OPTIMUM CROP PRODUCTION
Professional training and personal experience may also be utilised to boost up the yield per unit area
By M. Mithal Jiskani,
Assistant Professor (Plant Pathology)
Sindh Agriculture University, Tandojam
Jan-07- 13, 2002
Agriculture comprises both the art and science, related with almost all the disciplines of life and environmental sciences, with special reference to cultivate the land so as to produce economic crops with scientific methods. No doubt, generation to generation involvement with agricultural profession may help to increase crop production, but professional training and personal experience may also be utilised to boost up the yield per unit area.
Besides agronomic techniques for achieving optimum crop production. pre-planning is one of the most important components of basic principles for getting high yields per unit area.
Climate: Climate (including temperature, humidity, precipitation or rainfall, sunshine, cloudiness and wind) is the most important factor for increasing or decreasing production of crops, because the crop plants may become weak, diseased or so on, due to unfavourable climatic conditions. Therefore, the crop should be sown according to the climatic conditions of an area, as it may be suitable for different crops.
Soil: The soil is not uniform even in a small area, but it exists in various types. While, the plants depend upon soil type and conditions such as water and other essential nutritional elements, and it contributes significantly to the plant growth. Hence, cultivating the suitable crop in available soil type can increase yield.
Land erosion: The weathering away of the soil surface by running water, wind and other geological agents is termed as land erosion. Cultivating crop after crop, in accordance to suitable crop rotation could control this detachment and transformation of fertile upper surface of soil.
Clean crop area: The cropping area should be free from all unwanted weed plants and trees, but it must be kept in mind that trees are very essential for protection of environmental pollution and constant climatic conditions favourable for crops.
Crop selection: Cultivating crop should be selected according to the soil type and climatic conditions of an area or as per requirement of the grower and/or as necessary according to the location e.g.: vegetable crop should be selected in the surrounding of cities/towns. Availability of agricultural inputs and other resources must be kept in mind also.
Variety selection: Only those varieties should be selected, which are high yielding, resistant to diseases, insect pests and could be successfully grown in selected soil type, under available climatic conditions of an area.
Target area under crop: The target should be to produce the maximum number of crops per year, of high yield, from only that amount of land, for which all inputs could be arranged easily. It is true that sustainable agriculture is better than intensive and intensive is good than extensive farming.
Healthy and pure seed: Availability of healthy and pure seed should be confirmed, because only such type of seed could be helpful for obtaining optimum crop production, otherwise seed treatment may be done against seed borne diseases.
Water availability: Irrigation water is one of the pre basic requirements for all livings including crop plants. Judicious use of irrigation water may help to increase the cropping area and yield as well.
Availability of fertilizers: Farm yard manure as well as green manuring could improve poor soils, but chemical fertilisers may also become helpful. Therefore, arrangements should be confirmed before cropping.
Arrangement of agrochemical: Frost of the crop enemies e.g. insect pests, diseases, weeds etc could be timely controlled by proper use of agrochemical (pesticides), therefore surely be arranged before cropping or at the time of sowing.
AGRICULTURAL IMPLEMENTS AND MACHINERY: Different agricultural implements and machinery is required for different agronomic practices, but all are not available to all growers, hence it should be confirmed that the same could be arranged when and where are required.
Improvement of soil fertility: The soil fertility deteriorates day by day due to continuous cropping, old and defective methods of cultivation. The growers are not commonly practising cropping pattern by mean of good crop rotation, green manuring, use of farm yard manure, deep plowing etc. which is of prime importance for maintaining fertility and organic matter in the soil. The need is that growers must accept and adopt proper technology as per recommendations of researchers.
Arrangement of cash: Sudden need of any agricultural input or labour could only be arranged in case of cash payment, hence it should be in hand at any day, any time, during whole cropping season.
Land preparation and cultivation
Land preparation and cultivation methodology is also among the basic factors, which may affect the yield. For getting better yield, it is important to prepare land thoroughly, so that the weeds are destroyed and water absorption capacity of the soil is increased.
Proper land preparation: The land preparation varies from place to place, depending upon the climatic conditions, methods of sowing, soil characteristics and supply of water, but following few factors should be kept in mind:
Tillage: Tillage is the mechanical manipulation of soil to provide better soil conditions suited to the growth of the crops, the control of weeds, maintenance of infiltration capacity and aeration. For that, crop wise recommendations are decided, which must be adopted.
Land levelling: Land should be levelled thoroughly so as to ensure an equal distribution seed, fertilisers and irrigation water to all crop plants, which may result as the best crop with good yield. Proper levelling may also help in reduction of salt accumulations.
