Sunday, April 25, 2010

Coppice capability (Ratoon crop) of Casuarina Junghuhniana

In my previous posts in this blog and in some other agriculture portals, I had again and again stated that Casuarina junghuhniana unlike Casuarina equisetifolia has coppice capability (Ratoon growth).

My argument was based on the firm contention of some scientists of the Forest department and some private nurseries. Casuarina junghuhniana clones were released in Tamilnadu for cultivation some 6 years back only. Since it can be harvested in 4 to 5 years, it is the appropriate time for assessment and serious attempts were made for the past 2 years by many farmers and scientists to assess the coppice capability of Casuarina junghuhniana in the field.
Since large ratoon plantations of junghuhniana are yet to be harvested, it remains to be seen how much yield a farmer gets when compared to the first crop.

So the results we are getting now from farmers on growth, robustness and yield of ratoon crop were not encouraging when compared with the primary crop, even though the percentage of coppice growth was found to be satisfactory.

For more details log on to: ifgtb.icfre.

Casuarina Junghuhniana clones under R&D at TNPL, Karur

Mass production of Casuarina Junghuhniana clones in mist chambers at TNPL, Karur:

Casuarina Junghuhniana clones under R&D at TNPL, Karur:

Casuarina Junghuhniana clones under R&D at TNPL, Karur:

Casuarina Junghuhniana clonal plant:

Casuarina Junghuhniana clonal plants in nursery:

Field preparation for the planting of Casuarina Junghuhniana:

Casuarina Junghuhniana performs well under drip irrigation:

Casuarina Junghuhniana as intercrop with Melia dubia:

Casuarina Junghuhniana trial plot at TNPL:

Casuarina Junghuhniana trial plot at TNPL:

Vishnu Sankar.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Biological Control of Ipomoea carnea the aquatic weed

A series of workshops on "Biological control of 'Ipomoea carnea' (Neyveli kattamanakku in Tamil) and Water Hyacinth 'Eichhornia crassipes' (Aagaya thamarai in Tamil) for sustainable irrigation management and environmental conservations" were conducted by Agricultural and environmental research stations of Tamilnadu Agricultural University in many stations, catalyzed and supported by the 'Tamilnadu State council for Science and Technology'.

Ipomoea carnea (Neyveli Kattamanakku in Tamil)
Picture courtesy: Wikipedia

Seed of Ipomoea carnea: (Picture courtesy: Wikipedia)

Water Hyacinth 'Eichhornia crassipes (Aagaya thamarai in Tamil)
Picture courtesy:TNAU Agritech

I happened to attend one such meeting which was presided by the District Collector wherein various methods to control the spread of this highly invasive weed was discussed.

Manual removal and mechanical removal of Ipomoea carnea is not possible because of so many factors such as man power availability, cost involved, clearing operations in muddy ponds and water ways and the main problem of weed regrowth in a very short time.

Chemical control (spraying weedicides such as 2-4D, Glyphosate Etc.,) though effective to some extent can not guarantee the re emergence of this highly proliferating aquatic weed. Even though these toxic chemicals are sprayed on the floating plants only, some amount of weedicide gets mixed with water leading to death of fishes and other aquatic organisms. Water from such ponds should not be used for irrigation as this is extremely harmful for the cultivated plants in the hapless farmer's field. To put it simply, adopting this control measure is an environmental hazard.

Waterhyacinth is the native of Amazon, introduced into the river Hoogly, in India by the
Queen Victoria when she visited Calcutta during the British rule. At that time her intention was to beautify the river Hoogly like that of Thames in London.

This exotic plant doubles in 10 days and we are now witnessing large, floating mats of waterhyacinth in every ponds and rivers, obstructing navigation, clogging irrigation channels and most importantly acts as mosquito breeding ground.
It is estimated that 200 tons of this weed can be harvested from an acre year after year. Such is it's amazing rate of growth.

In order to control the growth of these weeds, scientists all over the world are studying and
utilizing the following organisms which feed on these aquatic weeds.
  • Water hyacinth Weevils
  • Water hyacinth mites
  • Fish ( Grass carp)
  • Pond snail
  • Grass hopper
  • Fungi
  • Snail(Pila globosa)
Out of the above identified organisms the 'Water hyacinth Weevils' namely 'Neochetina bruchi' and 'Neochetina eichhorniae' are found to be more effective to control the spread of this Water hyacinth namely Ipomoea carnea.

In the picture N. eichhorniae is in left, N. bruchi is in right. (Picture:Cornwell University)

Their habitat is water hyacinth, they feed on water hyacinth and their whole life cycle is within the water hyacinth weed only. Although declines of these waterhyacinth populations were well documented by the scientists and readily attributable to biological control, the documentation was never published. (Source:Cornwell University)

So for good to hear. Isn't it. Now the worst part!

