Sunday, December 30, 2012

Constraints faced by tree growers:

Dear friends,

I have been asked to prepare a list of constraints faced by tree growers in India by a Chief Conservator of Forests, Department of Forests, Tamilnadu. He would have thought that obtaining this kind of information directly from a tree grower will be realistic and an eye opener to the higher echelons in his department and the Government. But what he received from myself must have left him embarrassed, no doubt.  

When I started to type the list, it grew to 32 hurdles to my utter disbelief and to the dismay of our respected officer. 32 hurdles will be difficult even for an Olympic hurdles runner to surmount. Truly a huge task for a tree grower.
    Constraints faced by the tree growers: 
I. Constraints from Nature (God?):
  1. Vagaries of monsoon (Poor rainfall, excess rain, high temperature and  prolonged drought).
  2. Pest and disease occurrence.
  3. Damage to crop by cattle and wild animals (especially wild boar).
  4. Damage to crop by Birds (especially peacock).
II. Constraints from Govt.:
  1. Poor assistance from Govt. for land development.
  2. Poor assistance for Soil reclamation.
  3. Poor assistance for water reclamation.
  4. Poor assistance to establish ‘Farm ponds’ and ‘Percolation ponds’.
  5. Poor assistance to put up solar fencing.
  6. Nil assistance to fence our farm land (other then solar).
  7. Nil assistance to avail drip irrigation facility for tree cropping.
III.  Constraints in schemes of Dept. of Forests:
  1. Non availability of preferred species.
  2. Non - availability of good seedlings.
  3. Non – availability of seedlings at the preferred time.
  4. Provision to supply plants of various types with different maturity periods (short, medium and long duration varieties) is not adhered to.
  5. Maximum ceiling level for the supply of seedlings is not adhered to.
  6. Quality of seedlings from Forest nursery.
  7. Transport of Seedlings from nursery. Cost / Damage / Other hurdles.
  8. Replacement for plant mortality (for gap filling) is inadequate.
  9. Inadequate training and lack of sound and easy to adopt technical guidance.
  10. Market promotion and publicity materials are quite inadequate.
  11. Delay in inspection and issuing of cutting / transport permit.
  12. Non-Establishment of Agro-forestry model plots.
  13. Incentives:
    a)      Inadequate provisions.
    b)      Duration of period (Max. No. of years) to avail incentive 
    c)      Delayed payment of Incentives.
    d)      Method of Incentive payment. 
IV. Infrastructure Constraints:
  1. Inadequate credit facility from Banks/Govt. institutions/NGO and others.
  2. No provision for Crop Insurance.
  3. Lack of awareness and knowledge about growing trees.
  4. Lack of organized groups like  SHG, NGO, and other forums to support.
  5. Quality of seedlings from private nursery.
  6. Non - availability / timely availability of quality organic manures.
  7. Labour shortage.
  8. High labour wages.

Of course, I might have left some 'constraints' by oversight here. I kindly request our readers to point out the omissions in the above list to draw a complete (pathetic) picture. 

Comment for the future of farming is your 
comment for the future of mankind.

A.Vishnu Sankar.
Tirunelveli District Tree Growers Association.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Suggestions to improve 'Tamilnadu Biodiversity Conservation and Greening Project':

Dear Friends,

We would like to bring to everybody's notice that through 'Tirunelveli District Tree Growers Association', we have made several suggestions to the Forest Department of Tamilnadu to improve ‘Tamilnadu Biodiversity Conservation and Greening Project’ (TBGP), to turn it more farmer friendly at the execution level, in order to achieve the desired objective of planting 10 crore trees in 5 years. As special invitees, we had participated in many TBGP meetings right from the time of its inception to its' present advanced execution stage.

