Saturday, July 31, 2010

Melia dubia ( Tamil: Malai Vembu ) cultivation

Melia dubia ( Tamil: Malai Vembu ) cultivation is fast catching up in Tamilnadu in recent years and my mailbox is flooded mostly with requests seeking clarifications about it's cultivation techniques.

I have given below the questions raised by one such follower of this blog:

We are planting Melia dubia ( Malai Vembu ) as border tree in our dry land ( having little water with a small bore well). We just planted yesterday with a 10'spacing apart. Dug a pit of 2.5' x 2.5' x 2.5'. As the monsoon starts settling down, we decided to plant the saplings now. The sapling height itself approx. 4 feet now. We have added some organic manure while planting. Watering we are planning alternative days as of now. Soil type is very good RED SOIL. We planted 15 trees as a sample now and wanted to see them for a week and plant the rest ( 100 plus). Please throw us some more suggestions / advice as we are new to this farming. Will post some pictures later next week.

1. Watering frequency and Watering location ( like how far from the stem and pit area diameter).

2. Is the watering to be continuous or can be scaled down after some time.

3. We prefer not to use any fertilisers though we prefer organic manures. Any recommendation for frequency of using manure and also watering methods during and after placing manure.

4. As of now we are planting only on East-West direction to avoid shades for cultivation. Any suggestions on shade for North-South plantation.

5. Please suggest proper pruning methods and timings.

My response for the clarifications raised is summed up hereunder:

The planting procedure you had followed for Malai vembu and the spacing provided are flawless and very precise as per the recommendations. As for the rest of your queries, my suggestions are:

  • Q1: Watering frequency and Watering location ( like how far from the stem and pit area diameter).
  • Q2: Is the watering to be continuous or can be scaled down after some time.
If the crop is flood irrigated, then watering in alternative days as you have planned is more than sufficient for the first 2 to 3 weeks after planting. Once the plant establishes well in the soil, weekly irrigation is enough.

If you have provided drip irrigation system, follow daily wetting @ 5 - 8 litres / plant, 0.5 feet away from the plant for the first 3 months (8lph dripper 1 number/plant). After 6 months and during summer 16 - 20 litres / plant, 1.5 feet away on either side of the plant (8lph dripper 2 numbers/plant).

This suggestions are only indicative and don't strictly follow these as there will be entirely different requirements with different soil types.
  • Q3: We prefer not to use any chemical fertilisers and proposed to use organic manures. Any recommendation for frequency of using manure and also watering methods during and after placing manure.
Add 20gms of VAM for each plant at the pit at the time of planting. Since you are very particular about organic practices, opt Rock phosphate and Gypsum as effective amendments.

Mix Azos + Phospho + Pseudomonas + T.viridi and Neem cake with FYM and apply liberally in the pit at the time of planting.

The same mixture should be applied yearly twice, at the time of N.E and S.W monsoon rains, 1.5 - 2 ' around the base plant.

  • Q4: As of now we are planting only on East-West direction to avoid shades for cultivation. Any suggestions on shade for North-South plantation.
The characteristic features of Melia dubia tree are its very fast growth, good height and the limited canopy. These characters along with the not much noticed or studied character of root competition with the adjacent crops, makes it an ideal border crop. So North-South plantation with the spacing of 10' x 10' will not harm the main crop in the field.
  • Q5: Please suggest proper pruning methods and timings.
Straight pole fetches good price in the market. Farmers with some basic knowledge about the tree's branching pattern and pruning techniques will definitely stand to gain.

In good irrigated fertile soils, the plant usually produces 3 to 4 side branches when it attains the height of 12' -14'. Prune the branches 2" -3" away from the main stem in the initial stage itself using secateurs. Pruning well developed branches may cause injury to the main trunk, so extreme care should be taken to prune the branches at the early stages itself.

You will notice the same kind of branching pattern second time, when the plant attains the height of 18' - 20'. Some farmers prefer not to prune those branches formed at the height of 18', thereby curtailing the tree's vertical growth and allowing for girth increment.

When planted in dry lands and in drought prone areas, the tree branches at the height of 6' - 8' itself. It is also quite natural for any tree to form branches if it's apical tip got damaged due to pest attack, mechanical injury or by cattle gracing.

"Plant Melia for prosperity"

Vishnu Sankar

Monday, July 12, 2010

Pigeon pea (Red gram, Thuvarai in Tamil) production technology

Dear friends,

I have given below a brief account of pigeon pea cultivation practices as recommended by 'ICRISAT' (International Crop Research Institute for Semi Arid Tropics). In the second part of this same article, my actual cultivation experience of pigeon pea is explained in detail.