Don't think the above two Waterhyacinth feeders' are native of India and can be multiplied in labs for distribution among farmers. The
'Tamilnadu State council for Science and Technology' has already imported these weevils from U.S for multiplication trials.

So, we are in a awful situation where in we are going to face a (purposedly introduced foreign) pest, to control an earlier introduced highly invasive pest called Ipomoea carnea.

We all know that any harm to the ecology, whatever little it is, can not be reversed.

Their argument that these weevils feed only the water hyacinth and will fast to death once the availability of waterhyacinth ceases, has no proof at all.
What we are going to do if these weevils jump to our food crops? Insects are highly adoptable in nature and the mankind has not eradicated a single insect so far after billions and billions tons of pesticide usage is itself an ample proof.

So, our scientists and the Govt. has to think of other constructive ways as listed here under to control the spread of this dreadful weed for the environmental safety:
  • Bio degradable plastic from Ipomoea carnea. (Dr.A.G.Murugesan of Sri Paramakalyani centre for Environmental sciences, Alwarkurichi, Tirunelveli has got national award on this study)
  • Ipomoea carnea compost.
  • Ipomoea carnea + Vermicompost.
  • Ipomoea carnea + Poultry waste compost.
  • Ipomoea carnea leaf extracts as pest repellent.
  • Ipomoea carnea for paper industry.
  • Ipomoea carnea for Biomass power Energy plants.
Note the TNAU findings :
  • Composted Ipomoea carnea plants can be used as organic manure preferably in rice fields.
  • Vermi-composting and composting of dried water hyacinth and can be used as organic manure in irrigated upland ecosystems.

The above points were explained in detail to our District collector who accepted our view and canceled the trial of releasing Water hyacinth weevils in about 20 irrigation tanks in the district until further orders. The concerned scientist was asked to do more research and come with convincing results.

I came to know that in some Districts, Govt authorities had already released Water hyacinth weevils in irrigation tanks wherever the weed infestation is severe, without informing the local farmers.

I can only pray for our Mother earth's safety.

Vishnu Sankar

Friday, April 9, 2010

Melia dubia (Tamil - Malai Vembu) cultivation

Dear friends,

A trial plot is under development with Casuarina junghuhniana as an inter crop with Melia dubia (Tamil - Malai Vembu) cultivation.

Spacing between a single row of Melia and the next row of Casuarina junghuhniana is 5 feet (Row to Row 5 feet).

Plant to plant spacing for Casuarina 5 feet,
Plant to plant spacing for Melia dubia is 10 feet.

The above spacing is provided with a plan to harvest Casuarina junghuhniana on 4th year there by allowing a spacious 10' x 10' spacing for Melia dubia.

D.O.P: 01.02.2010

Growth on 15.02.2010 (Age: 15 days)

Growth on 10.03.2010 (Age: 38 days)

A close up view of growth on 10.03.2010 (Age: 38 days)

Because of its good coppice capability,biomass power companies are recommending farmers to go for very closer spacing with a plan to harvest the crop every 2 to 3 years.

Vishnu Sankar

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Some more pictures and informations about 'KUMIL'- Gmelina arborea

Sprouting of KUMIL (Gmelina arborea) seeds in protrays:

Gmelina arborea (kumil)

Kumil - Gmelina arborea seedlings in protrays:

Kumil - Gmelina arborea seedlings in polybags:

Kumil - Gmelina arborea seedlings in various stages of development in poly bags:

Proper pruning is very important in Kumil - Gmelina arborea cultivation. The pruning techniques were discussed in detail in my earlier posts.

What we need is a flaw less, neat, straight bole that fetches a good price in the market. Follow the following simple 7 steps from the beginning to avoid economic losses at the time of harvest.
  1. Good seed selection
  2. Plants raised in polybags must be planted within 3 months.
  3. Daily drip irrigation for the initial 2 years.(OR)
  4. Weekly flood irrigation.
  5. Fortnightly pruning.
  6. Monthly fertilizer application.
  7. Maximum care for the first 2 years by following INM, IPM and IDM practices.

Kumil is prone to this type of common Caterpillar attack which can be easily controlled either by organic pest control preparations or by any chemical 'contact' pesticides:

Vishnu Sankar

Friday, April 2, 2010

Melia dubia (Malai Vembu in Tamil, Hebbevu in Kannada, Konda Veppa in Telugu) as alternate pulp wood for TNPL :

Vishnu Sankar

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