old pear orchards
A tree beheaded for rejuvenation.
animal feed key to profit
from abode of clouds
Assam tea, Darjeeling tea or Palampur-Kangra tea—we are well aware of these flavours. Ever heard of Meghalaya tea? You may soon if the efforts of the state government and daring-to-be-different farmers bear fruit…err… leaves.
Horticulture is being thought of as a viable alternative to the ecological menace of shifting cultivation (Jhum, or bun, in local parlance) that is the mainstay of agriculture in Meghalaya. Shifting cultivation is a primitive method where a patch of forestland is cleared, crops are grown with whatever little expertise exists and then a farmer moves on to clear another patch.
As an alternative, tea gardens will mean settled cultivation and more revenue could be generated through diversification.
Meghalaya has started experimenting with tea cultivation and tea gardens are coming up in the so-called non-traditional areas. At present the state has more than 500 small tea-growers. The numbers are likely to swell.
Rakesh Kumar, District Agriculture Officer, Jowai, says, "Tea plantation is picking up gradually in Meghalaya. It is because the state is gifted with lowlands as well as highlands. That translates into the fact that both Assam and Darjeeling varieties, famous for flavour and colour, respectively, are successful here. I can assure you that once the state takes the lead, the quality of tea produced in the state will be better than any other because of the right blend."
This crop can provide attractive investment opportunities along with processing. Farmers taking to tea plantation are being given Rs 15,000 over four years as incentive by the state to shift from traditional crops and methods of cultivation (jhum and bun) towards more cash-crop-oriented and settled cultivation.
"As much as 508 hectares of agricultural land in Meghalaya has come under tea plantation. Small farmers are being given incentives and till date we have had 530 beneficiaries under the Rs 15,000 scheme. Under this scheme, besides monetary benefit, we provide tea seedlings and technical guidance to farmers. State government tea centres have been established in Nongstoin and Ronprom (Tura)," says P. Gogoi, Joint Director, Meghalaya Horticulture Department.
Besides the government-run establishments, two private factories have also come up at Nongpoh and Tura. One farmer from Sosrangkhram is exporting fine-quality tea to Australia.
However, critics and a few technical experts are taking these success stories with a pinch of salt. They say Assam employs more than 5,00,000 workers and has thousands of acres under tea cultivation. Meghalaya will not be able to compete with it even nationally, leave aside export-oriented units.
"This industry is passing through a severe recession. Tea gardens in established states like Assam are facing closure due to legislative issues, bonus concerns and labour problems. How can Meghalaya bear the brunt of such political issues where tea cultivation has not even taken roots?" asks K.M. Bujarbaruah, Director, North-East Region, ICAR.
Another senior government official, on the condition of anonymity, says that since tea cultivation involves ‘importing’ cheap labour from other states, the whole issue may get politicised. "That is why the Meghalaya Government is keeping a low profile in the whole affair," he says.
Meghalaya has a good potential for tea cultivation although processing through large-scale plantation activities has not been taken up on an organised scale as yet, barring a few state-run and private units. In this state that is the ‘abode of clouds,’ the best one can hope for is that the whole issue doesn’t come under one.
old pear orchards
Pear is one of the most important fruits of northern India and is being extensively cultivated in various parts of Punjab. It makes sound farming and economic sense to go in for planting and nurturing orchards, especially since the state government has gone in an overdrive to promote diversification.
Recently, there were reports from all over the state, particularly the border districts, of pear orchards being uprooted as they were not bearing fruit.
This pained experienced orchard owners and farm experts, who say the plants can be extensively pruned and given a new lease of life. Meanwhile, the land made available by that could be tilled for other crops.
Talking to The Tribune, Dr K. K. Sharma, who retired from the Department of Horticulture, PAU, Ludhiana, and is also credited with popularising pear in the region, says pathar nakh (a hard variety of pear) is being cultivated on more than 85 per cent of the area under pear. Soft pear cultivars in the field are Le Conte, Baggugosha and Punjab Beauty.
Pear trees have six or seven years of juvenile period. Plants may start bearing a few fruits at four or five years, which depends on the training and health of the plants. Pear usually bears fruit on stout spurs and bards (short shoots bearing 3-10 spurs).
