repair of cracks and crevices, whitewashing, etc., are some of the most important precautions before bringing in the produce.

Contact sprays of malathion 0.5 per cent is an effective disinfestant. Malathion 5 per cent dust is being increasingly used for surface treatment of stocks after every three months. The best disinfestant of empty stores is aluminium phosphide at the rate of seven tablets (3 gm each) per 28 cu. m. (1000 cu. ft.).

Regular inspection: At times the initial infestation passes unnoticed and one becomes aware of it when some visible signs, such as the movement of the insects, draws attention. It is, therefore, imperative stocks should be regularly inspected to obviate infestation.

Preservatives: Preservatives are mixed with grains at the time of storage to kill the insects already present and to save them from subsequent infestation. Insecticides are used for treating grain meant for seed only. Malathion 5 per cent dust should be mixed with grain meant for seed at the rate of 50 gm per quintal.

Fumigants: Stocks held in bulk as well as bagged grain can be saved from infestation if it has already developed by fumigation. The success depends on the maintenance of a certain concentration of the poisonous gases on the grain for a specific period. The godown has to be made airtight. Tarpaulin, if necessary, should be used over the stocks. One of the most effective and safe fumigants, aluminium phosphide (Phostoxin/ Celphos), is gaining worldwide acceptance. It is cheap and its tablet form is easy to handle. The fumigant is used @ one tablet weighing 3 gm per tonne, (10 bags) or 7 tablets per 28 cu. m. in a seven-day exposure. Alternatively, ethylene dibromide can be used at 1.7 kg per 28 cu. m. Killoptera (Ethylene dichloride and carbon tetrachloride mixture) is also used @ one litre per 20 quintals of grain or 10 litres per 28 cu. m. space. For small-scale fumigation EDB is also good and is available in small ampules. One ampule containing 3 ml EDB should be used for fumigating 1 quintal of grain. The exposure period is four days.

It is pertinent to stress here that fumigants are poison chemicals and, therefore, need to be handled with great care. It is very important that the stocks should be fumigated in isolated receptacles or godowns to eliminate chances of hazards to human-beings and domestic animals.

Rat menace

Rats spoil much more than what they eat in stores. They tear bags, pollute and contaminate grains with hair, urine and faeces.

The menace can be reduced by rat proofing, trapping, poison baiting, fumigation of rat holes and by preventing their access to water. For building rat-proof stores, keep plinth level at 90 cm or above with downward projection all around. It prevents rats from climbing. Cover the lower 20 cm of doors with metallic sheets and fit wire gauze over gutters. Cage traps and break-back treadle traps are commonly used. They should be placed at the mouth of rat holes or at right angles across the runways.

Occasional change of baits is advised. Poison bait should be prepared by smearing whole grains with vegetable oil and then mixing with zinc phosphide at 2 per cent (by weight). There is no need of gur as it does not increase either palatability or the effectiveness. Rats are suspicious animals, hence they should be tempted with unpoisoned baits for one or two days before poison baits are used. Seven to 10 days after the main poison baiting, the treatment should be discountinued for about a week to create confidence in the rats, and then treatment with poisoned baits should be repeated.

Among improved rodenticides, anticoagulants (coumarin compounds), which are safer than acute poisons, have gained wide acceptance. Substances like Warfarin (Rodafarin) are of particular interest since it is highly toxic to rats and practically harmless to most other animals and humans. This chemical, having 0.5 per cent active ingredient, is used at 5 per cent in the bait. These baits have to be fed to rats for over seven days before producing lethal effects.

Fumigation of rat burrows should be done by inserting one tablet of aluminium phosphide (phostoxin/ celphos) in each burrow. Complete closure of the treated burrows is essential. Care in using fumigants and poisons is important. They should be handled as per recommendations of the manufacturer. Collect and bury the left over poison bait and dead rats. Aluminium phosphide should be used only under expert supervision. All tablets from a tube should be used and the left over, if any, should be buried in soil.