I. Pigeon pea (Red gram, Thuvarai in Tamil) production Practices:

  • Native plant of India.
  • It's drought tolerance and the ability to use residual moisture during the dry season makes it an important crop.
  • It is a slow growing crop mainly cultivated in the raining season.
  • When cultivated in fertile soils with proper irrigation the plants attain 3 -4 m height.
  • At a wider spacing it may form a bush and at narrow spacing it remains compact and upright.
  • Root nodules of 'Rhizobia' forms on the root system.
  • Pigeon pea is sensitive to water logging. So, plant them in well drained soil for good root and nodule development.
  • Before sowing at least two ploughing is necessary. Summer ploughing helps in minimizing the weed and to conserve moisture.
  • Cultivation in ridges and furrows system is recommended.

  • Sowing Depth: 4 to 5 cm.
  • Response to Nutrients:
  • Effect of Nitrogen is almost negligible. However a starter application of 25 kg of N / ha is beneficial.
  • Response to 'P' application has been positive. Application of 17 -26 kgs / ha increases yield by 300-600 kgs/ha.
  • Pigeon pea does not respond to K application unless it is grown on low Potassium available soils.
  • Most of the pigeon pea cultivars are susceptible to Zinc deficiency. So foliar application of 2-4 ppm of Zinc Sulphate @ 0.5% with 0.25 % lime have been effective.
  • NPK requirement: 20 : 17 : 17
  • It is observed that rhizobial inoculation increase the grain yield from 19 to 68%.

  • Irrigation at the time of flower initiation and pod setting are essential. The drought stress symptoms are indicated by the leaves pointing towards the sun at noon.
  • Excessive moisture promotes vegetative growth. Proper irrigation increases the seed yield by about 150 - 160% over the non-irrigated control at ICRISAT.
  • HARVEST: It should be harvested when 80% of the pods become brown.
II. My actual cultivation experience of pigeon pea:
  • Initially, ICRISAT's 'ICPL 87119'- a bold seed variety was sown. But heavy monsoon rains badly affected the seeds and only about 20% germination rate was observed. Gap filling for the remaining 80% is not feasible, so destroyed all the plants by ploughing and opted for a fresh crop.
  • Next variety selected: ICPL 85063.
  • Area : 3 acres.
  • Field preparation: Ridges and furrows.
  • Spacing: Row to Row - 2.5 feet on ridge slope. (Actual spacing requirement for the plant is 3 feet. Do not reduce the spacing in fertile soils with irrigation facility. The ICRISAT's recommendation of 70 cm spacing is for dry lands.
  • Spacing: Plant to plant - 2 feet. (ICRISAT's recommendation of 20cm - 30cm is too narrow. Better go for above 1.5 feet - 2 feet spacing to avoid overcrowding. In my experience, I got more grain yield from sparsely populated areas. Please note that, at a wider spacing the plant will grow as a bush and at narrow spacing it remains compact and upright.)
  • Seed requirement: If you sow single seed per pit, about 4 kgs (approx.) of seeds may be required for a spacing of 75cm x 60cm and if you opt for 2 seeds per pit then about 8 kgs (approx.) of seeds will be required. The quantity of seed requirement will also vary depending upon the size and weight of selected seed variety.

About 1000 plants were raised in plugtrays / protrays for gap filling.

Presoaking of Seeds: Soaking the seeds in good water for 6 hours before sowing is an essential activity.

Seed Treatment: Since the procured seeds were already treated with the chemical fungicide 'Thiram', seed treatment using 'Rhizobium' was not done. So 'Rhizobium' was broadcasted over the field.

Inter crop:
Black gram in a single row on opposite side of the red gram sown ridge.
Intercrop duration: 90 days.
Deweeding: A total of 5 manual deweeding was done.
Basal :

  • FYM 5 Tons per Acre broadcasted before first ploughing..
  • Rhizobium 1 kg + Azosphyrillum 2 Kgs + Phosphobacterium 2 kgs + Viridi 500 gms were thoroughly mixed with FYM 50 Kgs and broadcasted over an acre before I irrigation.
  • 2 Kgs of Micronutrient Mixture for Pulses (M.N. mixture No:VII in Tamilnadu) mixed with 20 kgs of sand per acre was broadcasted before III irrigation.

