alternative for fallow land
review GM crop policy
ideal alternative for fallow land
The humble gooseberry (amla, Emblica officinalis) is giving goose bumps to farmers involved in horticulture as several in the region, especially in the Kandi belt, are considering it actively as a viable option over other crops.
Amla is emerging as an important minor crop and is achieving commercial status in the Kandi area, a belt that is largely rainfed, degraded and full of wasteland. The advantage of growing amla over other fruit species is that it needs less water and has low establishing costs. Due to these factors, the area under amla cultivation has increased manifold. In Himachal Pradesh, the total area under amla is 198 ha while in Haryana it is 957 ha with a total production of nearly 4,500 tonne. In Punjab amla is gaining momentum gradually.
Hardy and nutritive
According to Prof J.S. Kanwar, Department of Horticulture, PAU, other countries are already producing it on a commercial scale. "The crop has a bright future in India. All we have to do is to get organised. Madhya Pradesh alone produces 35,000 tonne of amla and the total production of this fruit in the country is over 1 lakh tonne while the national demand exceeds 2 lakh. Most of the produce goes to big factories for producing herbal products like chyawanprash, amalaki rasayan and hair oil. My advice to the farmers of this region is to grow this crop on land on which all other crops fail. This is the only crop that can survive in even pH 10 soil and keep on bearing fruit for 70 years," he says.
Highly nutritive, it is the richest source of vitamin C (second only to Barbados cherry). Amla is used in sauces, candy, dried chips, pickle, jellies and powder. It is said to have medicinal value and is also used in the dyeing industry.
Dr S.S. Grewal, a consultant with the Department of Forests, Haryana, says that farmers in Punjab should plant amla intelligently. "If the land is highly fertile, do not plant this tree. Fallow wasteland should be demarcated for its plantation; otherwise, economies of scale may go haywire. Research suggests that vitamin C content of the fruit is higher in rainfed areas," he says.
However, progressive farmers like Mr K.S. Garewal are apprehensive. "What I fear is that the crop should not go the poplar or khair way, in which overproduction led to a glut in the market. I think there should be a nodal organisation to watch farmers’ interest. Education of farmers willing to experiment is very important. Assurance from the government is also needed regarding procurement," he says.
Another farmer says that there should be a certifying agency in India to label the produce as globally acceptable.
Dr V.P. Ahlawat, Director, Department of Horticulture, Haryana, says that marketing should not be a problem in the era of the Internet. "Farmers can very well use the Net to buy, sell and gain information about the product. In Haryana, Van-Vanaspati Society has been formed to propagate amla and more than 1,000 hectare of land is being used to grow medicinal plants. We are holding parleys with panchayats to demarcate land for amla in arid zones," Dr Ahlawat discloses.
An amla orchard can be established by investing around Rs 23,000 per hectare, excluding land and irrigation costs. This cost can be further reduced by Rs 8,000 through in-situ budding techniques.
Dr J.S. Samra, Deputy Director-General, ICAR, says those opting for amla should try to grow it organically to capture the international market. "The Kandi area is better suited than the plains and a zoning concept should be evolved on the Chinese pattern. Progressive farmers and private agencies should come forward to launch a joint forum and tackle the marketing-cum-infrastructure problems," he says.
want beauty, amaltas is the choice
Amaltas is an important deciduous tree. The scientific name of this tree is Cassia fistula and the family name Leguminosae-Caesalpineae. Among its vernacular names are krinjal, ahli, alhi, alash, kiar, sindrach, and sinaraa. The European laburnum tree being a close sibling, its English name is Indian laburnum.
Phenology: Amaltas sheds during winter, but seldom completely, and buds appear during early spring. The leaves are compound and glabrous green. The main leaf, nearly 60x50cm, comprises 4 to 8 pairs of leaflets. Measuring about 5-12 cm x 3-9 cm, the leaflets look like jamun leaves. The bark of young poles is greenish white and 3-6 mm thick; that of older trees is greyish and 6-9 mm thick.
Amaltas flowers during March-April, almost simultaneously with the appearance of leaf buds. Trees in bloom give an exquisite golden look. The inflorescence racemes are long and drooping. The fruit is a linear round pod. While raw, it is green and turns greyish brown and then brownish black as it ripens.
Silviculture: Amaltas is a sun-loving plant, though a certain amount of shade at young age is acceptable. It can come up in poor soil, though well-drained porous-sandy to sandy-loam soil is ideal. The species grows naturally in miscellaneous deciduous/ scrub forests in temperate climate in the Indian peninsula, Deccan plateau, Shivaliks and outer Himalayas, at altitudes from 200m to 1200m. Rainfall between 100 cm and 300 cm per annum and temperature from 5`BA to 45`BA C is best suited. The rate of growth being moderate, it attains a height of 10 or 15 m and diameter of 30 or 50 cm in about 50-60 years.
