Friday, April 6, 2012

Factors responsible for low production of horticulture crops in Garo Hills, Meghalaya:

Over the years, horticulture, which includes fruits, vegetables, spices, plantation crops, flowers and aromatic plants has assumed an important position in the food and nutrition security besides providing employment opportunities, sustainable income and increasing export opportunities both in rural and urban areas. In India, Agriculture contributes for 25 % of the national GDP and horticulture contributes 29.65 % of agriculture GDP and has proved beyond doubt its potentiality for gainful diversification. As a result, it has been receiving increased attention of the Government of India in respect of budget allocation, creating research and development infrastructure, training of manpower and even marketing support. Several initiatives taken by the Government and other stakeholders also have great impact on the development of Horticulture in terms of increased production, productivity and also availability of horticultural crops. One of the significant developments is that horticulture has moved from rural confined to commercial production, and this changing scenario has boost up the horticulture industry. This trend has been marked as “Golden Revolution” with India emerging as the second largest producer of fruits and vegetables and occupying first position in several horticultural crops. Production and export of flowers have increased manifold and the country has a major stake in global trade of spices and cashew nuts. Export of medicinal plants, fruits and vegetables have also exhibited rising trend. This sector thus has been moving dynamically and is in a crucial phase of development. In spite of the significant achievements, however, the potential is still enormous.
The North Eastern Region of India has been blessed with agro-climatic conditions naturally suited for wide variety of horticulture crops. It is the centre of origin of many horticulture crops species, has a wealth of orchid species and varieties and plenty of rare herbs. It is considered to be the center of origin of some species of mango, citrus, banana, beans, colocasia, ginger, orchids, yam, wild species of cucumber, brinjal, gourds and medicinal plants like Cymbopogon, Cinnamomurn, Aconitum, Embelica, etc. Various interventions in the sector have enabled to harness some of the existing potential in horticulture. The introduction of Technology Mission for Integrated Horticulture Development in North East region in 2002 and National Horticulture Mission has created awareness across the region which provided an insight for horticulture-led transformation utilizing the technology.
            The West Garo Hills district covers an area of 3714 Sq. Km. and lies on the western part of the state of Meghalaya. The district lies between the longitudes 90° 30' and 89° 40' East, and the latitudes of 26° and 25° 20' North. As per Census 2001, the district is home to 5, 18,390 people. West Garo Hills with a wide variety of agro-climatic conditions, soil and rainfall provide opportunities for growing varied range of Horticultural and plantation crops. The important fruit crops of the district are oranges, pineapple, litchi, banana, jackfruit and other citrus fruits. Important plantation crops are areca nut, cashew nut, coconut, tea, black pepper, bay leaf, betel leaf and rubber. Spices like ginger, turmeric, chilies, large cardamom and cinnamon are also grown; however, very few studies have been done to determine the suitable and high yielding cultivars of the important horticulture crops.

Though West Garo Hill has high potential for the development of horticultural crops, efforts have not been made to develop it as a commercial venture. Factors inhibiting horticultural development in the area are as follows:
  1. Poor cultivation practices and low yield
General neglect and non-adoption of scientific cultivation practices are the major constraints for poor return from most of the horticultural crops in this region. Thus despite conducive environment, the rate of production and growth of all horticultural crops are far below the all India average.
  1. Lack of desirable planting material
The disease free, true to type genuine planting material is lacking in a number of horticultural crops. It is imperative to produce disease free propagules.
  1. Identification of area specific major horticultural crops:
There is need to identify important horticultural crops for different areas of the region. The infrastructure facilities for commercial cultivation, marketing, export and processing / value addition for identified crop should be developed.
  1. Identification of suitable and high yielding cultivars of the major horticulture crops:
There is also need to identify the high yielding varieties and hybrids available in the country in selected crops suitable for the area.
  1. Conduction of on-farm trials / frontline demonstration (FLD):
The farmers of the region are not aware with the recent technologies of horticulture. Therefore, there is need to conduct demonstration / FLD as much as possible at farmers’ field in the identified crops to convince the farmers about the efficacy of measures in enhancing the productivity of identified crops. Apart from this the extension personnel should try to bring the maximum number of farmers to demonstration plots, organize farmers’ day, fair and yield competition, distribute leaflets / bulletins to the farmers.
  1. Strengthening of horticultural farms and nurseries:
The different horticultural farms and nurseries of the region which are meant for supply of disease free, healthy, true to type planting materials of fruits, vegetables and ornamental crops should be strengthened so as to meet the increasing demand for planting materials. The important rootstocks / mother tree stock should also be maintained at these horticultural farms/nurseries.
  1. Training to farmers/extension functionaries:
Non-availability of trained manpower is one of the major problems of the region, as horticulture requires highly skilled personnel for grafting, pruning and orchard management. The farmer as well as extension functionaries should be given training from time to time regarding recent advances in horticulture. The entrepreneurship should also be generated by providing training to entrepreneurs for overall development of horticulture.
            The above mentioned factors results the farmer of the area to produce lesser yields as compared to other fruit growing areas of India. With this background, it is proposed to study the performance of some varieties of fruit crops, so that, cultivars which are high yielding and suitable for the area can be identified as this would further the horticulture development of the area and bring higher yields and incomes to the farmers.

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