Plots and channels: The land should be divided in to the small plots. The feeding channels are made in such a way that each plot gets water separately. Irrigation from one plot to another will distribute the disease organisms and weeds.
Time of sowing: Proper time of sowing is also one of the important factors that affect the yield and it may vary with crop varieties and climatic conditions. Good yield could be obtained by cultivating the crop, during favourable soil and climatic conditions. Optimum sowing time encourage high seed germination, strong plants and vigorous root system in all crop plants.
Method of sowing: Different sowing methods proved to be the best for different crops, based on type of crop, its time of sowing, soil type as well as land situation and water supply. Normally, sowing in lines is better but unfortunately in case of crop requirements or late sowing and heavy soils, broadcasting gives better yield. Direct seeding in wet or dry soil condition and transplanting may also helpful for some crops. Ghurbi/kur (seeding in standing water) is also proved best for the cultivation of wheat in saline soils.
Seed rate: Uniform population of crop plants is very important for obtaining optimum yield, which could be achieved by using proper seed rate. Seed rate depends upon the seed purity, sowing time, and soil type and/or crop variety.
Distance for sowing: The distance between two plants and two rows should also be managed, which also depends on the climate of area, crop variety, type and condition of soil.
Depth for sowing: It also varies with crop varieties as well as soil type and condition.
Regular look after of the crop is also one of the solutions for obtaining optimum crop production. Following are basic tips:
Thinning: In order to provide favourable moisture, nutrition, sunlight and space to crop, through obtaining proper plant population as per crop variety recommendations, thinning must be done.
Earthing up: It is also very important factor for different crops, which not only make the soil porous and check the weeds but also at the same time, protect the crop from lodging.
Irrigation: Moisture plays a very important role in the growth of the crops. Some crops require less while other needs higher amount of water. It is also true that there are certain critical growth stages of each crop. If water will not applied on such stages, the yield would decrease considerably. Therefore proper supply of irrigation water must be assured as per requirement of the crop, according to soil type and climatic conditions.
Fertilizers: Chemical fertiliser application is also compulsory, but it is difficult to suggest that what type and amount of fertiliser should be applied and at what time and method. Because it depends upon the soil conditions of the area, crop rotation, varieties used and availability of water. In view of the above facts, the recommendations of the soil scientists after soil test will be fruitful. Therefore, the growers are suggested to test their soils at first then they may apply suitable fertiliser, with proper method, recommended dose and time.
Weeds: Weeds are those plants, which grow unwanted, non-useful, often prolific and persistent, interfere with agricultural operations, increase labour cost and reduce the crop yields. Various mechanical (non-chemical) and chemical methods could control the weeds. Hand pulling of weeds, plowing into the affected soils, interculturing, hoeing, crop rotation etc can be as effective as chemical control. However, integrated weed management is safe, economic and most easy too.
Pests, diseases and other enemies: Insect pests, diseases, bird, animal etc annually destroys about 35 per cent of all crops world-wide. Even after food (crop) is harvested, these enemies inflict a further 10-20 per cent loss, bringing the total destruction to about 40 or 50 per cent. Integrated pest and/or disease management is a system which brings together control by regular cultivation with proper crop rotation, selecting resistant varieties, and the list of practices include is large. In this system pesticide applications may be delayed till pest attain economic injury level.
However, all pesticides are poisons and are harmful equally to all livings, therefore care must be taken during their usage.
Harmful weather conditions: Low or high temperature effects, light effects, soil moisture disturbance, oxygen relations, lightning injuries, nutritional disorders and effects of atmospheric impurities may also damage the crops, therefore growers must be fully aware to all those negative conditions and adopt necessary measures as per achieved by researchers.
Harvesting and threshing
Harvesting is the time, when ripe or mature crops are cut (e.g. cereals), lifted (e.g. root crops) or picked (e.g. fruit, hops). The delay in harvesting may result in yield losses due to shattering, lodging, rats, birds, insect pests, pathogens etc. the quality of the produce may also spoiled. Therefore, care must be taken against all pre harvest, harvest and post harvest practices.
Storage and marketing of produce
Storage is also one of the problems faced by growers and other concerned parties. Stored grain pest problem could be quoted as an example. Various market problems are also identified, those all need special attention.
In light of the above facts, let us check ourselves and confirm that we are fully aware or not, to basic principles for obtaining optimum crop production? Now it is upon the growers that what and how they would like to do?