Distribution: The natural habitat of amaltas starts from Myanmar in the east and extends up to Afghanistan in the west. It is preferred for roadside avenues and is raised artificially for that. In Mumbai, one particular avenue, Laburnum Road, has been lined exclusively with amaltas. The Rose Garden in Chandigarh also has a few beauteous specimens of the tree.
Wood and foliage: Amaltas wood is quite hard. The heartwood, though limited in extent, is yellowish brown. Mature wood turns brick red when seasoned after being sawn. Weighing nearly 25 or 28 kg per cubic foot, it is somewhat difficult to work. But once finished and fixed, it lasts long. Being available in small sizes, the wood is used mainly for agricultural implements, inexpensive construction, bows for archery, boat spars, etc. Straight poles make good load bearers, roof supports and posts. Lops and tops are good firewood. These also make quality charcoal.
The bark contains tannin and is used in the leather industry. The root bark is quite acrid and of medicinal value. The foliage is used as mulch under animals. The practice enhances the availability of farmyard manure.
Medicinal use: The fruit, seed, pulp, and root of amaltas, all have medicinal value. In oriental medicine it is prescribed variously as purgative, emetic, febrifuge, reliever of thoracic obstructions, etc. These also give relief in complaints of asthma, leprosy, ring worm, fever, heart problems, etc. The fruit pulp is a safe purgative for pregnant women.
regenerates easily in its natural habitat. Also, seedlings can be
raised from seed in systematic nurseries and transplanted when one or
two years old. Amaltas coppices well till middle age. The stumps of
young trees just felled easily rejuvenate into fresh plants.
FOLLOWING adverse reports on the performance of Bt cotton, the first genetically modified (GM) crop allowed to be sown in the country, the Central government has set up a sub-committee under Prof Sushil Kumar, co-chairman of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), to review the transgenic crop policy.
The sub-committee, however, will finalise its recommendations only after examining the report of the M. S. Swaminathan Panel on Biodiversity to be submitted by December-end, said Mr D. D. Verma, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests, in New Delhi last week.
Participating in a discussion on "Relevance of GM technology to Indian agriculture and food security" organised by Gene Campaign, Mr Verma said the GEAC has already given approval to 13 pharmaceutical products based on GM technology.
But it has asked Mahyco, a subsidiary of Monsanto, a US multinational, and Raasi, an Indian seed company, to conduct more field trials before being allowed production of GM seeds at a commercial level. The GEAC would also take into account reports of the Department of Biotechnology and other related organisations in this regard.
Farmers' representatives from Gujarat, including Mr Vijay Jawandhia, president of the Shetkari Sanghatana, said Bt cotton had failed to give yield as publicised by Mahyco-Monsanto, the company that promoted the transgenic cotton.
"It did not prove bollworm resistant as propagated and lead to no substantial saving on the cost of spray of pesticides," they said.
They also expressed concern over the illegal and unauthorised selling of Bt cotton in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan areas. Four varieties of Bt cotton were approved by the GEAC, an apex body for clearing GM crops under the Environment Ministry, for commercial cultivation in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh last year.
GEAC member secretary Rajani expressed inability to take action on complaints regarding Bt cotton in the absence of reports from the states concerned since agriculture is a state subject.
"However, we are looking into the complaints on the transgenic cotton which will taken as bench mark for allowing cultivation of other GM crops," she added. — UNI
A noted agri-scientist and Chairman of the government's expert panel on biotechnology, Dr M. S. Swaminathan, has said efforts are on to isolate and transfer genes of Prosopis juli to local rice varieties to make it drought resistant.
Inaugurating the national symposium on the relevance of GM technology to Indian agriculture in New Delhi, he said cultivation of GM crops on a commercial basis should be avoided as a precautionary measure.
He said trials on GM crops should not take place at centres that were rich in biodiversity since precautionary measures were necessary to ensure that no pollen grains were transferred from GM crops to non-GM crops.
GM technology should be employed only in those areas where there was a need to boost production or increase nutrition value. Besides, the local community should also be involved in the process, he suggested.
Former Union Environment Minister Suresh Prabhu, who was also present on the occasion, said, "Biotechnology is like a fire which when used with caution can result in benefits, otherwise it has the ability to create disasters. This is a technological challenge and civil society in the country should be actively involved in the process and adequate biosafety measures put in place."
The national symposium was organised by Gene Campaign.
Former regulator for GM crops in the US, Dr Shanthu Shantharam said, "GM technology is not a silver bullet to solve the problems of hunger and malnutrition worldwide. The US, which has adopted this technology, has 14 million hungry people."