The adoption of agro-forestry practice can provide wood and food and can conserve and rehabilitate eco-system, said experts of the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) Department of Forestry and Natural Resources (FNR),on Wednesday. Intensive cultivation of rice-wheat is deteriorating soil health,lowering water table and causing high rate of environmental pollution. Farmers are using all means to achieve higher rate of production without caring about the long-term impacts of the indiscriminate use of pesticides and fertilizers,pointed out FNR Head Dr Avtar Singh.
However,there are some viable options for crop diversification through agro-forestry which include systematic growing of trees along with agriculture crops, he added.
PAU expert Dr RIS Gill disclosed,The total forest area in our country is only 23.8 per cent. Punjab has only 6.6 per cent area under forest against the requirement of minimum 20 per cent area. Thus,our country and state are quite deficit in forest cover. At the same time,demand for timber,fuel and other tree-based products is increasing day-by-day. Since about 83 per cent of the total area in Punjab is under crops,it is not possible to divert the fertile arable lands to forests as such. Only feasible alternative would be adoption of agro-forestry practice.
Another expert,Dr Baljit Singh,explained that all rabi and kharif crops can be grown successfully under poplar plantations during the first two years except paddy. Under proper cultural and management practices of poplar based agro-forestry system,an average 100 q of wood/ acre/ year can be produced which gives an annual income of Rs 80,000 to 1,00,000/ acre/ year,informed Dr Singh.
Plywood industries of this region use poplar as a raw material and this being the sole raw material is likely to have sustained demand and market,he added. Eucalyptus (safeda) is a versatile tree that can be grown almost anywhere. Under well-managed conditions,four year plantation of safeda can give an average of Rs 30,000/ acre/ year on the sale of wood as poles,noted Dr Singh.
Referring to Dek plantation,the PAU experts said that it is commonly planted on field boundaries. The cultivation of crops in between dek rows gives economic benefit to the farmers.
At present,the market price of dek wood is around Rs 600/q and it is extensively used in furniture framework. They informed that the farmers are getting on an average Rs 50,000/ acre/ year returns from a block plantation of Burma dek based agro-forestry system.
In their concluding remarks,the experts said that the planting of trees on farm lands will not only help to improve the ecological conditions of an area but will also improve the economic and social status of the farmers.