The Gist of Kurukshetra: Role of Pulses in Indian Agriculture

The Gist of Kurukshetra: Role of Pulses in Indian Agriculture

Pulses occupy an important place in Indian agriculture. In India, pulses are grown over an area of 2.38 crore hectares with a total production of 1.86 crore tonnes. The average yield of pulses in India is about 735 kg/hectare. The country need to produce 40-50 lakh tonnes of additional pulses for meeting the domestic requirement and this can be possible only if we develop high yielding short duration, drought and insect-pest resistance varieties of pulses. In the rainy season, pulses like green gram, black gram, pigeon pea and cowpea are the most important and leading pulse crops of India. Chick pea, lentil, lathyrus, field pea and kidney bean are the important pulse crops grown during winter season. However, green gram, black gram and cowpea are grown in both spring and rainy season. Pulses are generally grown in irrigated as well as rainfed area and belong to leguminaceae family. Main growing areas of pulses in India are Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Rajasthan. Madhya Pradesh is the leading state in India in pulses, in terms of cultivated area and productivity.

Factors Responsible for Low Yield of Pulses

• Delayed sowings/plantings;
• Low seed rate resulting in poor crop stands;
• Poor weed management during crop growth
• Inefficient irrigation and rainwater management;
• Large scale monoculture and non-inclusion of pulses in cropping systems;
• Lack of consideration of previous cropping in the same field;
• Inadequate plant protection.
• Non-availability of seeds of HYVs at affordable price and at the appropriate time;·
• Lack of more efficient N using genotypes;
• Imbalanced use of fertilisers;
• Poor management for secondary and micronutrient, mainly 5, Zn, Mn, Fe and B.

India has already enjoyed five decades of post green revolution period. However, stable or declining pulses production created several problems like protein malnutrition and insecurity of quality food and higher pulses cost. Demand of pulses is much higher than its availability which leads to hike in the prices of pulses which is unaffordable to consumers particularly population living in rural, hilly and tribal areas. The projected requirement of pulses by the year 2030 is estimated at about 3.2 crore tonnes. Pulses playa pivotal role in enhancing livelihood security, nutritional security, food security, soil health, farm profit and environmental sustainability. Thus pulses are premier crops cultivated in Indian sub-continent. Indian population is predominantly vegetarian.

India has only three per cent of the world's land resources and five per cent of water resources. Yet, Indian agriculture system supports 18 per cent of the world population. Since resources, viz. land, water and energy are limited, scarce, costly and having competing demand for urbanization, industrialization and meeting farming needs. Further, degrading of soil health is posing major concerns for agricultural sustainability. Low soil organic matter and imbalanced use of fertilisers are affecting pulse crops productivity. A deficient monsoon followed by a further dry spell for the past few years has affected pulses production. The production of pulses in India has remained insufficient making us dependent on imports.

In the changing climate scenario, biotic and abiotic stresses have become major production limiting factors. Further, declining total factor productivity and deteriorating soil quality is a major concern for pulses production. Due to this, pulses output went down from 1.92 crore tonnes to 1.72 crore tonnes in 2014-15 leading to the crisis of unprecedented price rise in these commodities. The prices of pulses increased abnormally last year due to reduction in domestic production as well as global shortage, mainly in case of pigeon pea. Efforts to nail the hoarders and black marketeers did not yield the desired effect. During the year, the government raised the minimum support price of major pulses by Rs. 275 per quintal. With production estimates for 2015-16 still lower than the bumper crop of 2013-14, the government has decided to create a buffer stock of 1.5 lakh tonnes of pigeon pea and black gram which will be procured directly from farmers at market rates.

Forty-five per cent of children below the age of three years are undernourished in India. A large number also suffer from protein deficiency. Pulses and pulse product are the main and chief source of protein and minerals for more than fifty per cent of our population. To address malnutrition in children, food grains of pulses must be bio-fortified with quality protein and micronutrients. Recently several national and international research institute have developed iron and zinc rich lentil varieties through molecular breeding. These varieties/technologies should reach the farmers immediately for alleviating malnourishment in women and children.

Government of India is also giving emphasis on pulse production and has allotted Rupees 500 crore in the central budget 2016-17 for increasing pulse production. Nowadays there is a great need to increase the productivity and total production of pulses with low cost and eco-friendly technologies to fulfill the demand of pulses for burgeoning population of India. Hence, low cost technologies and improved varieties/hybrids of pulses should be popularized among farming community.

Government has started National Food Security Mission (NFSM) for food and nutritional security and for promotion of cultivation of pulses and other food have been grains. Recently more states covered under National Food Security Mission. Under National Food Security Mission pulses cultivation has been started in Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttrakhand and all the North- East states. Salient points of National Food Security Mission are given below.

1. Seven Crops - Rice, Wheat, Pulses, Jute, Sugarcane, Cotton, Coarse Cereals covered under NFSM.
2. Fifty per cent NFSM has been dedicated for development of pulses.
3. Cultivation of pulses under NFSM has been started J&K, HP, UK, and all North Eastern states.