A spur can bear flowers for 10 to 15 years, depending on how judiciously the fruit is harvested, without damaging the spur/bard. Pear trees grow to a height of 6-8 m with a 6-7 m spread. A healthy pathar nakh tree can yield 3 quintal and a soft-pear tree 1 quintal of fruit. However, due to lack of bamboo supports to heavily bearing limbs, the tender ones break.
During harvesting, pulling down the fruit causes spur and bard breakage. These broken limbs and spurs are lost permanently. The spurs that are less damaged (broken tips) redevelop within two or three years and become fruiting spurs. In the case of soft pears, the damaged spurs rarely redevelop. Thus, with each bearing year, a large number of limbs and spurs are lost permanently. Such trees become unproductive. However, old orchards can be rejuvenated with total success.
Elaborating on the rejuvenation technique, Dr Sharma says this: The whole tree should be beheaded keeping a 15-20 cm stub height of 3-5 major limbs during December/January. Each stub will give rise to several sprouts during March-April. Let all these sprouts grow till August-end.
Select the best one or two sprouts that are growing outwards on each stub. Remove the rest gently by giving a clean cut close to the stub so that they may not re-sprout. Thus, we would have 6-10 outgrowing scaffold branches per tree. The removal of surplus sprouts can be delayed till December-January. Early selection of scaffolds and removal of surplus sprouts (May-June) can lead to profuse growth of the selected scaffolds, which have a weak link with the stub, leading to breakage. The rejuvenated pathar nakh trees will come into bearing after three years.
The loss of pear crop during this period can be compensated by growing pulses, vegetables and cereals in the land. Fillers such as papaya can also be planted if crops are to be avoided in the orchard. The expenditure incurred on beheading the limbs for rejuvenation is compensated by selling the pruned limbs as firewood.
The rejuvenated trees attain full size within four or five years. These trees can bear a good crop for a number of years once again. The following precautions should be taken during rejuvenation:
—A clean cut should be given to a limb with a sharp saw to avoid bark splitting.
—Apply Bordeaux paste on the cut ends immediately after beheading. The paste can be prepared in the following manner: dissolve 2 kg of copper sulphate in 15 litres of water; mix 3 kg of quick lime in 2-3 litres of water and then add 12-13 litres of more water to it; mix the two concentrated solutions and stir. Apply the paste thus formed.
—Always select outward-growing sprouts on the stubs. No inward growing sprout should be kept.
animal feed key to profit
Profitable livestock rearing depends on three basic factors: potential of the animal, nutrition and the care given. Production in milch animals can be increased by 50 per cent through balancing the ration.
Quantitative and qualitative sufficiency of feed is necessary to supply all the nutrients required for optimum animal performance.
The traditional method of feeding consists of giving individual ingredients that are locally available in fixed proportions. No consideration is given to the different nutrient requirement of animals maintained for varied purposes. The result is that animals are either underfed or overfed. This leads to reproductive problems, stunted growth, birth of blind calves, night blindness, calf mortality, poor milk yield, etc., in dairy animals.
Minerals and salt: Farmers usually do not give minerals and common salt to animals, resulting in deficiency of calcium, phosphorus, manganese, cobalt, copper, iron, selenium or iodine. This leads to poor growth, bone thinning and bending, milk fever, pica, poor feed utilisation, low milk yield or reproductive problems. Up to 70-80 per cent of the reproductive problems are due to minerals deficiencies. Mineral mixtures and common salt should be given to animals. Generally, 30-50g of a mineral mixture and an equal amount of salt must be provided to cattle daily.
Overfeeding and underfeeding: While milk-giving animals are generally fed well, proper feed is not given to growing and pregnant heifers. Underfeeding delays growth and sexual maturity. The calving interval is also prolonged. Overfeeding lactating animals can also cause infertility problems as fat deposits in the ovaries.
Animals should be fed only as per their daily requirement. Care should be taken of animals in advanced stage of pregnancy. Green fodder must be provided to ensure vitamin A sufficiency.
Balanced feeding: A balanced ration is that which supplies appropriate quantities of all nutrients like protein, energy, minerals and vitamins in balanced form at low cost. Imbalance of one nutrient may upset the utilisation of others.
