Friday 23 March 2012

Cardamom plant: The Eco-Friendly Plantation Crop in Forest Pre-dominant Tripura

      It has repeatedly been mentioned that Tripura is forest pre-dominant state. Forest plays an important role in socio-economic development of the people and improving the climatic conditions of the state.
      Importance of forest coverage in the economic prosperity of the people, maintaining natural equilibrium and climate leaves little explanation.
      Now, the point is; are there any other aspects that can directly get benefited economically from the valuable forest land and resource?
       More so when forest ecology is least disturbed and valuable forest species are taken care off in the process of economic prosperity of the people of forest pro-dominant state Tripura.
     What about cardamom plant (Elettaria cardamomum M)? Can cardamom plant help the people of the state in the economic prosperity without or least disturbance of the forest covers? Is it compatible with the state’s climatic condition and existing forest resources?
    Well, this queen of spices, the cardamom plant suits best in tropical rain forest with elevation ranging from 600 meters to 1200 meters above mean sea level. It has been playing important economic roles in elsewhere where such suitable condition prevails.
     Cardamom plant grows well in the region of high rainfall ranging from 1500 mm to 4000 mm annually and suitably accompanied by temperature ranges from 100C to 350C.
     The climatic condition of Tripura is humid sub-tropical within the temperature and annual rainfall ranges that fulfills the required suitability purview of cardamom plant to grow successfully in the state.
     That is to say that forest pre-dominant Tripura is suitable for cardamom plantation but not tried to the expected level in the harmonious forest ecosystem of Tripura.
     In India, southern states are prominent in cardamom plantation and production. The states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are the major players of dry cardamom fruit production from this perennial herbaceous plant.
     Here the point is; climatic condition in the coastal Kerala and western ghat hill ranges of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are quite similar to the Tripura in several counts like average annual rainfall, temperature and soil condition with soil pH and fertility level.
      Now, there is certain restriction in usage of forest land and its resource utilization due to strict regulation by the concerned department. More so is with land owned by the public, there is also restriction in extraction of forest product either timber or minor forest produces.
      But, with the adoption / selection of eco-friendly crop, the cardamom plant, the possessor or owners of the land with sufficient forest coverage will have more movement advantages in securing the economic improvement through ecologically harmonious cardamom plant in the humid sub-tropical forest of Tripura.
     In Tripura there are places suitable in terms of elevation and forest coverage where this shade loving plant, cardamom could be tried for the greater economic benefit of the people and effective forest resource utilization.
      In India, cardamom plant is pre-dominantly grown as rain fed crop in the anticipation of monsoon rain fall.
     Transplanting cardamom plant or clone is carried out in the evergreen forest where top forest soil with rich organic matter content helps in successful growth of the cardamom plant. Usually, loamy soils with acidic pH range are considered suitable for the cardamom plant to come up successfully.
      In the forest species covered land either moderately sloppy hills or steep sloppy hills, field preparation for plantation of cardamom plant could be taken up without affecting the large standing trees.
    In the given land where there is more numbers of large trees, spacing of cardamom plant can be arranged based on the condition of land and existing tree populations.
     Trees with higher or excessive branches are trimmed for controlled shading or evenly distributed shading in the cardamom plantation.
   Through ensuring evenly shading, penetration of scorching sun is managed and soil moisture is restored and conserved too. Nevertheless, cardamom plant is sensitive to the drought during the dry spell which usually (in case of Tripura) starts from the month of January to April. Managing this prolong dry spell is critical in successful cardamom plantation to come up.
    In Tripura, hill ranges of Baramura, Deotamura, Atharamura, Longthorai, Sakhanthang and Jampui are few places where cardamom plantation can play an important role which is yet to be tapped in the state.
    The state government in agriculture and Horticulture departments are pursuing to improve the agriculture sector through mass popularization of different crops including plantation crops like Areca nut, Coconut and many other perennial fruit crops.
    The good part is; Cardamom plant also suits well in the Areca nut and Coconut plantation as an inter crop which proposes good income source through crop diversification.
However, the time now is for exploring this possibilities in forest predominant Tripura.
    Let cardamom plant find a good foot print in the state in the greater economic interest without disturbing fragile forest ecology of the state.
                                         Agritangkol Dated: 12-03-2012

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

Monday 19 March 2012

Pigeon pea cultivation: Nobody Bothers Pigeon pea, the Age Old Jhum Crop of Tripura.

