By Mr. Hafizullah
Rice(Oryza sativa) the staple food of Kashmir is passing through tough times. On one hand, the paddy land is being diverted to residential areas and on the other hand, horticulture crops are replacing the true autochthones of plains i.e, Oryza species.
Nature is also giving tough competition to the rice crop by growing a vast diversity of stranger plants in the paddy fields. These unwanted plants not only become the partners of the diet of rice plant but also pose secondary effects like hindering the easy passage of gases in the vicinity of rice plants, strangling the ramification of paddy rhizosphere and sometimes becomes the breeding grounds of pathogens.
Rice though a water-loving crop which grows in semi-aquatic habitat but still a lot of weeds burst out in the rice fields. Weeds like Echinochloa Colona, Echinochloa crusgalli, Potamogeton Natans, Marsilia Quadrifolia, Alisma Plantago, Sagittaria Sagittifolia, etc can be easily seen in the rice fields of Kashmir valley. But the Echinocoloa species are the prevalent and dominant one. Echinococcal is a robust weed which belongs to the Poaceae family and mimics the rice plants in early vegetative growth.
The Echinochloa ‘’Haami’’ in Kashmiri, is well known to every farmer as this opportunistic weed harbor their fields commonly but till date, they have failed in restricting the invasion of this robust weed. This robust weed reproduces by seed and is a self-pollinating crop. It begins emerging in May and up to July full flushes of this weed can be seen in the fields.
The inflorescence will come out after 50-60 days depends upon the environmental conditions and the seeds mature after 20-30 days of flowering. The quote “one year’s seeding is seven years weeding’’ quiet holds true with Echinochloa weed as the mature Echinochloa colona plant can produce up to 42000 seeds which get added to the weed seed bank in the soil and are enough to generate weed colonies in the subsequent years.
The high seed production is due to its high photosynthetic efficiency, high growth rate, and high ratooning ability. The seeds of E.colona can remain viable for about 3 years even under waterlogged conditions. If this weed gets the congenial conditions to grow it can cause a loss up to the tone of 42% in the rice crop. The farmers can easily win the battle against this invasive weed by adopting the scientific techniques of farming. A novel rice cultivating technique called the ‘’System of rice intensification can give rid of this weed. The faulty irrigation system of flooding has to be replaced by alternate wetting and drying of fields.
At the time of seed selection, the farmers have to be cautious regarding the admixture of weed seed with the paddy seed. The farmers can apply the chemical weedicides like Butachlor@1.5 kg a.i per hectare after 5-6 days of transplanting or fluchloralin @ 1 kg a.i per hectare at the time of puddling which will restrict the growth of this noxious plant in the paddy fields.
The overall sanitation of the fields including the bunds is pre-requisite for keeping the fields weed free. Echinochloa though an unwanted plant still it can be a better alternative to the fodder for cattle. Also, good compost can be prepared from it if harvested prior to flowering stage.
(Author is Jr.Agriculture Extension Officer, J&K Agriculture Production Department. He can be contacted at email: firstname.lastname@example.org)