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Improvement in Food Crops

Chapter: Improvement in Food Crops

Introduction:

All the living organisms need food for their growth, body development and also for their health. The food that we take contains carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. Plants and animals supply us with food. India produces food in large quantities since agriculture is done on a large scale in India. Despite huge cultivation in India, we face the problem of supplying food to our people and the main reason behind it is the increasing population. Green revolution and white revolution were the most important periods during which many efforts were made to meet the demands of the food by the increasing population. Green revolution led to increased food grain production and white revolution led to increased milk production. However, these revolutions meant an extensive use of natural resources causing damage to them and thereby destroying the balance. There, we should use scientific management techniques like intercropping, mixed cropping and integrated farming practices for obtaining high yields without causing any damage to the environment.

Improvement in crop yields:

Cereals like rice, wheat, jowar, etc; pulses like gram, black gram, etc; oil seeds like, groundnut, mustard, etc; other fruits, vegetables and spices are grown extensively across the country. Apart from these crops, fodder crops like Sudan grass, Rhodes grass, bar seem etc are raised as fodder for the livestock

Crop–definition:

The Plants of the same variety grown at a place at the same time on a large scale are referred to as Crop. Different crops require different climatic conditions, temperature and photo-periods (period of exposure to sunlight) for their growth and completion of life cycle. Growth of plants and flowering are dependent on sunlight. Plants manufacture their food from sunlight through photosynthesis. There are some crops which are grown in rainy season. They are called Kharif. 

Some of the crops grow in winter season. They are called Rabi. In India, there was a four times increase in the crop production from 1960 to 2004. 
The practices involved in farming are divided into three stages. The first is the choice of seed for planting. The second is the nurturing of crop plants. The third is the protection and of the growing and harvested crops from loss. Thus the major group of activities for improving crop yields can be classified as:

  1. Crop variety improvement
  2. Crop production improvement
  3. Crop protection management

1 . Crop variety improvement:

It involves finding a crop variety that can give a good yield. We can improve the crop variety by incorporating desirable characteristics like disease resistance, response to fertilizers, product quality and high yield. Hybridization is one of the best ways to incorporate desirable characters into crop varieties.

Hybridization is a technique of cross breeding between two different varieties of crop plants, each having a desirable characteristic to obtain a new variety having a combination of desired characteristics. Another way of improving the crop is by introducing a gene that would provide the desired characteristic. By using hybridization techniques, we can get genetically modified crops (GMC’s). Weather conditions, availability of water and soil quality should be kept in mind for cultivation practices and better crop yield. Since we cannot predict weather conditions like drought and floods, it is important for us choose crops that can be grown in diverse climatic conditions.
 

2 . Crop Production Management:

The yield of the crop depends on the nutrients added to the soil, the method of irrigation and the cropping pattern.

a . Nutrients:

Just like the organisms, plants also require nutrients for their growth and development. Plants get their nutrients from air, soil and water. There are about sixteen nutrients which are utilized by the plants. Air supplies plants with carbon and oxygen whereas hydrogen is provided by water. The plants obtain rest of the thirteen nutrients from soil. Six among these thirteen nutrients are required in large quantity and hence they are called macro- nutrients. The other seven nutrients are used by plants in trace amounts and therefore they are called micro-nutrients.

 

Nature of the Nutrient

Example

Macro-nutrients

 Carbon, Nitrogen, Calcium, Hydrogen, Oxygen, Sulphur,    Phosphorus, Magnesium and Potassium.

Micro-nutrients

 Iron, Zinc, Chlorine, Manganese, Boron, Copper and          Molybdenum.

 

Deficiency of these nutrients affects physiological processes. Repeated cultivation of crops decreases the primary nutrients present in the soil. In order to make up for the deficiency of nutrients in the soil, it has to be enriched. So the required nutrients are supplied to the soil in the form of manures and fertilizers.

b. Manures:

Deficiency of these nutrients affects physiological processes. Repeated cultivation of crops decreases the primary nutrients present in the soil. In order to make up for the deficiency of nutrients in the soil, it has to be enriched. So the required nutrients are supplied to the soil in the form of manures and fertilizers.