In reel life it is very common to witness scenes where petitions from a common man on submission to our rulers (read all powerful politicians and even more powerful bureaucrats) finds its way to dustbin in a matter of minutes. It is no different in real life also. But by God’s grace, nothing sort of that happened to our demands submitted to the State Forest Dept. There are one or two honest officers still alive and kicking in the decayed corrupt system. May be the presence of these tribe who are on the verge of extinction (endangered species of course) are the reason for the failure of these doomsday/apocalypse predictions like ‘end of Mayan calendar and the end of world on 21st Dec, 2012’. It is a mere coincidence that I happen to publish this article a day before the much hyped doomsday. 
(Pic. courtesy: ecofuture). 
It is a great pleasure to announce that most of our suggestions were favorably considered by the Forest Department of Tamilnadu and found incorporated in the 'TBGP' project. Our heartfelt thanks to Mr.K.Chidambaram.,I.F.S., and Sri.Irulandi., I.F.S., Chief Project Director and Project Director respectively, who head the 'Project Management Unit' of TBGP, for their continuous support in achieving this impressive feat. Some of the suggestions made to them on behalf of farming community are given here: 

1.  Farmers normally don't have the knowledge to select a Tree variety that suits his land's soil type and water quality. Under the existing scheme, he is planting whatever variety he is getting from the Dept.of Forests. Due to wrong selection or supply, plant mortality is high at the field in the initial months itself. So before effecting supplies, the Dept. should take soil tests and water analysis tests in the identified farm land and should suggest to the farmer, suitable crops and the necessary cultivation techniques.

2.    At present 'Drip irrigation subsidy' is not available for the cultivation of Trees. It is sad to note here that our Govt.rules and Acts not spared even border crops that act as fencing or as wind breakers to the farmer's field. More area will be brought under tree cultivation if the Govt, permits 'Drip irrigation subsidy' for tree crops. This is surely a short cut way to increase our country's green cover.

3. More number of Pamphlets and brochures with details of tree varieties, cultivation techniques, their maturity, preferable soil types Etc. should be released by the Forest Department for the farmer's benefit. 

4. It is advisable to provide plants of various types with different maturity periods (short, medium and long duration varieties) to the marginal farmers instead of a single variety there by assuring him of a regular income.

5. Maximum ceiling level ( number of plants) for Bulk plantings should be removed. 

6. Incentives for the tree growers may be increased to 3 years for short term tree crops and 5 years for long gestation tree crops. It is better to release the incentive amount at the end of the year, after seeing the results, instead of at the year beginning as is the case now.

7. It is not possible to raise the required number of plants and all the varieties in the nurseries of Forest Department alone. So, we should entrust this work to interested individual farmers, NGOs and SHGs. The planning should be in such a way, so that only plants identified for that particular village are allowed to cultivate in the nursery. By this way the farmer can avoid the huge transportation costs, and he is free to take delivery of the plants whenever he feels that climatic conditions are favorable for planting.

8. In continuation of the above, the farmer who is willing to establish a nursery exclusively for timber plants may require bank finance. So, a recommendation letter from the Forest department to the concerned banker to the effect that the farmer is a technically qualified person in the nursery keeping and the buy-back of the raised plants from the nursery by the Dept is guaranteed.

9. Farmers who are willing to do Agro forestry but have lands in rain fed areas and drought prone areas usually don’t come forward due to the high cost of land development expenses. We should help them by providing subsidies in leveling the field, to form bunds and to create structures for rain water conservation.

10. The tree crops raised under ‘TCPL’ scheme (Tree Cultivation in Private Lands)  should be allowed to cut on maturity. These scheduled timbers should be allowed for transportation after sale and the Dept. should issue “No Objection Certificate”.

11. The Govt. should give importance and priority to “Agro-forestry” also, like the encouragement it gives to Horticulture and Spice crops. This can be done by enacting laws and by providing adequate funds to enhance acreage, coverage and productivity of timber crops so that farmers can be weaned away from water consuming traditional crops there by assuring them of appropriate returns. 

Before concluding this post, I want to share this rather sad information: 
This year under 'TBGP' project about 1 Crore tree seedlings were raised at various forest nurseries and kept ready for free distribution to farmers at the onset of monsoon. But, due to total failure of both South west and North east monsoons in Tamilnadu, the authorities could not able to move even 50% of the raised seedlings to the identified beneficiaries. 

