For the past three and a half decades we have reaped the benefits of the Green Revolution that started in 1967. Improved rice and wheat varieties brought about a revolution in our food production that led us from 'food scarce' economy to 'food surplus' state.
The Green Revolution that started along the Indo-Gangetic plains mainly in the states of Punjab, Haryana and western UP was possible due to the usage of high yielding varieties and increased consumption of water and plant nutrition / protection chemicals. The Paddy-Wheat rotation followed in these areas and that has made a success out of the Green Revolution and which has made us self-sufficient in food grains is presently a cause of concern. The continuous cultivation of Paddy-Wheat rotation over the past three and a half decades is showing its ill-effects that if not checked right now might jeopardize our future food security.
The quality of soil is getting depleted due to this mono-cultivation of Paddy-Wheat rotation. Both Paddy and Wheat have heavy water requirements and the continuous usage of ground water is depleting the water level and this is already a cause of concern. The Government godowns are already spilling with over 63 million MT of food grains and additional procurement would be at a great cost to the treasury. It is time that we re-think on our future food security strategy. We need to consolidate the benefits of the Green Revolution and work towards a strategy of assuring our food security without compromising sustainability of agriculture.
Capt. Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister of Punjab, at various forums, has advocated similar thoughts. Recently in a meeting held in Chandigarh to discuss the package of practices for the Rabi crops, the Punjab Agriculture Minister, Mrs. Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, said that ten lakh hectares of agricultural land would be brought under diversification plan during the next five years. Mrs. Bhattal even mentioned about incentives being given to farmers to opt out of Paddy-Wheat rotation and cultivate cash crops like pulses and oilseeds.
A possible alternative to the Rice-Wheat cropping pattern could be Maize-Rapeseed or Maize-Potato-Sunflower. The advantages in these cropping systems are the lower requirement of water, low input requirements and better commodity prices. Such cropping system would not only benefit the farmers by providing them with more income per acre but is also well suited for sustainable agriculture for ensuring food security in future. Such a shift would help to continue to reap the benefits of Green Revolution and also help reduce the burden on exchequer on large payments for importing edible oils.
An interesting crop right now available for the wheat-growing farmers of Punjab, Haryana, Uttaranchal and UP is Hyola PAC-401. Hyola is a hybrid rapeseed-mustard with double-zero ('00') quality and can be a good alternative to wheat. It requires less irrigation as compared to wheat and matures in about 145 days during winter. The best thing about Hyola is that it is resistant to frost and is highly tolerant to white rust (a major disease in sarson / gobhi sarson). This thus leads to lesser expenditure in crop protection chemicals.
Hyola PAC-401 has been widely tested by ICAR and is now recommended by Government of India through notification for general cultivation in all rapeseed-mustard growing areas in the Northern parts of India. Hyola yields upto 12 quintal of grains per acre with an oil percentage of 41% to 44%.
Hyola PAC-401 has also been found to be an excellent intercrop with autumn sown Sugarcane. The farmer is not only able to get a good additional income from Hyola but research has shown that growing Hyola as intercrop also leads to a healthy crop of Sugarcane with a high percentage of sugar. The reason being Hyola has bushy nature and thus protects the Sugarcane crop in its early stages during severe winters.
Hyola PAC-401 produce has been fetching better premium and income to farmers due to its higher oil content. Now it is also being realised that the '00' (double-zero) quality of Hyola PAC-401 (i.e. low Erucic Acid in oil and low Glucosinolate in de-oiled cake) makes it quite suitable for use in animal feed industry within the country as well as in the export market. It is learnt that this year some reputed companies have come forward and have shown keen interest in purchasing Hyola produce in the coming season.
It is a known fact that for future sustainability of agriculture in the Northern parts of India to enable the future generations to continue to reap the benefits of the Green Revolution, it is important to identify and recommend suitable and equally remunerative alternative crops. Hyola PAC-401 is one such alternative crop of choice for wheat growing farmers in Northern parts of India.