Rural godowns: facility nearer home
V.S. Mahajan

A move is afoot again to revive the system of rural godowns. These had been created with much zeal, particularly in Punjab, during the late 1970s and early 1980s in the wake of the Green Revolution. It was strongly felt that the basic inputs like fertilisers, seeds, and insecticides should be easily available to farmers right at their doorsteps. With this in view it was decided to create a network of rural godowns at the potential centres.

These were developed as focal points to serve the needs of the surrounding 10 to 12 villages. Kind of concrete sheds were created to protect various inputs that could now be easily available as per farmers’ needs without difficulty and also at subsidised prices.

The system was encouraged by the state cooperative department that undertook the construction of these godowns with financial assistance from the state and the Centre and also kept them supplied with various inputs.


Unfortunately, the system was not able to make much headway for certain deficiencies. Foremost, they were created at a time when militancy had started showing its ugly head. The decade saw the peak of militancy, which severely affected the functioning of these godowns. In fact, quite a few of them were even used by militants as hiding places. Besides, not sufficient attention paid to their design, functioning and maintenance. For instance, most of these godowns happened to be too small for any effective service. Also the location was not well thought out.

It also became evident that because of poor management serious pilferage of the stocks in these godowns was a routine. The concept soon lost its shine and the investment made did not yield the desired result.

However, it had helped set a healthy tradition of storage of inputs for farmers so that they did not need to travel great distances. The exercise also provided a lesson for future effective development of such storage places.

It is in this background that an attempt is now being made by NABARD in reviving this system of rural godowns. Funds are now being assured to the prospective parties both in the private sector as well as the state corporations for the improvement of existing godowns as well as construction of new ones as per the experience already gained. Also, to encourage this scheme, subsidy is also being provided to the parties undertaking the job, whether individually or in groups.

Now in view of high pressure on the storage of foodgrains in large godowns, where huge stocks are lost for lack of proper storage, it is expected that the emergence of new rural godowns would help solve the problem.

Apart from providing storage for farmers’ produce this system would also keep a close watch on the produce.

Effective design

For promoting effective use, it would be essential to introduce structural changes and the use of superior material in the godowns to make them weather proof, especially during the rainy season. Their management would have to be more alert to discourage pilferage. As economic viability of these godowns depends on their size, it would be essential to go in for the optimum size that has sufficient space for stocking both the produce as well as essential inputs.

We would also have to keep in view the future shape of things when the country goes in for more and more agri-processing activities. It would be useful to involve panchayats in the project. They should also be encouraged to take benefit from NABARD’s scheme and construct godowns in their villages which might even gain more prominence than godowns constructed by outside parties. In fact, fear has been expressed that in view of the past not-too-happy experience of rural godowns and the hesitation of the rural population to take to them readily, the new experience might not gain much success and might even prove an exercise in futility.

Thus, it would be essential to ensure the participation of local bodies that would take a long-time interest in the effective functioning of these godowns. A cautious approach would be needed towards so that the project serves the purpose over a long period.

Need for reprioritisation of agriculture

The Punjab Agricultural University played a key role in making the dream of Green Revolution a reality. The objectives of the deficiency era having been met, today new challenges and problems are being posed by the very strategy that saved India once. This makes it imperative upon us to rethink our policy and reorient our approach to agriculture, says K.S. Aulakh.

The Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), established in 1962, played a key role in making the country self-sufficient in food production and transforming Punjab into the wheat and rice bowl of the country. The state, with only 1.53 per cent of the geographical area of the country, has been contributing annually about 60-70 per cent of the wheat and 40-50 per cent of the rice to the national pool of food reserves during the past decade. This has been made possible through research-based technologies, including the development of high-yielding varieties and their rapid adoption by innovative farmers.

Thus far Central and state policies centred around increasing foodgrains production, particularly wheat and rice, to which Punjab and neighbouring states contributed the most. In India, at present there is a stockpile of about 70 million tonnes (mt) of foodgrains lying in the open and ill-maintained godowns. These stocks are four times more than the buffer stock requirement. Ironically, over 300 million people are still below the poverty line, as they do not have physical and economic access to these stocks.