 "Man proposes, God disposes". 

May be man proposes only disposables.

(Pic.courtesy: multiwood).
For Tirunelveli District Tree and Medicinal Plants Growers Association
A.Vishnu Sankar,

Thursday, December 13, 2012

'REDDiness' is needed to implement REDD+ :

'REDD'+ paves way for availing Carbon credit from soils.

Dear friends,

The long pending demand of environmentalists and organic growers is heeded (partially of course) at last by the UN. REDD+ is a UN programme under development which is likely to be included in a post 2012 international climate agreement.

It is a well known fact that atmospheric CO2 is fixed as carbon in not only terrestrial vegetation but also in soils. In fact, ‘Soil’ is the major  medium that contains more carbon than all terrestrial and atmosphere combined.

You may wonder then why tree sequestration alone is taken into account under Kyoto standards when finding the amount of ‘C’ sequestrated in soil is very easy when compared to the difficult task of finding them in trees?. Fertility of the soil is determined by the net amount of organic carbon content available in it. If the O.C is more than there will be reduced usage of agro-chemicals. (Click link 1Link 2 and Link 3).
It is sacred soil. Not dirt.
Pic.courtasy: Colorado Boulder. 
So, the main intention of the inventors of this carbon credit trading system, with enormous aid from giant agro-chemical and seed  companies, was not to encourage the production of fertile soil but to retain their current potential market which otherwise will vanish if there is improvement in soil fertility. To put it simply, these mega multinational companies will suffer huge losses with the decrease in the usage of chemical fertilizers and the so called doctored hybrid seeds.

The Kyoto protocol has also established that the tree grower has to give a legal guarantee that he won’t cut trees for 30 years (in some cases for 100 years). It is illegal to convert the land for food production or even grazing land. The farmer can not sell his land and he can only reclaim his land for future use when all the carbon credits are refunded in hard cash or replaced by credits from some place else. By adopting these clever strategies, emergence of new fertile agriculture areas can be restricted thereby encouraging agriculture in lands which need constant chemical inputs.

Now, this major lacuna is find (seems to be) addressed in the proposed REDD+.

REDD+ means ‘Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation', and '+' means enhancing carbon through sustainable forest management, without sacrificing the ecosystem services, livelihood and biodiversity. Thus, REDD+ is sustainable forest management through conserving forest and enhancing carbon stock.

Thus, REDD is a global endeavour to create an incentive for developing countries to protect, better manage and save their forest resources, thus contributing to the global fight against climate change.

If this programme is implemented fully then the consequences will be far reaching as it envisages assessment of carbon not only above ground level (read ‘trees’) but also below ground level (read ‘soil’). To put it simply, financial value of the carbon added in the soil over and above the value of carbon already stored in the base line year will be suitably compensated by money or can be availed as carbon credit.

There are yet to be solved challenges like, How will the REDD+ mechanism link to existing national forestry programs? How can forest communities and farmers participate in the design, monitoring and evaluation of national REDD+ programmes? How will REDD+ be funded, and how will countries ensure that benefits are distributed equitably among all those who manage the forests in Govt. lands and private lands? Finally, how will the amount of carbon stored and sequestrated as a result of REDD+ be monitored?.

India has only 2% of the global forest area. In 1987, we had 19.49% of forest cover out of the total geographic area of the country and in the assessment made in 2007 it was found that forest cover increased to 21.02% (79.37 Million Hectares). India achieved this increase despite pressures like maintaining 16% of world’s human population and 18% of world’s cattle population.
  1. India is very keen to implement this REDD+ since the approach incorporates important benefits of livelihoods improvement, biodiversity conservation to protect, better manage and save our forest resources, thus contributing to the global fight against climate change.
  2. REDD+ goes beyond merely checking deforestation and forest degradation, and includes incentives for positive elements of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.
  3. It works on the basis of creating a financial value for the carbon stored and enhanced in biomass and soil of standing forests. Countries that reduce emissions and undertake sustainable management of forests will be entitled to receive funds and resources as incentives.
The key objectives of the REDD+ are:

1. To assess baseline carbon in the identified sites with reference to a    
    baseline year.

2. To assess additionality (gains) in carbon stock in the sites as a result of   
    SMF (Sustainable Management of Forests) and other good practices. The   
    carbon will be assessed by adding above ground and below ground carbon 
    as per IPCC guideline.

