March 12, 2021 2:35:05 am
FARMERS IN Himachal Pradesh may soon start using locally developed seeds for growing their crops if a new initiative by the state agriculture department bears fruit. As part of a programme to promote natural farming in the state, the department has identified 12 seed multiplication farms and 130 farmer groups to start developing seed varieties using natural practices.
Currently in Himachal, the seeds used for growing foodgrains and vegetables are mainly sourced from outside the state. According to the state seed certification agency, the area under certified seed production in the state is less than one per cent of the total area under cultivation.
In 2019-20, nearly 77,000 metric tonnes of seeds were used for growing major food crops in the state, including more than 28,000 MT of high-yielding variety (HYV) seeds. More than 80 per cent of these HYV seeds came from outside the state, with the ratio being 100 per cent for maize, millets, barley, peas and vegetables. Potato was the only crop for which the entire amount of HYV seed used was produced within the state.
Around three years ago, the agriculture department began promoting among farmers a method of natural farming which involves nearly zero input costs as only the natural environment of a plant is used for its growth, development and health. The department claims that more than a lakh farmers in the state have adopted the method, called ‘Subhash Palekar Natural Farming’, in an area of around 5,000 hectares.
The seed production programme now launched is part of the same effort, officials said. In a workshop held earlier this week to discuss seed sourcing and multiplication by natural methods, Agriculture Minister Virender Kanwar said that Himachal is dependent on other states for quality seed. “But there are adaptability issues as we have different agro-climatic zones. So the need of the hour is to develop our own seed,” he said.
In the pilot project for seed production, which will be carried out in 12 farms and also by 130 farmer groups, an annual seed production of 333 MT cereals, 120 MT coarse cereals, 4 MT pseudo cereals and 239 MT pulses has been estimated by the department.
Agriculture officials are also hoping that the project will help revive some of the traditional crops in the state such as red rice and buckwheat (ogla and phafra).
In his budget speech last week, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur had said that the state government will start a new scheme this year to conserve and propagate seeds of local pahari pulses, traditional grains and off-season vegetables.
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