These gains notwithstanding, Punjab has also been over mechanised. The state accounts for 26.1 per cent of the total tractors in the country. The number of tubewells has also gone up from 1.92 lakh in 1970-71 to 9.25 lakh at present. Due to the declining water table, especially in central districts, the pressure on power resources is becoming unmanageable.


The present status of growth in agriculture has brought the following issues into focus:

—The economic condition of a vast majority of farmers has deteriorated and cannot be improved with the existing cropping system(s), which has already been exploited up to its 75 per cent potential.

—Increased costs of production and an uncertain market scenario have made investment returns negative, especially in wheat and rice. Additionally, over-investment in farm machinery (Rs 8000 crore during 1999-2000) has aggravated the situation.

—Twenty per cent of farming families are living below the poverty line and the family income of about 47 per cent of the farmers is less than the income of an unskilled worker.

—The water table is sinking by 30 cm per year and the problem is more acute in the central districts of the state. This year’s drought has only aggravated the situation. During 2001, about 25,000 tubewells were replaced by deep submersible pumps. This season 75,000 tubewells were replaced, incurring huge expenditure on farmers.

—Increased problems of salinity and waterlogging in southwestern districts.

—Due to over exploitation, soil health, especially in terms of reduced organic carbon level and micronutrients, has deteriorated.

—Environmental pollution due to large-scale burning of crop residues (of rice and wheat). This also results in the loss of valuable soil nutrients.

—Unproductive livestock management.

—Inadequate women’s empowerment and lack of gender equity in technology generation.

—Unrestricted inflow of migratory labour at the rate of 25 lakh per annum, resulting in over-dependence on it by farmers and manifestation of multi-pronged social problems.


The Punjab Agricultural University has finalised a diversification plan for implementation in specific regions/districts. The water table is going down every year due to the extensive cultivation of paddy even on marginal lands. Experts have opined that in view of available water resources, Punjab cannot sustain more than 16 lakh hectares of paddy as compared to the 24.87 lakh hectares sown during 2000-01. This means the state has to divert at least nine lakh hectares at present under paddy to other alternative crops.

Three types of diversification options are suggested:

i) Crops/enterprises for mass production and consumption, such as dairying, pulses, oilseeds, agro forestry, etc.

ii) Area-specific moderately high-value commodities in different agro-climatic zones and sub-zones, like cotton, vegetables, fruit, sugarcane, basmati rice or durum wheat.

iii) Limited zone/site specific diversification through non-conventional high-value crops for elite consumption, like floriculture, exotic vegetables, mentha, or celery, which require specific marketing systems.

The feedback received from farmers has been useful for reprioritisation of research to make it need based. The university lays emphasis on farmers’ participation while formulating research programmes so that the technology that is developed is according to the needs of the farmers. There are several occasions on which farmers, state-level functionaries and research scientists can interact to ponder over the emerging problems and to work for their local solution. Holding kisan melas in different agro-climatic regions of the state is useful in this context.

Reorienting research

In view of the changing scenario, the university has prioritised and reoriented its research, academic and technology-transfer programmes. The emphasis is now on the following:

—Development of technologies for viable diversified farming systems.

—Region-specific research and planning to cater to location-specific issues.

—Identification of problems and constraints in sustainable cropping production system research involving inter/multi-disciplinary programmes.

—Stepping up research in frontier fields like biotechnology, crop hybrids, biocontrol of pests and diseases, simulation studies, post-harvest handling and value addition of agricultural produce.

—Strengthening research into reducing cost of production in respect of crops and livestock through low investment, judicious use of costly inputs, suitable crop cultivars (with high yield, quality and exportable/processing traits) and animal breeds, resource conservation technologies, etc.

—Increasing research on subsidiary occupations like beekeeping, mushroom growing, dairying and fisheries.

—Socio-economic analysis, impact assessment of technologies developed and finalisation of viable farm plans targeting especially the marginal farmers.

—Emphasis on integrated site-specific approaches in technology generation, assessment, refinement and transfer.

—Development of contingent plans to tackle emergency situations like drought, floods and outbreak of biotic stresses.

