Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Shifting cultivation: Field Preparation Time has come but finding a suitable land is the matter

    In Tripura, the time for choosing the suitable site/land for shifting cultivation has begun. Selection of suitable site for shifting cultivation is pivotal in ensuring the successful shifting cultivation in the state. Suitable land means good crops so is good crop production.
    Usually, people associated with the shifting cultivation starts their activity from the month of January with selection of lands and cutting of vegetation for shifting cultivation. By the month of April, dried up slash is burned for final field preparation for sowing of crops in the shifting cultivation.
    Now-a-days, in Tripura, dependence on shifting cultivation or otherwise the number of people going for shifting cultivation has substantially reduced.
    This dependence or decline in the total number of people in the shifting cultivation are due to the lack of suitable sites, certain obligation in using the land for shifting cultivation, socio-economic changes and people deviation towards other suitable crops in the high lands.
    Now coming to the suitability of the lands or site for shifting cultivation; suitability of the land for shifting cultivation is gauged on the pattern of the vegetation in the particular land chosen for shifting cultivation. Lands or a site with deep canopy or vegetation means good for shifting cultivation.
    People who are associated with the shifting cultivation also select the site based on the vegetation and types of species available in the particular site. The site with deep vegetation of bamboo species is considered best for the crops like chilies, pumpkin and ginger.
    Now, what is the availability of the suitable lands for shifting cultivation? There is shortage or unavailability of suitable land for shifting cultivation in the state.
    Usually, lands which are kept untouched for a period of five to six years are considered good for the shifting cultivation but there are hardly any such lands available in the state for a good shifting cultivation.
    Now the gap period between first crop and its subsequent crop has reduced to the two to three years or even less. This has affected the productivity of the crops in the shifting cultivation due to decline in soil fertility.
    Now the reason for reduction in gap periods between the two crops is due to the lack of availability of the suitable lands for shifting cultivation.
    People who depend on the shifting cultivation have no choice but to choose the land even though the land is not suitable for the shifting cultivation.
    It is generally believed that when the land is kept fallow or allowed to grow forest species, organic matter content of the soil increases so is increase of soil fertility.
    Now, there is persuasion for increase of crop productivity in the shifting cultivation through use of good and high yielding varieties. In addition, there is also move to increase the productivity of the crops in the shifting cultivation through application of fertilizers.
    But, productivity of the crops has reduced significantly over the years; the prominent crop Rice produced less in the unit area.
    Along with the prominent crop rice, production of other subsidiary crops like chillies, cotton, sesamum and pumpkin have also reduced significantly leaving the shifting cultivation with less importance.
     As reflected, increasing the crop productivity in the shifting cultivation depends on the soil fertility and soil fertility of lands depends on the length of the fallow period.
    So the important lies with how long the land is kept as it is; prolong period means rejuvenation or replenishment of soil nutrient through addition of organic matter content of the soils through the various species that comes up in the particular lands.
    People especially in the high land who are otherwise depends on the shifting cultivation should work out for a system wherein, every matter starting from selection of land to crop production are dealt scientifically for increasing the crop productivity through shifting cultivation.
          Agritangkol dated 12.03.2012

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