Agriculture Policy Briefing

India Must Learn From China; Use Its 25 M Neem Trees to Control Pests, Says Unido Adviser

India has 25 million neem trees but uses just five percent of their potential to kill pests. Together with other uses, as for instance, in cosmetics, about 17 percent of neem’s potential is extracted, says Y Ramdev,  technical advisor to Renpap-Unido (or the Regional Network on Pesticides for Asia and the Pacific of the United National Industrial Development Organization).

Ramdev says Unido has standardized the traditional usages of neem so it can be taken to farmers who cannot afford to pay cash for chemical pest killers. The organization has promoted neem-based pesticides in ten states including Punjab, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Kerala.

Ramdev says China was woken up to neem and has planted 22 million trees. It has a big project for production and promotion of neem-based products. In Myanmar, up to 40 percent of neem’s potential is being used, Ramdev said. Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia and 12 African countries have taken to the tree. In Thailand it has created a cottage industry.

Though Ramdev is not against chemical pesticides, he says consumers prefer to avoid them in fruits and vegetables and are prepared to pay premium prices for those that have been treated with botanical pesticides.

Farmers can grow the tree for own use. This will bring down their cost of production and make agriculture less taxing on the environment. Ramdev was speaking at a conference on agro-chemicals hosted by Ficci, an industry chamber, in Delhi.

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I Do Not Understand Bt Cotton technology; I Know It Works

Y Kallanagouda Patil, 46, of Uppinbetegeri village in Dharwad taluk  owns 52 acres jointly with his three brothers. He holds a diploma in agriculture from a school in Raichur. Patil grows cotton on ten acres, apart from sugarcane, potato, Bengal gram, jowar, tur,moong and vegetables. He uses groundwater to irrigate his fields. The water is drawn from a depth of 280 feet. Electricity is free so he flood irrigates the fields, except the one under banana  where he uses drip irrigation. He does not micro-irrigate cotton because it is closely planted and has to make way for another crop after eight months. This farmer has his cost all worked out. Making quick mental calculations, he estimates the cost of cotton crop at Rs 22,500 an acre and the realization from 17 quintals an acre at Rs 68,000. He had planted Bayer seed. ‘I do not understand technology, he says, all I know is if I use Bt seed there will be no

Pests Snack on Chilly But Not Cotton

F Basavaraj Rudagi, 48, did not grow cotton before 2008. This farmer from Saundhi village in Dharwad district’s Kundogol taluk made a partial switch to Bt cotton as chilly was susceptible to pest attack and yield was declining. From five acres in 2009, Rudagi had fifteen of a forty acre joint farm under cotton this year, when smartindianagriculture  caught up with him in February. He tried out Bayer in a change from Mahyco and Raasi seed. Rudagi says he got 11.5 quintals (100 kg) an acre from his rain-fed crop and at Rs 4,050 a quintal, his realization was a little over Rs 46,000. The cost, he says, is Rs 26,000 an acre, excluding rental earnings had he leased out the land. This does not mesh with the profit he claims he makes, but then he admits to not keeping crop-wise accounts. Rudagi also grows peanuts, coriander, gram, safflower and jowar. There is safety in diversity. And yes he plants pigeon pea or tur around the cotton crop for bollworms to feed on so they are not forced by the survival instinct to develop resistance to Bt protein.  In this sense he is quite a cut apart. Low cotton prices are worrying but what is the alternative?