AGRICULTURE TRIBUNE
 

Preventing forest fires a matter of resolve
K.L. Noatay
L
eaf-shedding trees, especially in hills, are prone to frequent fires during the hot summer months. Forest fires are a major hazard in North-Western India. Himachal Pradesh forests alone had nearly 6,000 fires during the past 10 years. The fires were particularly severe in 1999 when nearly 80,000 hectares of forests were razed. In 2001 one forest guard lost his life trying to put out a fire in Hamirpur district.

Integrated pest management saves money, environment
Ambika Sharma
SOLAN:
The increasing use of chemicals in the form of pesticides and insecticides has become a cause of concern for farm scientists. Indiscriminate use of chemicals has not only led to the killing of naturally existing bio-agents but also polluting of the food chain.

Karnal farmers quit summer paddy cultivation
Ranbir Chhabra
F
armers in Karnal district have not only been following the rice-wheat cropping system but also have over the past 10 years started growing a second rice crop, commonly known as sathi, or summer rice, during the hot months of May-June.Top

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preventing forest fires a matter of resolve
K.L. Noatay

Leaf-shedding trees, especially in hills, are prone to frequent fires during the hot summer months. Forest fires are a major hazard in North-Western India.

Himachal Pradesh forests alone had nearly 6,000 fires during the past 10 years. The fires were particularly severe in 1999 when nearly 80,000 hectares of forests were razed. In 2001 one forest guard lost his life trying to put out a fire in Hamirpur district. These fires not only cause tremendous loss of valuable vegetation but also annihilate the ecology of a tract. The loss of fauna is also there.

The large-scale destruction of forests is criticised by all conscientious people. Many hold the opinion that the heavy incidence of fires is due to a lack of proper preparedness on the part of forest officials and not just the excessive dryness of the weather. Also to blame are farmers living on the edge of forests who burn their farm waste without taking adequate precautions.

The Himachal Pradesh administration every year sets up a control room in the Secretariat itself to plan the measures to be taken by forest officials to fight the fires. Stress is laid on the active involvement of the villagers enjoying rights over the forests in fighting the menace.

Some also allege that certain villagers, forest lessees and officials deliberately set forests on fire for selfish gains. The Forest Department has even been thinking of drawing up rules to suspend the rights of the villagers found involved in such activity or not coming forward spontaneously to control the fires. Serious punitive action is also planned against officials involved.

A few years ago Himachal Pradesh signed a memorandum of understanding with the World Bank for a $ 60,000 project in co-operation with Australia to obtain the latest know-how on forest fires. Australian experts have imparted training to the state's selected forest officials. These officials, in turn, are now training other officials at the State Forestry School at Kuther, near Kotla, in Kangra district.

Causes

Among the factors responsible for forest fires are:

The burning of dried weeds and bushes by villagers in private grasslands.

Negligent smokers throwing matchsticks or cigarette ends in forest areas.

Fires left unattended by labourers and or grazers.

Fires set up by selfish individuals to grab forestland or other such dishonest interests.

Prevention

The HP Forest Department issues pamphlets every spring giving the "Dos and don'ts" that can help prevent fires:

A standard operating procedure (SOP) on fire protection was first laid down in 1914 by a British-era Forest Officer, Glover. The last version of the SOP was published in 1940 under the title "Punjab Forest Leaflet No 8". This 11-page document is a Bible on fires in chir forests. Simple and lucid, anyone can follow the instructions given in it.

The present-day pamphlets are updated versions of the old document. It is felt that if the instructions are followed conscientiously, fire incidences can be cut drastically.

Also, for effective protection, co-ordination between the Secretariat and the PCCF's office on the one hand and between the various wings of the Forest Department itself, like the territorial wing, working plan wing, research wing, wildlife wing, and the public relations wing on the other hand is essential. Funds should readily be made available for hiring special fire protection staff and equipment. The present arrangements in respect of these issues appear to be inadequate.

Forest officials

The duties of a forest officer entail a lot of hard work as well as risk to life. The job demands selflessness. The death of a forest guard while trying to put out a fire in Hamirpur district is a case in point. Good performance needs to be recognised just as there is a provision for appreciation of good performance in the armed forces.

In view of the British-era SOP on fires, it is wrong to say that a dry summer should necessarily devastate forests. If the essential precautions prescribed are followed, protection of the invaluable forest wealth, environment and ecology will naturally follow.
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Integrated pest management saves money, environment
Ambika Sharma

SOLAN: The increasing use of chemicals in the form of pesticides and insecticides has become a cause of concern for farm scientists. Indiscriminate use of chemicals has not only led to the killing of naturally existing bio-agents but also polluting of the food chain.

