New cropping method to boost pulses output

Written by Sandip Das | New Delhi | Updated: Oct 28 2014, 07:29am hrs
In a bid to promote optimum water usage and increase farmers' income, a new cropping method is being tested across northern India through sowing of moong bean in the same field prior to harvest of wheat crop.

The short duration 60 to 65 days moong is being sown through surface seeding in between the standing wheat crop just weeks prior to its harvest. This is also helping farmers save water.

According to HS Gupta, director general, Borlaug Institute for South Asia (BISA), the concept of sowing moong bean or a legume crop in a rice-wheat system would be taken up for large scale field trials in key wheat growing regions of Punjab, Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh in the next rabi or winter season for 'perfecting the technique'. Usually wheat growing farmers avoid irrigation prior to maturity of the crop because of higher cost involved. Through this technique, irrigation prior to harvest is also being used for moong bean, Gupta said, adding that after harvest of wheat, residual nitrogen goes deep into the soil and pollutes groundwater while the moong crop absorbs this nitrogen.

Moong bean needs only two irrigations, which means that farmers need to provide one more irrigation to get better yield for pulses.

As the country is not self-sufficient in pulses production, there is a ready market for all varieties of pulses. Gupta said that if in the next few years at least half of 10 million hectare of cultivable land in northern India is shifted to moong production it would hugely augment pulses production in India.

A senior scientist with BISA said sowing moong bean helps nitrogen fixation in the soil and the last irrigation applied to wheat crop also keep the environment cool which helps in better yield. The farmers part of the BISA experimentation have sown moong bean in the last week of March while the crop is ready in June.

However, a BISA scientist said: "High clearance tractor and relay seeders are required for thesowing operation. This will cost farmers over R80,000. This is a challenge that state governments should address."

Rapid depletion of groundwater and decline in soil quality because of excessive use of fertilisers in green revolution states such as Punjab, Haryana and western UP has led BISA to experiment with the cropping pattern. BISA is setting up its research facilities in Ludhiana, Pusa (Bihar), Jabalpur (Madhya Pradesh), among others.

In 2013-14, the country's domestic production of pulses was 19.27 million tonne while it had imported 3 million tonne of pulses. Of the total production, moongs share is only 1.5 million tonne.