3. To assess leakage (loss) of carbon from the identified sites as a result of  
    unsustainable practices.

4. To apply the methodology for monitoring success of REDD+ at National 

So, 'REDDiness' is needed on our part to implement 'REDD'.

This article flowed out after I happened to hear from Mr.Irulandi, IFS, who is now Chief Conservator of Forests (CDM) and Project Director (TCPL) in the Project Management unit of the Tamilnadu Bio-diversity Conservation and Greening Project (TBGP), that he had attended one REDD+ meeting last month at ICFRI, Dehradun as representative of TN Govt.

Source: Click: 1. REDD+   2. ‘Preparedness of REDD Plus in India.


A.Vishnu Sankar. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Second Green Revolution and dismal pulses production in India:

Dear friends, 

I. Second Green Revolution : Governments after Governments are assuring us that they will usher in a Second green revolution to improve agricultural production by addressing the productivity gap and through value addition.  Please believe that they have also set for themselves an ambitious goal of two to three times increase in the farmers’ per capita income within five years (I am hearing your heckles and giggles, my friend. Don't comment anything. Perhaps this criticism will land us in jail).   

The success (?) of first Green Revolution can be attributed to the introduction of Chemical fertilizers (N,P and K) which increased agricultural production substantially. Even after all the sufferings of farmers in the recent past, the worrying factor is that our policy maker’s mind set (should I say ‘Sick’) is still in the same ‘increasing agricultural productivity’ aspect.  

The second Green Revolution may be a possibility not by increasing Agricultural productivity but in ‘Mechanization’ and ‘Value Addition of the harvested produce’.

II. Dismal pulses production : Indian Agriculture and Food Security policies have emphasized cultivation of rice and wheat and paid least attention to coarse grains and pulses resulting in a steep fall in pulses production and consumption by rural masses.

This is being attributed to the existing agriculture and food security policies, which have emphasized cultivation of rice and wheat to the exclusion of coarse grains and pulses which traditionally have been the primary source of protein for the rural poor. 

After a steep fall in pulses production and consumption, our Govt. opened its eye to ‘Introduction of Special initiative of Accelerated Pulses Production Programme (A3P)’ in 2010 under NFSM pulses programme to boost the production of pulses (Red gram, green gram, black gram, Chick pea and lentil) by active promotion of production and protection technologies in 1000 clusters of 1000 hectares each with a hand holding approach. (Subject material gleaned from several web sources). 

Seeds, Protrays, polythene sheets for usage as weed mat, MN mixture (‘Pulse wonder’ a MN enriched fertilizer developed by TNAU is supplied in TN), Water soluble fertilizers and DAP are available at subsidized cost under this program. Micro irrigation is provided exclusively for pulses in an area of 5000 Ha, wherein portable sprinklers and rain-guns are also earmarked to the farmers at subsidized cost. It is programmed to upscale and adopt this technology in an even more grand scale in the coming years also.

As a result of active 'A3P' implementation coupled with better crop management the customary image of pulses as 'rain fed crop' changed to that of pulses as 'irrigated pure crop'. A3P implementation has also resulted in increased Redgram (Pigeon pea / Thuvarai) area from 0.26 Lakh 2009-10 to 0.60 Lakh 2010-11 and fall in food grain production in some states which is not a cause for concern since we are already producing more food grains than what is necessary for our country.