Under the circumstances, integrated pest management (IPM) has become imperative. Established in 1991 by merging the Central Surveillance Station Palampur, Kangra, and the Central Satellite Field Laboratory, Seobag, Kullu, the Pest Management Centre at Solan is one of the 30 Central integrated pest management centres in the country.

Besides conducting roving pest surveys at regular intervals on major crops and forewarning against the likely build-up of pests, this centre has been focusing on the mass production of biological control agents in the laboratory. According to the Assistant Director of the centre, Dr A. S. Kapoor, creation of awareness about chemical pesticide hazards and the benefits of IPM is a major challenge before farm scientists today.

Not only have farmers become cautious in the use of chemicals where awareness camps were organised, they have also started understanding the role of bio-agents and are able to recognise major pests and their natural enemies. Farmers are going in for certified and more pest-resistant seed varieties and their treatment before sowing.

Field surveys conducted at regular intervals have helped mobilise farmers to adopt IPM technologies and conservation of natural bio-agents by discouraging use of pesticide sprays, particularly in places where bio-agents are already present and have proved effective against pests. The IPM technologies have also helped enhance the potential of naturally existing bio-agents by releasing either laboratory reared bio-agents or field-collected bio-agents in areas where there population was thin.

The centre has also sprayed naturally existing bio-agents by motivating farmers to use bio-pesticides like nuclear polyhedrosis virus, entomopathogenic fungi, entomopathogenic bacteria and Trichoderma viride fungus for the control of various pests and disease.

Special efforts have been made to establish various bio-agents in areas where they were found absent. This needed scientists to bring bio-agents from other parts of the country as well as the state. Post-release recovery tests revealed that most of the released bio-agents had established themselves in the new environment and worked against their target hosts. Surveys were also conducted to identify new bio-agents of different pests of various crops.

An impact analysis carried out by the centre of the IPM technology effect on crop yield and pesticide usage in different districts on different crops showed that the average yield of paddy and vegetables increased by 3.12-10.75 and 79.80-102.20 quintals, respectively, per hectare. Even the cost benefit ratios in various crops remained high in all fields as compared to non-IPM fields.
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Karnal farmers quit summer paddy cultivation
Ranbir Chhabra

Farmers in Karnal district have not only been following the rice-wheat cropping system but also have over the past 10 years started growing a second rice crop, commonly known as sathi, or summer rice, during the hot months of May-June.

Introduction of this summer paddy, which is raised mainly on groundwater, has resulted in a drastic fall of the water table and decline in soil fertility. This has adversely affected the productivity of the soil and the amount of water available for the main rice crop. Due to decline in the level of groundwater, many shallow-cavity tubewells have failed and farmers are forced to spend money to deepen the cavities or to install submersible pumps.

This has resulted in extra cost of irrigation and increased the consumption of energy to pump out water from deeper levels.

Research conducted at the Central Soil Salinity Research Institute, Karnal, has shown that summer paddy is a very harmful practice as it is cultivated during a period of high evapo-transpiration, causing wastage of water.

Summer rice is generally harvested during monsoon, leaving higher moisture content in the grain. The quality of rice is also poor, causing higher breakage of grain during milling. Due to these reasons the banning of summer paddy is recommended.

Positive note

Results of research on the negative effects of growing this variety have been shared with farmers, extension workers, officials of the state Agricultural Department, district officials and scientists, leading to a turnaround in a part of Karnal district.

Through the cooperation of the administration, a strong campaign was initiated to convince the farmers to abandon the cultivation of summer paddy. Officials visited villages and convinced farmers of this idea. They also worked on changing the attitude of grain traders, who were instructed not to purchase summer paddy.

As a result, farmers of about 30 villages in Karnal district this year did not go for the cultivation of summer paddy. Farmers in Kailash Tikri, Taprana, Mangalpur, Dard, Budha Khera, Danialpur, Kalwehri, Bara Goan, Garhi Birbal, Subri, Naval, Uchani, Salaru, Rambha, Baldi, Saidpura, Zarifa Viran, Kachwa, Pundrik, Kalampur, Shapur, Kurali, Chiro, Jundla, Nising, Jalmana, Peont, Kamopura, Vajida-Jattan, and Gharunda villages and hamlets around them have not raised this variety of paddy at all.

Instead of rice, they are now raising sorghum (jowar) and maize for green fodder and have diverted some of their land to sunflower and pulses. These efforts have resulted not only in saving precious groundwater but also increased the availability of green fodder and helped diversification in the cropping pattern.
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