Compost &Vermicompost:  The process of decomposing farm waste material like vegetable waste, animal refuse, domestic waste, livestock excreta in pits are called composting and decomposed materials are called Vermicompost that are  rich in nutrients and organic matters. Vermicomposting is the preparation of compost using earthworms.

Green Manure: The manure, which is prepared by using green plants, is called green manure. Some plants like sun-hemp are first grown and then mulched by sowing into soil. Thus, these plants turn into manure. Green manure enriches soil with nitrogen and phosphorus..

c . Fertilizers :

Fertilizers are commercially produced plant nutrients. A chemical fertilizer contains the primary plant nutrients namely nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus that makes the soil more fertile and enhances the growth of plants. Fertilizers can be of three main types:

 

Serial No.

Fertilizer Type

Example

1

Nitrogenous

      Ammonium Sulphate, Urea, Ammonium Nitrate.

2

Phosphatic

      Super phosphate, Ammonium phosphate.

3

Potassic

      Potassium chloride, Potassium sulphate, Potassium nitrate.

 

In order to maintain or improve the fertility of the soil, chemical fertilizers are supplied in proper doses before and during the cultivation of each crop. These chemicals are soluble in water and are readily absorbed by the plants. A chemical fertilizer is compact and concentrated and it is easy to handle.

Continuous use of chemical fertilizers can turn the soil infertile by reducing the organic matter present in the soil and by killing the natural microbial flora present. Organic farming technique has been developed to overcome this problem

Organic Farming: It is a farming system with minimal or no use of chemical as fertilizers, pesticides etc. This system uses organic manures, recycled farm wastes and biological agents to enhance the fertility of the soil and for pest control.

d . Irrigation :

Agriculture in India mostly depends on rains. Since rains are not consistent in our country, it is necessary for us to find other sources to supply water to the crops continuously. The method of supplying water to the crops through the sources like canals, reservoirs, wells and tube wells is called irrigation.

e. Cropping Pattern :

Different ways of growing crops can be used to give maximum benefit.

a .  Mixed Cropping: It is a method of growing two or more crops simultaneously on the same piece of land. The two crops are selected in such a way that they support each other’s growth. This cropping technique leads to an improvement in the fertility of the soil. Example: Wheat is grown along with Tur.

Inter-cropping is the method of growing two or more crops simultaneously on the same field in a definite pattern. A variety of crop is grown in a few rows and the other variety of crop is grown in next few rows. Example: soya bean+ maize+ cow pea.

b . Crop rotation: It is a method of growing different crops on the same piece of land alternatively. In this method, legumes like pulses, peas, beans, etc are grown in between the seasons of cereal crops like wheat, paddy, maize, etc. It helps in maintaining or improving the fertility of the soil.

3 . Crop Protection Management:

The crops in the field are exposed to many factors. The crop plants may be destroyed by insects, rodents, birds, etc. Sometimes the crops get infested by pests, weeds and diseases. Pests are organisms that bring about moderate to heavy damage to the standing crops. The common pests are insects, mites, aphids, rats, birds etc. Chemicals used to protect the crops from these organisms are called Pesticides. There are mainly two methods adopted to control the pests..

a . Chemical control: The control of pests using pesticides is called chemical control. Pesticides are sprayed by using a hand operated machine or by power operated sprayer. Fumigation and dusting are other methods of using pesticides.

b . Biological control: It is the method of controlling the pests by deliberately leaving biological agents like insects or any other living organism into the field. These organisms will kill the pests and save the crops.  Biological control is a very slow process of controlling the pests but is a highly specific and eco- friendly process too.

An interesting example is of the orange orchards in California which were infested by scale insects. Australian lady birds were let loose in these orchards. These lady birds destroyed all the scale insects in about two years and saved the plants and fruits.

Weeds :

Unwanted plants which grow in the fields along with the crop plants are termed as weeds. Their growth in the field is harmful for the crops as they compete with the main crop for nutrients, space and sunlight. So, these weeds have to be removed. Examples of weeds are wild oats, grass, etc.