Impressed with my post on ‘Red Gram’ (Pigeon pea /Thuvarai) in this blog, Mr.N.madhubalan, Assistant Director of Agriculture, Dharmapuri Dt, Tamilnadu had sent some photographs to share with our readers. He claims that he had selected 500 farmers to implement 'Accelerated pulses production program' in 150 ha, NADP-151 Ha. and NFSM in 100Ha. and satisfied with the rate of acceptance among the farmers about this modern pulses cultivation technology.
Transplanting Redgram (Pigeon pea / Thuvarai) is the new technique: 
In pic. above: Germination of seeds in 98 cavity Plugtrays or protrays.

In pic. below: Seedlings transferred to polybags and raising them for 1 month before transplanting in the main field at favorable climatic conditions. 
Benefits of this technology are:
  • to save seeds as only 2 - 3 kg is required for 1Ha, 
  • to avoid damage to seeds by drought or heavy rains,
  • to avoid late sowing and adhering to correct crop season,
  • to maintain higher plant population,
  • to maintain correct plant spacing, 
  • to increase the rate of 'rhizobium' inoculation,
  • to reduce the chances of Nematode attack to young seedlings,
  • to increase drought tolerance because of deep rooting,  
  • to save two manual de-weeding costs, 
  • to reduce the chances of pest attack, 
  • to reduce the Fertlizer and Pesticide wastage at the first month, 
  • to reduce the cost of applying them,
  • and to get more yield.    

Innovation in cult. tech.1: Instead of the above procedure, raising seedlings in 'Root trainers' is the best option. It eliminates transplant shock and the cost of transferring seedlings from 'protrays' to 'polybags'. Handling of root trainers in the field at the time of planting is also very easy and damage to the plants can be avoided altogether. (Picture: An illustrative Example only).
According to experts the actual yield in India for red gram is 700 Kg against its actual yield potential of 3000 Kg / Ha.  We can definitely bridge this wide gap between yield potential of a crop and actual yield in the field by adopting to latest technologies only. (Click this link). 

Innovation in Mechanization 1.Tropicultor : Though there are many companies supplying 'Seed Drills' in India, a multipurpose equipment for small farmer's need is somewhat difficult to find. So, I can say that a major break through in technology is the introduction of an implement called as 'Tropicultor' by ICRISAT, Hyderabad, that can be drawn either by animal or Tractor. It is a multipurpose implement that executes land preparation, seed and fertilizer placement, weeding, bund formation and earthing operations. The implement costs about Rs.50,000 and is designed and supplied by ICRISAT.

Innovation in Mechanization 2. Combined harvesters for pulses: Nowadays farmers in Tamilnadu are using the same combined harvesters that are designed to harvest Paddy for harvesting all types of pulses also by changing the mesh required for separation of grains depending upon the pulse variety that is to be harvested. Total cost to harvest one acre comes to about Rs.1000 only. Link : Mechanized harvester for pulses
I would like to conclude by again saying that succour to Indian farmers may be a possibility not by increasing Agricultural productivity but in ‘Mechanization’ and ‘Value Addition of the harvested produce’.

Note 1: My post on 'Redgram (Pigeon pea / Thuvarai) cultivation' in this blog is one of the most read article surpassing 'Melia' and 'Gmelina' posts in terms of readership. My personal experience in the cultivation of Pigeon pea (yield attained:1750 Kg/Ha) is explained in detail in this link.  

Note 2: About ‘Pulse wonder’:
It is a micro nutrient enriched fertilizer developed by 'Tamil Nadu Agriculture University' specifically for pulse crops. Farmers can buy the ‘Pulse Wonder' at 50 per cent subsidized price. 
In addition to major nutrients (NPK), ‘Pulse Wonder’ also contains micro nutrients such as iron and boron and plant hormones known as 'auxins' to promote growth.
'Pulse Wonder' should be applied at the time of flowering and fruiting to enhance yields by 10-20 per cent. It decreases flower shedding and increases drought tolerance in pulse crops.
Dosage for 1 acre: Dissolve 2.5 Kg of 'Pulse wonder' + 300 ml of 'Wetting agent'  in 200 litres of water and spray it as foliar application on pulse crop during early morning hours.    
A.Vishnu Sankar

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Suggestion to Mr.Amir Khan, Cine actor, on the topic “Toxic Food in our food plate” in 'Satyamevajeyate' - TV episode on 24-6-2012:

Maintain 'Soil health'
for your 'Body health'
'Soil health' is 'Nation's wealth'

Mr.Aamir, you have ignited a spark!. No Doubt.

