By Tasneem Mubarak:

Tasneem


Doubling the farmers’ income is quite possible by using the power of science and understanding of existing situations. Moreover, in the background of changing agriculture scenario, conservation and cultivation of indigenous crop varieties is turning out to be very crucial.

With the intervention of KVK for instance a farmer from remote village of Kulgam could earn more than double the income from same piece of land by using local land race of paddy. Mshkebudji, a land race of paddy, indigenous to the Kashmir Valley is very famous for its aroma in the state and beyond.

The strain was at the verge of extinction because of it’s high susceptible to blast disease. Thanks to the work done by Mountain Research Center for Field Crops (MRCFC)-SKUAST-Kashmir for selection and purification of race out of mixtures and development of package of practices. In the process of popularizing variety among farmers in mid belts of district Anantnag we could see an excellent example of coordination between SKUAST-Kashmir, department of agriculture and most importantly the farmers. Taking into consideration the impact in Anantnag, a crop testing programme was initiated in district Kulgam by Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) Kulgam in collaboration with MRCFC in year 2016.

KVK conducted 35 trials in the mid belts of district and during the investigation it was observed that productivity of the variety was at par with the existing varieties grown in this belt, but returns were reasonably high.

Impressed with the results Mr Ab Salam Ganie resident of a remote village Ladgoo took great interest in the variety.  Salam is a strong believer in Integrated Farming. He is a marginal farmer with land holding of 1ha (20 kanal), out of which he cultivates paddy over an area of 0.35ha (7 kanal). On rest of area he cultivates apple. He is among only few farmers who cultivate paddy in the village as rest of the farmers have converted their entire paddy fields into apple orchards.

Due to cultivation of traditional non aromatic paddy cultivars he was not getting good returns. In that dilemma he approached KVK Kulgam for technical assistance and expressed his desire of continuing with field crops over the allocated area. Impressed with the demonstration at KVK instructional farm, he decided to test Mushkebudji at his own field. Thus in year 2016 an On-farm trial  was laid over an area of 0.1ha (2 kanal) at Salam’s field. He could harvest a good crop and recorded 132 % increase in net returns over his existing rice farming. Impressed with the results Salam transplanted entire paddy area of 0.35 ha (7 Kanal) with Mushkebudji in 2017. With his hard work and time to time technical backstopping by KVK team he got a good yield of around 15q of mushkebudji and reasonably high net retunes (₹59850) from these 7 kanals of land .Thus he earned an additional income of ₹38150 over the variety he used to cultivate in past. This way he earned more than double the income from same piece of land and simultaneously contributes in reviving the lost taste of Mushkebudji and conserving this unique indigenous strain.

Excellent crop at Salam’s field could attract the attention of media and his story was recorded and played in Krishi Darshan programme of Doordarshan, which is very famous among farmers across the state. With wonderful results at Salam’s field many farmers of adjoining villages have started approaching KVK for supply of seed and technical support. Owing to high profitability a good horizontal spread of the variety is anticipated in the coming few years in the mid belts as mild belts have advantage of congenial microclimate for this variety. Since Mushkebudji is highly susceptible to blast disease, farmers in the lower plains, despite great interest can’t grow it as the microclimate in plains is congenial for outbreak of disease.

Efforts are underway at Mountain Research Center for Field Crops (MRCFC)-SKUAST-Kashmir to transfer blast resistant genes into the existing strain and good progress has already been made by the concerned scientists. MRCFC shall be coordinating with KVKs of Valley in near future for area expansion under new version of Mushkebudji after seed is available in plenty. Working on market linage is also equally important and for that processing and packing is going to play a crucial role. Owing to great demand, KVK Kulgam displayed and also conducted the sale of Mushkebudji produced and processed by KVK, during the Kisan Mela held at SKUAST-Kashmir on 9 and 10 March 2019.

The way things are evolving and scenarios changing, conservation and cultivation of indigenous crop varieties is turning out to be very essential.  In view of this Protection of plant varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act 2001 is a timely intervention. In the background of changing climatic conditions and global trade, we must encourage and adequately appreciate the farming community in their quest to conserve the local land races and indigenous strains of different crops.

(The author is Dr. Tasneem Mubarak working asSr. Scientist & Head KVK-Kulgam, SKUAST-Kashmir. He can be contacted at drtasneem.mubarak@gmail.com)


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