Storage of Food Material:

Storage of food is essential for their availability to the people throughout the year. Stored food may be destroyed by both biotic and abiotic factors. So it is necessary to ensure a safe storage.

Biotic Factors include:

 I  . Rodents, birds and other animals

 II . Insects, certain worms and microbes

 III . Action of enzymes

Abiotic factors include:

 I . Temparature at which food item is stored

 II . Moisture content of the food

 III . Humidity of the surroundings

We can ensure safe storage of grains, pulses, fruits, vegetables and other food materials by storing them in granaries and cold storage.

Large quantities of food grains are stored in warehouses known as Granaries. The Food Corporation of India (FCI) is one of the biggest granaries in India.

Animal Husbandry:

Animals are very useful to mankind since they provide us with food that is rich in certain proteins which even the plants cannot provide us with. The branch of agriculture which deals with the feeding, shelter, health and breeding of domestic animals is called Animal Husbandry. Animal Husbandry practices include:

  1. Proper feed and clean drinking water
  2. Proper shelter
  3. Proper methods for breeding
  4. Prevention and cure of diseases

 

Cattle Farming:

Cattle farming in our country are practiced mainly for the production of milk and agricultural activities like ploughing the field, etc. Indian cattle mainly belong to two different species. They are Bos Indicus or Cows and Bos Bubalis or Buffaloes. Domestic cattles should be provided with proper nutritive diets. Their feed must be rich in basic nutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins. The diet should also provide them with fiber and enough quantity of water. Besides, they should also be supplied with certain feed additives rich in micro nutrients. This would promote the health and increase the milk produce of the dairy animals.

We can maintain good health of the animals by keeping the cattle shed clean and dry. If the animals are healthy, they provide us with good amount of milk. Not only keeping the cattle shed clean but it is also necessary to keep it well roofed and well ventilated. By keeping the cattle shed clean, we can prevent animals from many infectious diseases that can hamper milk production and also sometimes can lead to the death of the cattle. The diseases of the cattle are caused by micro organisms like bacteria, virus or fungi. Cattles are vaccinated against many major viral and bacterial diseases.

Poultry Farming

  1. Birds like fowl and chicken are reared for the purpose of meat and eggs since they are rich in proteins and this is called poultry farming.
  2. In a poultry farm, two varieties of birds are reared. (i) Layers, for laying eggs (ii) Broilers, for meat.
  3. Hens which would lay more eggs by taking less food are selected for breeding as layers.
  4. Hens which are reared for meat are given high protein and vitamin rich food in order to increase their weight.

 

Pisciculture:

  1. Another major source of food for mankind is fish. Rearing fish on a large scale is called fish farming or Pisciculture.
  2. The place where fish is reared on a large scale is known as nursery or hatchery. The natural hatcheries are ponds, lakes, canals, etc, where the eggs of fish are introduced.
  3. Cross breeding is a technique to develop fast growing varieties of fish.
  4. Sometimes culturing of fish is carried out along with paddy crop. Cultivation of paddy requires a lot of water. The water used in paddy fields is used to culture the fish.
  5. Fish caught from the sea, ocean, estuaries are called as marine fish. They are caught by using fishing nets from special fishing boats or mechanized boats known as fishing trawlers.

 

Bee-culture or Apiculture:

  1. Honey is a nutritive food obtained from honey bees which are commonly seen flying in gardens.
  2. The nests of honey bees are called hives , we often seem them on tall buildings.
  3. Apiculture is the rearing of honey bees for the production of honey of commercial purpose.
  4. The rectangular containers in which the honey bees are reared are called apiaries. There are frames arranged in these containers and the hives are built on these frames. Compartments of the hives are called honey comb.
  5. Honey bees collect nectar from the flowers and convert it into honey.
  6. Bees wax which is useful in making candles is another important substance produced by honey bees along with the honey.
  7. Apis cerana (Indian bee), Apis dorsata (the rock bee) and Apis florae (the little bee) are the species of honey bees used in apiaries.