  • Maturity / Age: 160 - 180 days.
  • Irrigation: To arrest the vegetative growth of the plant, irrigation was stopped by 140 th day to induce flowering.
  • After flowering, controlled irrigation was provided enabling the pods to get filled up.
  • Fertilisers:N:P:K applied was 46:32:32 against the ICRISAT recommended dosage of 20:17:17.
  • Top dressing of M.N Mixture 5 kg per acre on 60th day.
  • Foliar application of Zn So4 two times.

Pest Control:
Steps to control Pod borer attack.
  • Used 'Phremon traps' / 'Lures' of 'Helicoverpa armigera' @ 10 per acre at the time of flowering and changed them after 45 days with fresh ones.
  • Foliar spray of Bacillus thuringiensis (B.T, Brand: HALT) @ 4%/litre - 3 applications with a gap of 15 days between each spray.
  • Released 'Trichogramma Kilonis' an egg parasite @ 3 cc per acre (15 strips of eggs) - 3 times with a gap of 15 days between each one.

  • Harvesting procedure (Conventional): Cut the stem at the base ==> bundle the plants ==> shift them to thrashing floor ==> bundles to be stacked in upright position for 2-3 days for effective drying and fall of leaves ==> beat the dry plants with sticks ==> remove dusts and collect seeds.
  • Using Mechanical thrasher: By using "All purpose mechanical Thrashers", one can reduce the cost of harvesting expenses considerably.
  • Yield attained: Total yield 2115 Kgs in 3 acres (i.e) 705 Kgs per acre.
  • Yield attained from the inter crop 'Blackgram': 140 Kgs per acre

  • Gross income per acre: Pigeon pea: Kgs.705 x Rs 36 = 25380
  • Gross income from Black gram:Kgs.140 x Rs 42 = 5880

  • Total income from Pigeon pea and Black gram: Rs.31300

  • Expenses per acre:Rs. 9800 approx.
(About 50% of this expense was incurred in harvesting and for manual cleaning. I was not able to get the mechanical thrasher at the time of harvest, though it had been booked well in advance. If I had got the mechanical thrasher in time, I would have minimized the harvesting expenses and the total expenses would be around Rs.7000 only)
  • Net income per acre from both main crop and inter crop: Rs. 21500 (Rd) in a period of 6 months.
Please note that organic practices were adopted for pest control and chemical fertilizers were used to attain the recommended N:P:K level.

I have learned a very good lesson from this crop and I will be more happy if our dear farmers took a balanced view of the recommendations to attain more yield and mechanize the farming activity to get more profits.

Please have a look at one more interesting post on Pigeon Pea (Red gram / Thuvari) by me at this LINK  (Second Green Revolution and Dismal Pulses production in India) before leaving out of this page.
Vishnu Sankar.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Agricultural Technologies developed by Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI)

The Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) is the country's premier national institute for agricultural research, education and extension. The institute has generated technologies, package of practices and processes for higher crop productivity.

The proponents of organic agriculture are strongly criticizing the role IARI played at the time of 'Green revolution and post Green revolution eras, when it introduced dwarf wheat and rice varieties, chemical fertilizers as necessary inputs for the responsive varieties to push up crop productivity at farmer's fields in the name of country's self sufficiency.

The criticism of the emerging group of 'Organic growers' about the present day farming as prescribed by the scientific community all over the world cannot be simply rubbed aside since they point to the unpalatable hard facts, faulty govt. policies and the resultant problems to the farmers.

The wrong policies ultimately led the nation to witness a steady negative growth in agriculture in the past decade, erosion of profits in agriculture to an unsustainable levels and above all the deterioration of the soil health due to excessive chemical use.

The primary concern of every government is to check the prices and they conveniently and purposely forgot to fix remunerative prices for the agricultural produce.
Attaining country's self sufficiency in food production by robbing the hapless farmer (robbing the fruits of his labour and robbing the health of his farm soil) in the name of 'modern agricultural technology' is nothing but bringing disgrace to our nation for which we all should be feel ashamed of.

Other than the technological advancements to enhance 'Crop productivity',
there are many more agricultural technologies, developed by the scientific community to bring in prosperity to the farming community.

Some of the farmer friendly technologies released by IARI are enumerated below:

Division of Genetics:

  • More than 100 high yielding (?) (demerits already discussed), pest as well as disease resistant varieties of Rice and Wheat were released.
  • Developed and released improved varieties for maize, chickpea, pearl millet, pigeonpea, mungbean, fieldpea, lentil and oil seed crops like Mustard.