Ample green fodder and concentrate mixture should be provided in proportion to the production in dairy animals. Feeding good quality green fodder like berseem with 2 kg of turi can support up to 5-8 kg milk production while 4 kg milk can be obtained by feeding green maize/ bajra/ jowar with guar/cowpea during Kharif. About 1 kg concentrate mixture for every 2-2.5 kg of milk should be fed to animals yielding more than10 kg.
Scarcity of feed and green fodder: Farmers generally do not reserve land for green fodder. Also, they may not follow the forage calendar for different fodder crops. It is necessary to grow high-yielding and more nutritious fodder crops the year round. Inter-cropping can be followed in the summer and Kharif season, like bajra/ cowpea, jowar/ cowpea, etc. Oats in winter is most suited. Between 10 and 12 animals can be maintained per hectare by adopting crop rotation. Surplus forage be preserved as silage or hay.
Preservation: Technologies have been developed for preservation of green fodder, tree leaves and low-quality roughage. Nutritional value of roughage like straw can be improved 20 per cent by urea-molasses or ammonia treatment. Surplus fodder can be preserved in the form of hay or silage along with roughage.
Economic feeding: Scientific
and economic feeding is essential to make dairying profitable. Farmers
feed one or two ingredients that are costly but do not meet the
requirement of the animals. The cost can be reduced by providing
home-grown green fodders and feed ingredients. Cheap and balanced
concentrate mixtures should be formulated based on agro-industrial
by-products like bran and cakes. Feeding cottonseed cake instead of
cottonseed, and guar meal instead of guar seed is cheaper and more
nutritious. The cost of feed should be calculated in terms of
expenditure per kg milk.
Dhao (Anogeissus latifolia) is a large, broad-leaved, deciduous tree. Its English name is axle-wood tree and among its regional names are dhauri, dhaura, chhal, bakla, and bankli.
Phenology: Growing on a well-drained slope and clayey loam soil, it attains considerable height towards maturity in about 70-80 years. On dry rocky slopes, however, it tends to be stunted. It has a peculiar bark, smooth and greenish white in colour, and about 4-5 mm thick.
The leaves are shaped somewhat like those of guava. Varying between 5 and 10 cm in length and 3 and 8 cm in width, these are alternate or sub-opposite in arrangement. These are thick and somewhat shining. Old leaves are shed between October and December, when these tend to get a beautiful reddish-brown hue. New ones appear during February-March.
Inflorescence starts appearing during May and stays on up to June-end. The small flowers are off white. Fruits start showing in July. When about to mature, these 8-10 mm x 5-6 mm drupes are peculiarly compressed, showing a two-winged form.
Silviculture and soil: Dhauri grows best in the sunny aspect of peninsula ranges, Shivaliks and outer Himalayas at altitudes ranging from 200 m to 1250 m, and experiencing annual rainfall of 100-200 mm and temperatures varying from 5° to 40° C. However, it is quite capable of surviving in adverse climatic and geological conditions like dry rocky slopes.
This tree has a moderate rate of growth. It has seven annual rings of growth in an inch of the cross section of its stem. Accordingly, weighing about 28 to 32 kg to a cubic foot, it is one of the best hard woods of the Indian sub-continent. Though quite difficult to season—it tends to split if left unattended in the sun—the splitting is less if the logs are kept in shade for about six months and sawn pieces are also kept in shade for a long period.
Use: Villagers use dhao wood for house construction, posts, agricultural implements, etc. While its green foliage is prized as fodder, lops and tops are good firewood. Thicker branches make good charcoal. The bark is used for dyeing hides. Gujjars prefer dhao shade for setting up camp.
The elastic nature of this wood adds to its utility. It is tough and easily workable at the same time. Given a good finish and a varnish coat, its products display exquisite grain pattern. This makes the species useful as ornamental wood. Seasoned in scientifically designed kilns, it is used for quality furniture, and cart axels, etc. This is how it gets the name "axel-wood tree".
Dhao is not easily available in the market. If and when available, the wood is priced about Rs 1200 per cubic foot.
Regeneration: Dhao seeds profusely nearly every year. In its natural habitat it regenerates on its own. Gaps in the forest canopy in its natural zone are also sometimes restocked by sowing seed directly on pre-worked forest floor. Seedlings can also be raised in nurseries and transplanted when one or two years old.