Soil Protection and Pulses

Due to soil rejuvenation qualities such as release of soil-bound phosphorous, build up soil fertility through atmospheric nitrogen fixation, recycling of soil nutrients and addition of organic matter and other nutrients make pulses an ideal crops of sustainable agriculture in the tropical and sub-tropical regions of India. Besides, pulses have the capability to protect the soil from wind and water erosion in arid and semi arid tropics. The roots of pulse plant have Rhizobium nodules that work for nitrogen fixation in the soil. For better nitrogen fixation suitable species of Rhizobium should be applied for different pulse crops. pulses are rich source of protein and can be easily grown under rice-wheat cropping system in North-West India. Pulses improves soil fertility by fixing atmospheric nitrogen and hence the farmers need to adopt this technology in the region.

Balanced Fertilisation

Balanced fertilizer use at the macro level in India is generally equated with a nutrient consumption ration of 4:2:1 (N: P205:K20). The N: P205:K20 ratio is as wide as 30.8:8.8:1 in Punjab, 48.2,14.9:1 in Haryana and 53.0:19.3:1 in Rajasthan compared with all India average of 6.9:2.6:l.Multiple nutrient deficiencies could be holding back the yield potential resulting in low pulse crop yields, low nutrient use efficiency and more N losses. Thus, mineral fertilisers have come to playa key role in areas with low fertility soils, where increased agricultural production is required to meet growing pulse demand. Major factor responsible for the low and declining pulse crop response to fertilisers is the continuous mining of soil without adequate replenishment to a desired extent. The continuous use of N fertilisers alone or with inadequate P and K application has led to mining of native soil P and K. Balanced fertilizer i.e., use of fertilizer nutrients in right proportion and in adequate amount are considered as promising agro technlc.ues to sustain yield, increase fertilizer use efficiency and to restore soil health.

Use of Bio-Fertilisers in Pulse Cultivation

Bio-fertilisers are not only eco-friendly and cost effective but also help to increase production and productivity of various pulse crops. Their method of application is pasy and simple in pulse crops production. Bio-fertilisers are also easily available at various research institute at low cost. Use of bio fertilisers such as Rhizobium, Azospirillum, Phosphate solubilising bacteria (PSB) and Trichoderma also resulted in significant increase in all growth and yield parameters in pulse crops. Apart from this it has a potential role in saving of chemical fertilisers in pulse crops cultivation. Bio fertilisers such as PSB and mycorrhiza fungi significantly increases the yield and yield attributing characters and P content in shoot in pulse crop. Similarly, the growth attributes and nutrient uptake in pulse crops also increased due to application of Rhizobium, PSB, Azotobacter and Azospirillum compared to control.

New Initiatives and Efforts

There has to be planned efforts including adequate financial investment to evolve pulse crop varieties which are high-yielding and resistant to diseases, drought, flood and salinity. Special efforts should be initiated through scientist, subject matter specialist, extension worker, NGOs and farmers to make India self sufficient in pulse production. In this connection, improved technologies for pulses cultivation should be demonstrated at different parts of the country particularly in non traditional areas by krishi vigyan kendra (KVKs) to motivate pulse growing farmers. Besides, technology support, seeds of improved and hybrid varieties of pulses must be distributed among progressive farmers and extension workers to boost pulse production.

Processing, Packaging and Storage

To overcome pulse crisis in future, emphasis may be given on farm processing and value addition of pulses and storage facilities which are needed as pulses grain are easily damaged by insects and pests. Further, moisture percentage in the pulse grains should be brought down to 9 or less after sun drying and water proof bags such as thick polyethylene bags' should be used for packing and storage. These bags should be heat sealed. In case of higher seed moisture, jute bags are recommended. Pulses seeds being hygroscopic in nature, absorb moisture from the atmosphere until the equilibrium is reached between the vapour pressure of seed and atmosphere. Therefore, efforts should be made that relative humidity in the seed storage is kept as low as possible and any chance of absorbing moisture by the seed from atmosphere is avoided. Aeration during storage of seed is important, particularly when moisture content is low. Emphasis may also be given on pulses processing techniques, utilization centre and development of local markets for pulse produce. So that better harvest of pulses may improve the economy and living standard of small and marginal farmers.

Suggestions for Sustainable and Self Sufficient Production of pulses in future.

1. New research efforts should be initiated to achieve a breakthrough in the productivity.
2. Innovative ideas need to be implemented instead of conducting routine research and material evaluation.
3. Scientists to work for development of shorter duration, widely adaptable and biotic and abiotic stress resistant varieties to boost the production of pulses.
4. Modernization of pulse breeding programme, supporting genetic gains through transgenic technology, enhancing biological nitrogen fixation through development of super nodulating plant types and breeding short duration varieties for achieving self sufficiency in pulses.
5. Extension workers and agriculture technology information centers should work more towards development and dissemination of newer technologies.

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