The writer is Vice-Chancellor, Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana.

Bungling in canal budgets
V. P. Prabhakar

Punjab had a total of 14,482 km of canals and distributaries at the end of March 2001. A review of the Irrigation Department has indicated deficiencies in planning and execution of works. Even after lining 1092.06 km of channels, the area irrigated by canal water decreased during 1996-2000. Proper evaluation of various schemes had not been undertaken.

The budget estimates for a year should be based on the average expenditure for six months of the previous year and actual expenditure of the first six months of the current year. However, a check of records in 12 divisions has revealed that estimates for works were prepared on an ad hoc basis without taking into account actual requirements, as demands were 26 per cent to 747 per cent higher than actual expenditure during the last five years ending March 2001.

A test check of expenditure against supplementary demands and reappropriation of grants for 1996-2000 revealed that in eight schemes supplementary grants of Rs 31.74 crore were obtained even though the department did not incur expenditure against the original budget. Similarly, in nine schemes supplementary grants of Rs 30.92 crore were obtained, although there were savings in over the original provisions ranging between 2 and 99 per cent.

In 16 schemes no expenditure was incurred against the original budget of Rs 82.70 crore, but the Chief Engineers reappropriated Rs 48.94 crore and in 18 schemes the expenditure against the original Rs 71.28 crore was only Rs 22.17 crore, but an additional Rs 30.41 crore was re-appropriated by the CEs concerned.Top

Beri, the love of kids
K.L. Noatay

Legend has it that Lord Rama and Laxman in their search for Sita, tired and famished, came across a Bhilni—a tribal woman—who, to honour and please the Lord, offered her collection of the fruit ber. To ensure that she offered only the sweet pieces, she took a small bite from each to taste before passing them on. While Lord Rama obliged by gracefully eating her joothe ber, Laxman refused to accept ber tasted by a lowly tribal woman. Folklore says that the joothe ber discarded by Laxman later grew into Sanjeevani booti, a life-saving herb that later saved Laxman’s life from an otherwise fatal blow from Meghnath’s missile Shakti.

Ever since, traditionally ber is reckoned as a fruit of love, affection and veneration.

Beri is a Hindustani word for a substantial group of oriental plants ranging from prickly shrubs to medium-sized trees.

The plants referred to by the name beri belong to the family Rhamnaceae. This is an important genus (group) of plants growing abundantly in comparatively drier parts of the Asian sub-continent. Some 16 different species of the group are found, the most common one, growing wild in the Indian subcontinent, being the small-stature Ziziphus jujuba. It is a prickly shrub with round leaves of 2-3 cm, interspersed by curved spine-type prickles.

The fruit growing on the Ziziphus jujuba is tasty, despite being somewhat sour. Tree-sized plants bear less sour fruit, especially if plucked when fully ripe and kept in cool and dry place. This fruit is a kind of drupe—stony inside and a fleshy exterior.

The natural habitat of Beri is 200 to 1200 m above the mean sea level, occurring from Burma, Sri Lanka, and the Deccean Plateau to Afghanistan. The group is hardly found in Europe. That might explain why there is no word in English dictionaries referring exactly to the Hindustani word for the fruit of beri, the ber. In fact, Bhargwa’s Hindi-to-English dictionary offers “plum” as the equivalent English word for ber. The inappropriateness of the entry is manifest.

Most members of this group are moderate-sized trees. These attain a medium height of 10-15 m and a bole of 50 to 80 cm diameter in about 50 years, when the tree is considered mature.

The foliage of beri is greedily browsed on by sheep, goats, camels, etc. Farmers lop leaf-bearing branches, dry them in shade, separate the leaves from twigs, pound the dry leaves into a powder and mix it in common nutritious feed for milch cattle.

The fruit of the small bush-type plant of Ziziphus jujuba is eaten raw, especially by children. That from the grafted variety of the species, Z. xylopara, is cultivated as a horticultural plant and its fruit is sold in the market as a major fruit.