Division of Vegetable Science:
  • Developed more than 200 improved varieties of 43 vegetable crops and two dozen hybrids for commercially important vegetables like Brinjal, Bottle gourd, Bitter gourd, sponge gourd, Cucumber Etc.,
  • Low cost Poly-house Technology for Raising Nursery.
  • Ratooning of Brinjal.

Division of Fruits and Horticultural Technology:
  • Varieties / Hybrids for Mango,Grape, Citrus, Papaya Etc.,
Division of Floriculture and Landscaping:
  • Varieties developed for Marigold, French Marigold, Gladiolus, Chrysanthemum and Rose.
Division of Seed Science and Technology:
  • Farmer Participatory Seed production programmes: The breeder seed of the varieties / parental lines of hybrids were provided to the farmers for production of quality seeds under regular supervision and monitoring by the scientists.
  • Farmers are provided with hands on training in seed production technology and storage practices.
Centre for Protected Cultivation Technology:
  • Plug tray / Protray Nursery Raising Technology for Vegetables.

  • Low cost insect proof net house technology for virus free nursery raising in Vegetables.
  • Plastic low tunnel technology for off season cultivation of vegetables.
  • Production Technology of Tomato under Zero Energy Greenhouse.
With this technology, a farmer can obtain about 3.5 Kg of Tomato seeds woth Rs.70,000 from 100 Square meter area and 15 Kg of hybrid seed of Brinjal of worth Rs.60,000 from 500 Square meter area.

  • Production technology of Parthenocarpic Cucumber under Zero Energy naturally ventilated Greenhouse:

Division of Entomology:
  • Suggestions for effective management of insect pests in Rice, Wheat, Vegetables, pulses Etc.,
  • Integrated Pest Management regime
  • Plant based formulations
  • Alternatives and supplements to agrochemicals.
Division of Agricultural Chemicals:
This product is to enhance the crop productivity per unit area with the available water and nutrients in moisture stress areas.
  • Natural polymer based. (Not Synthetic)
  • Absorbs water 400 times of its dry weight and gradually releases the same.
  • Exhibits maximum absorbency @ temperatures (40-50*C) characteristic of arid soils.
  • Less affected by salts as compared to commercially available purely synthetic products.
  • Low rates of soil application - 1-2 Kgs / ha for nursery horticulture crops; 5-7 Kg / ha for field crops.
Division of Plant Pathology:

  • Bio-formulations for the Management of Plant Diseases.
  • Biological control of Plant Pathogens.

Division of Agronomy:

  • Zero-tillage Technology for Efficient Resource conservation.
  • Nitrogen Economy through Summer Legumes in Cereal based Cropping Systems.
  • Bed planting Technology for Enhancing Crop Productivity.
  • More Rice with Less Water. (SRI - System of Rice Intensification)

Division of Agricultural Physics:
  • Agromet-advisory services to the farmers. Weather based weekly advisories are released for the benefit of farmers.
Division of Microbiology:
  • Research and production of bio fertilizers.
Division of Soil Science and Agricultural Chemistry:
  • Soil test based balanced fertilizer recommendations for targeted yield of crops.
Division Agricultural Engineering:
  • Has developed number of farm equipments and machinery for Crop production and Agro-processing to make farm operations more easy, efficient, cost effective and with considerable saving time and energy.
Pusa Agua Ferti Seed Drill (Rear View):

Pusa Agua Ferti Seed Drill (Front View):

Bund former

Model of Laser Leveller:

Water Technology Center:

For Low Rainfall receiving Rainfed regions:
  • Surface mulching
  • (a) Application of Biological Mulching Material on the ground.
  • (b) Plastic mulching.
  • (c) Incorporation or mixing the biological materials in the soil.
  • Cultivation of low water requiring crops.
For Highly Arid Rainfed Regions:
  • Deep ploughing of field before monsoon.
  • Marginal and peripheral bunding.
  • Pot / pitcher Irrigation system.
For Very High Rainfall receiving Rainfed regions:
  • Construction of Engineering structure
  • (a) Ploughing against land slope
  • (b) Rain water harvesting tanks / ponds and proper re-use.
  • (c) Vegetative water way or Drainage channels.
  • (d) Cover management.
Division of Plant Physiology:
  • Improving the productivity by cultural / Management practices for all the crops.
  • Post Harvest Management of fruits and flowers.
Dear friends,
The effort of the scientific community to reach the farming community with latest technologies is at a snails pace. It is imperative on the part of our government to augment speedy deployment and utilization of implementable technologies for the benefit of the farmers as well our Nation.

Vishnu Sankar

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