The new short duration variety of arhar dal developed by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) is likely to be released commercially in the next kharif season (2017) and will likely boost the country’s pulses output, finance minister Arun Jaitley said on Monday. The new pulses variety, PUSA 16, matures in around 120 days against at least 175 to 220 days taken by other arhar varieties. The new variety is currently undergoing field trials in eight locations across the country.
Due to the sharp spike in pulses prices triggered by lower domestic production in the last two years, the government has taken measures like increasing minimum support prices (MSP) for farmers, higher imports and scouting for possibility of growing pulses in Mozambique, Malawi and other African countries.
“We will put this new arhar variety for commercial use soon. Once we put for commercial use, certainly it will have great impact,” Jaitley said after visiting the IARI campus where new variety is being grown currently. He was accompanied by chief economic advisor Arvind Subramanian and agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh.
According to scientist with IARI, this variety is likely to encourage farmers in Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh to shift to pulses cultivation from water intensive paddy. Besides, the variety is semi-dwarf which helps in harvesting through combine harvesting machines.
“Although yield-wise, this new variety has produced around 20 quintals per hectare like long duration variety, however because of its short duration, farmers in northern India can grow another crop after harvesting this variety of pulses,” AK Singh, a senior scientist with IARI told FE.
Agricultural experts say that the country’s pulses production cannot increase to match growing demand unless farmers in irrigated regions like Punjab, Haryana and western UP take up large-scale cultivation. “Farmers in northern India could use machines for harvesting of this new variety thus saving on labour cost,” Sing said.
PUSA 16 is being undergoing field trial this kharif season in Pusa campus (Delhi), Ludhiana (Punjab), Hisar (Haryana), Jaipur, Kota, Bikaner (Rajasthan), Medziphema (Nagaland) and Pantnagar (Uttarakhand). As per the norm of the agriculture ministry, a new variety has to go through field trial for three years prior to commercial release, the government has relaxed norms and allowed commercial release after first year of field trial.
Agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh said that the new variety will be released for commercial cultivation in January next year and will be available for sowing in the kharif 2017 season. “This will help make the country self-sufficiency in next three years,” he said.
Due to a deficient monsoon, pulses production fell to 16.47 million tonnes (mt) in the 2015-16 crop year (July-June), from 17.15 mt in the previous year. In 2013-14, output was over 19 mt. In quantity terms, pulses imports in 2015-16 stood at 5.79 mt against 4.58 mt reported in 2014-15. Domestic consumption is around 21-22 mt. Arhar accounts for about 15% of the total pulses production.