     My knowledge and geographical limitations did not help me to know much about Pigeon pea until I visited southern state fifteen years ago. It was on my visit to the Pigeon pea growing belt or otherwise “Pulse Bowl the Gulbarga district of Karnataka”, I came to know that Pigeon pea could be cultivated in such a way that I never imagined.
      Pigeon pea in those areas is cultivated in large acreage by the farmers of that state due to its demands and popularity. In contrast, here at home, Pigeon pea, it is in the Jhum, very few people even know or bother Pigeon pea.
     It is in the month of December to March; some green Pigeon pea pods are found and sold in the local market for use as a vegetable.
     In Tripura, it is preferred (green pigeon pea pods) by only 30% of the population who consumes green pigeon pea pod as vegetable. Even the people who are actually taking green pigeon pea pod as vegetable do not know the other important quality of the pigeon pea.
    In the state Tripura, very few people know about pigeon pea, leave alone its cultivation in large or mass scale. In Tripura, pulses means or at least, what people know is, lentil & Mung and Sula excepting these, there is no deliberation, whispering for pigeon pea, I have never heard anything around this pigeon pea.
      In the state, pigeon pea is cultivated by the indigenous people, in earlier days in the Jhum and now, in homestead land. But, many people did not even know that it is one of the important pulse crop and vegetable protein supplements.
    Of course, it would be unjust to say plainly that very few people know pigeon pea; city dwellers may know ‘TurDal’ a processed pigeon pea bean which is available in the shops of the city areas but it is restricted within that periphery only.
      Pigeon pea, available in the state is of traditional and long duration variety. This pulse crop is grown during the month of May to June in the Jhum along with many other Jhum crops however, bearing of pod of pigeon pea is probably the last after the harvest of Jhum paddy and many other wide array of Jhum crops.
     One important characteristic of the traditional type of pigeon pea is; it grows up to fifteen to sixteen feet height with many branches and sub-branches, during bearing time; it looks very beautiful due to its profuse bearing nature.
    It is probably due to such profuse bearing character that only fewer numbers of pigeon pea plants are maintained in homestead land in case of plain people.
     There are several improved varieties of pigeon pea, short duration to high yielding varieties which are grown by the farmers of the other states where pigeon pea is traditional crop.
    There are no much natural enemies of pigeon pea crop in the state, one insect pest that is found to attack the pigeon pea is; pod borer, excepting this; no other major natural menace are observed.
     Of course, pigeon pea pod borer is in fact one of the prominent menace in the traditional pigeon pea growing areas.
      The fact is; pigeon pea is established crop in one sense because, it is in the state since long time ago and suited to the soil and climatic condition. The only problem is; it is not making any difference in term of its importance and large scale cultivation.
     The plant is acclimatized very well as it is coming up very successfully without any care. The protein rich content of the pigeon pea should be known to all for creating interest to the mass people of the state and people should know the relative quality of pigeon pea with other established pulses available in the market.
      Another aspect is; pigeon pea being the leguminous crop has the inherent capability for fixing of nitrogen from the atmosphere to the root zone through nitrogenous bacteria and it should in fact be popularized in the state for its dual importance.
     The land remaining fallow or not suitable for paddy cultivation and also other crops should be put to use for production of pigeon pea as well as improving the soil health for the next crop.
    The aspect of protein rich content of pigeon pea bean should be popularized for creating awareness amongst the farmers and people in general.
     Time has come to know the importance of crops in the backyards.
                                        Agrtitangkol dated 21.02.2012