In arid areas having less humid atmosphere, the fruit is allowed to ripen on the tree as far as possible. After plucking, it is dehydrated in shade. That converts the ordinary fruit into dried fruit, a medicinal item called Khushak Mewa. It is prescribed as a light (fruit) diet for patients recouping from a variety of prolonged illnesses.

The wood of Beri, about 20-25 kg to a cubic foot, is hard. It makes good firewood and is also burnt is kilns to obtain quality charcoal. As a timber, beri is good for making agricultural implements as well as certain parts of furniture requiring carving and joinery.

The seed of beri are disseminated widely by birds and animals eating the fruit. In the right environment, i.e. dry area experiencing maximum temperatures between 35º C and 50º C and minimum from 30° C to 15° C and annual rainfall about 125 to 230 mm per annum, its natural propagation can be obtained easily from root suckers and pollarding as well. Scientists and scholars in horticulture are currently doing a lot of research for efficient propagation of better varieties of this plant.


Farm operations for October
Prepare for sowing wheat, pulses


— Start sowing wheat varieties PBW-343, WH-542, PBW-154 and durum wheat PDW-274, PDW-233 and PBW-34 under irrigated conditions and PBW-396, PBW-299, PBW-175 under rainfed conditions from last week of October. Termite is a serious pest in light textured soil, particularly in barani areas. Before sowing treat wheat seed with chlorpyriphos 20 EC @ 4ml/kg seed or Endosulfan 7 ml/kg seed.

— Loose smut: Treat the seed of all varieties, except that of PBW 138, with vitavax @ 2g/kg or Bavistin/Agrozim/Derosal/J.K. Stein/Sten 50@ 2.5 g/kg seed for control of loose smut.

— Flag smut: To control flag smut, treat the seed before sowing with Thiram @ 3g/kg or vitavax @ 2g or Bavistin @ 2.5 g/kg seed.

— Other diseases: Treat the seed with Captan or Thiram @ 3g/kg seed for the control of root rot, foot rot, seedling blight, black tip and black spot of glumes. Captan and Thiram treatment should not be done earlier than one month of sowing as it affects seed germination.

— In rainfed areas wheat varieties PBW 396, PBW 299 and PBW 175 should be sown after applying 35 kg urea, 100 kg superphosphate and 16 kg muriate of potash per acre in sandy loam or heavier soils. In light textured soils 35 kg urea, 50 kg superphosphate and 8 kg muriate of potash may be drilled. In irrigated areas in absence of soil test, wheat crop requires 100 kg urea, 155 kg superphosphate and 20 kg muriate of potash/acre during the life span. If 55 kg DAP/acre is used as a source of phosphorus then reduce the dose of urea by 20 kg/acre. Nitrophosphate (20:20:0) @ 125 kg/acre can also be used in wheat. If 125 kg/acre nitrophosphate is used then reduce the dose of urea by 45 kg/acre and there is no need to apply urea at sowing.



— Grow varieties PDG-4, GL-769, PDG-3 and GPF-2 from 10 to 25 October in the Central and South-Western districts and PBG-1 and C-235, which have resistance to gram blight, in the sub-montane districts.

— The best time of sowing Kabuli gram (L-550, L-551 & BG-1053) in Punjab, except humid areas of Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur and Ropar, is Oct 25 to Nov 10 under irrigated conditions.

— Treat the seed with Bavistin + Thiram (1:1) 3g or Hexacap 3g or Rovral 2.5g or Captan/Captaf 3g per kg of seed for the control of blight. Grow C-235 or PBG-1 or PDG-4 in disease-prone areas.

— At the time of sowing, drill 13 kg urea and 50 kg superphosphate per acre for desi gram but in case of Kabuli gram, drill 13 kg urea and 100 kg superphosphate/acre.


Use varieties LL-699/LL-147 or LL-56 and start sowing from end of October. Inoculation of seed with Rhizobium culture ensures higher yield. Drill 11 kg urea and 50 kg superphosphate/acre in case of inoculated seed otherwise double the dose of superphosphate at the time of sowing.

—Progressive Farming, PAUTop