But, asking farmers to switch over to "Organic Agriculture" and discussing merits of the case in one Television episode is not enough.

This kind of mass awakening is necessary but to sustain the interest and to make it to reality, the root cause of the problem has to be identified.

Fancy phrases like 'Organic agriculture’ ‘Chemical agriculture’ ‘Biotech agriculture’ ‘Zero budget farming’ ‘Do Nothing farming’ Etc., Etc., are doing the rounds now. Basic concept of all is about the importance of Organic carbon content in soil for sustainable agriculture.

The problem in India is lower Organic Carbon content of soil resulting in lower productivity.The remedy is to adopt 'AGROFORESTRY' in a meaningful way, to increase 'Organic Matter (OM) and Organic Carbon (OC) of farm soil without any major effort. The increased OC and OM in the soil naturally increases its productivity without any usage of Chemical Fertilizers.

My detailed presentation on the above can be seen in the link: Agroforestry. 

Yes! it is possible to check the amount of toxic food to enter your plate.

A.Vishnu Sankar

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Disease management in Casuarina

Disease in Casuarina Nursery:

(Pictures and content courtesy: Dr.V.Mohan, IFGTB, Coimbatore)

Damping-off in Casuarina:

It is a most prevalent disease in Casuarina nurseries world over and highly destructive & cause heavy loss of seedlings.

Causative organisms: Pythium, Phytophthora, Fusarium and Rhizoctonia.

(1)High soil temperature,
(2)Excessive soil moisture,
(3)High soil pH (alkaline),
(4)High nitrogen content,
(5)Low light intensity due to shading,
(6)Stiffy or clayey soil with poor drainage, dense sowing.

Major diseases in Casuarina plantations: (Subject courtesy: FCRINAIP)

The casuarina plantation are found vulnerable to various diseases viz., stem canker and die back, pink disease, root infection and die back and wilt. The stem canker and die back can be controled by the application of Bavistan at 0.01 per cent active ingredients.
Wilt disease caused by Trichosporium is a serious disease and could be managed with proper soil and water management. Severely damaged trees have to be uprooted immediately to avoid further spreading.
Control Measure
Damping off
Providing proper drainage
Seed treatment with captan or thiram @ 4g/kg.
Soil drenching with carbendazim @ 0.1 %
Stem canker
Spray with mancozeb @ 0.25 %
Die back
Removal of infected plant parts and spray with
mancozeb @ 0.25 % or copper oxy chloride
@ 0.25 %.
Pink disease
Removal of severely affected plant parts or
Scrap the infected portions and apply with
Bordeaux Paste.
Wilt disease
Remove the infected trees immediately. 
Digging the trenches around the infected tree.
Scrap the infected portion and spray with
copper oxy chloride @ 0.25 %.

The picture below illustrates Blister bark disease of Casuarina may be caused after the attack by pests or after mechanical injury.  Picture Courtesy:

To know more about disease management please visit this link: 

Ppt presentation on Management of Pests and Diseases by Dr.Balu, a 

renowned Entomologist and Dr.V.Mohan, Pathologist, Forest Protection 

Division, IFGTB, Coimbatore. Slide number 34 to 47 are primarily about 

'Disease Management' authored by Dr.V.Mohan. 

The above Ppt presentation is also uploaded in top right side of this blog  

which can be used as a ready reckoner by our readers for the control of 

Insects and diseases in almost all the crops. 

My sincere thanks to Dr.V.Mohan, IFGTB on behalf of all our readers for 

providing us with all the details and pictures.


A.Vishnu Sankar

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