SOWING OF PULSES: AN OPTION TO IMPROVE FARMER’S INCOME
In Latin “Pulse” means “dried seed”, an excellent source of protein (building blocks of human body and are essential for health). Compared to flash of animal meat as protein source “Pulses” are cheap source of protein for human being. Pulses are sources of low fat protein, high fibre, vitamin and mineral e.g. iron, potassium, folate and almost doubled amount of protein as compared to other cereal crops. Pulses shelf life in storage is more as compared to meat, more nutritional value, easy to cook and have varieties with respect to taste, size colour and shape of grain. Pulses are considered as cornerstone of food security for malnourished and hungry, to maintain healthy life. United nation declared international year of pulses to 2017 to create opportunities for whole world countries to initiate concluding pulses in nutrition policies and food security.
Cultivation of pulses is practiced all over the world but in case of Pakistan area under pulses is 5% on which Chickpea(Gram) black gram, masoor, mash, mung bean and few others are grown. There are various reasons behind the decline of pulses production but the most important of them is interest of even small farmers to grow more profitable crops like cotton, wheat, rice, maize and sugarcane. These major crops not only get attention of farmers due to more per acre yield as compared to pulses but due to better supply chain linkage, better and easier marketing as compared to pulses. Moreover, in our country input used on minor crops are much costly. Major encounters faced by pulses division in Pakistan are, lower output returns for their produce from pulses farmers are cultivating other crops for their better life, lack of modern-day technologies, middle men involvement, machinery ,delayed or early harvesting, improper method of sowing, early or delayed sowing, sowing of unregistered seeds, used varieties are susceptible to diseases and pest attack, lack of Government policies and interest and lack of research on pulses to increase productions. If these issues are focused our country can full fill local requirement of pulses and can create jobs opportunities where other crops cannot be produced.
Low area and per acre production under pulses in not meeting the demand of our country. Low local production compels imports of pulses and every proceeding year millions of dollars in increasing trend are spent on importing pulses. Pulses import which is about 0.6 metric tonnes each year and our country rely on Australia, Canada, United State, China Tanzania, Burma and Euthiopia to fulfil the local consumption requirement especially in Month of Ramadan as gram demand increases.
Successful pulses cultivation forces researchers and farmers for innovative farming practices, implementation of advance technologies and better marketing process. But due to high cost for installing advanced irrigation technologies (Drip or trickle irrigation, sprinkler irrigation etc.) for a poor farmer is not feasible and the small farmer is not in position to invest in marketing of their product. No doubt, installation of drip irrigation and cultivation of pulses with major crops simultaneously can doubled the production per unit area. But it is not possible on mega scale. Another opportunity to attract the farmer toward pulses cultivation is of using bio pesticides, that can cut down the expenses on production of pulses. But this prospect is still ignored in our country. Bio pesticides are bio chemical substance which are extracted from agricultural soils and agricultural plants which can be employed in pulses cultivation.
Under such circumstances like: low output prices of pulses produce, improper marketing of produce and spending more on import, higher authorities should seek ways to attract farmers to boost area as well as production of pulses like: development of diseases and pest resistant new varieties, subsidised modern irrigation technology availability and installation and provision of incentives to those farmers those grow more pulses.
Pulses feed humans as well as soil, as provides many nutritional benefits to human and many compounds that are excreted in soil that fed to soil microbes and ultimately benefit soil health. Crop rotation an important component of soil conservation is achieved though including pulse crop in rotation. Rotation of pulses with other crops provide better soil medium to grow healthy and pest resistant crop plants as diversity of soil microorganism ‘crowd out’ to bacteria and fungus that are disease – causing. Pulses fix atmospheric nitrogen in the soil though nodule formation, have positive affect on soil biology, boost microbial activity after harvesting the pulses. Pulses exude larger amount of amino acids than non-leguminous crops and chemical composition of pulses residue is also far batter then other crops for example, carbon/nitrogen ratio. Pulses exudates include number of different organic compounds that increase the diversity and number of soil microorganisms.
It is dire need of the time to grow pulses to increase farm output, improve life and nutrition of rural people, conserve soil and environment, reduced the nitrogen use, decrease non-renewable energy resources, boost cropping system sustainability and to lessen carbon foot prints.
This article is collectively authored by Muhammad Ishfaq*, Nadeem Akbar, Shakeel Ahmad Anjum, Saba Durrani
University of Agriculture, Faisalabad.