|2||Some Important Crops|
|3||The Blending of Crops|
|4||Lakeside and Riverside Plantations|
|Appendix: The Bengali Calendar|
During His lifetime, P.R. Sarkar made an immense contribution to a vast range of subjects including spirituality, ethics, literature, music, philology, psychology, science, socio-economic theory and philosophy. He also gave numerous talks on all aspects of farming from the end of 1987 until His Maháprayána or Great Departure on 21st October 1990.
P.R. Sarkar was especially keen that underdeveloped and developing countries should adopt a more scientific system of farming to increase their productivity and solve their food problems. To demonstrate His ideas, He established and built up Ánanda Nagar as a model farming project in the Purulia district of West Bengal, one of the poorest and most backward parts of India.
Ác. Asiimánanda Avt., a senior monk of Ananda Marga and an agricultural specialist, faithfully noted down many of P.R. Sarkars talks on farming. But tragically, he was brutally murdered by members of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) on 2nd April 1990 at Ánanda Nagar. Due to his untimely death, he was unable to personally oversee the publication of this book, the second part of P.R. Sarkars series called “Ideal Farming”.
We have made every effort to accurately compile P.R. Sarkars talks on farming as noted by Ác. Asiimánanda Avt. and present them to our readers.
Self-reliance is the main objective of our farming projects, hence they should be oriented towards production. They should not be dependent on outside resources. An integrated approach to farming should include such areas as agriculture, horticulture, floriculture, sericulture, lac culture, apiculture, dairy farming, animal husbandry, irrigation, pisciculture, pest control, the proper use of fertilizers, cottage industries, energy production, research centres and water conservation. This approach will help make farming projects self-reliant, and should be adopted.
Agriculture is the science of cultivating the soil and rearing animals. It includes the production of staple crops. Staple crops which are important in Bengal include pulses of many kinds, cereals, coarse grains, oil-seeds, sugar crops and vegetables.
Pulses provide protein and supplement manure as they fix nitrogen in the soil from the air, but calcium, phosphates, potash and so on still have to be added to pulse crops.
Cereals are rich in carbohydrates and include rice, wheat, maize, oats, barley and rye. Coarse grains include all types of millet, sorghum, barley, rye and buckwheat. Oil-seeds include mustard, soya, sesame, linseed, safflower and sunflower. It is most important to exchange seeds between India and the rest of the world. Sugar crops include sugar cane, sugar beet, date palm and palmyra. Spices include cloves, cumin, coriander, etc. Many types of medicinal plants can be grown in Bengal. At Ánanda Nagar many herbaria should be established.
In India many seasonal vegetables such as summer vegetables, winter vegetables and all-season vegetables are grown. The variety of vegetables that are produced should be increased. Onions and garlic are grown for sale to the public and for processing into medicines, but of course they are not beneficial for those doing spiritual practices.
Some other items include coffee, cocoa, tea and rubber. Tea gardens and rubber plantations can be grown for use by the local people and as cash crops. Cash crops will help to transform the local economy. If cash crops are grown by cooperatives, they can help raise the economic standard of poor local people in a short time.
In the case of yellow mustard, big lentils and wheat, there is a choice of early, medium and late varieties, but in the case of paddy there is no such choice. If the early, medium and late varieties of any crop are available for plantation, and sufficient time is at hand to choose any of them, then the early variety should be chosen first for plantation. Proper planning should be done so that the production of this crop is increased. In case the early variety fails, then the medium variety should be tried. If everything is done properly, the production of this variety will be almost equal to the early variety. If the medium variety also fails for some reason, then lastly the late variety should be tried. If the late variety is planted in the beginning of the season and fails for some reason, then there is no scope for cultivation and the season will be lost. Liquid manure should be applied along with the second irrigation after proper weeding.
Paddy is the staple food in northeastern India. In the boro variety of paddy, weeding should be done one month after transplantation, and then liquid manure should be applied. Care should be taken that the liquid manure is not poisonous, otherwise it will harm the pisciculture. Even rocky land can be made fit for cultivation after filling it up with good soil.
We should try our best to grow napier grass for cattle fodder on hillocks wherever possible. It is more difficult to grow napier grass on hills than on flat land because it takes a lot of water. Nevertheless we should try, in order to save the best crop land for other crops. Where there are railway lines which belong to the railway department going through agricultural land, cow pea, late áus paddy or black gram should be cultivated on both sides of the railway lines.
Whenever plants from frigid and temperate zones are transplanted into a warm or hot climate, they should be planted on high land, near stones and rocks if possible, so that at night they will be kept cool.
The fencing of all farm compounds except beauty spots may be utilized as a platform for spinach in spring and summer, and for beans in summer, the rainy season, autumn and winter. In the case of beauty spots, the fencing may be utilized as a platform for flower creepers.
Farming projects should also cultivate some selected items for special emergency survival. These include vegetables, pulses, potato and fodder for dairy cows to ensure milk production. All farming projects must start the production of these items immediately. They are the minimum items necessary for physical survival. These items will ensure your survival in any difficult times that may come in the future.
Fruit and vegetable gardens should be established on all farming projects. There are many varieties of fruit. Fruits can be utilized to make jams, marmalade, jellies, dried fruits, etc.
Floriculture is the cultivation of flowers. Jasmine, magnolia, roses and so on can be used to make essences which in turn can be used to produce many other products. Tube roses can be grown and sold throughout the world just as roses are today. Roses grow very well in red soil. Floral nectar can be collected from lotus and is very good for all kinds of eye diseases, including retinal detachment.
Honey can be prepared from the flowers of the lotus, lily, cornel and cotton tree. A huge amount of honey is available in the flowers of the lotus, lily and cotton tree. The lotus and lily also give floral nectar – nectar which is prepared by the flowers, not by the bees. This is a part of floriculture. Floral nectar should be produced from floriculture.
How can floral nectar be collected? It has to be collected with the help of a dropper or syringe. When I was young I used to eat the seeds of the lotus. In those days they were generally available throughout Burdwan. I also used to take floral nectar by licking the flower. From the honey and floral nectar of lotus and lily, many types of medicines can be made. If this honey and floral nectar is sold in the market, it will command a very high price. To extract floral nectar one has to employ the same method as doctors use to extract blood. This is because many ants and insects feed on floral nectar. A syringe can extract it without getting clogged up.
The stems of okra can be used for a special purpose. Suppose you have a pineapple field which is not producing both fruits and flowers. If the stems are burnt and scattered throughout the field, the fumes and smoke will help the pineapple to develop fruit and flowers at the same time. But one should be careful that the pineapple plant is not burnt. This process will produce both fruit and flowers very quickly.
The field of floriculture has been neglected very much. It should be developed. We can easily make rose scent and rose water from the rose garden at Ánanda Nagar.
Useful Products From Insects
In Bengal production based on insects has three main branches – sericulture, lac culture and apiculture.
The first is sericulture. There are two main varieties of silk in Bengal – mulberry and non-mulberry. Mulberry silkworms feed on mulberry leaves, and can produce two qualities of silk – fine quality (garad) and rough quality (matka). Non-mulberry silk includes muuṋgá, tasar and endy. In the muuṋgá variety the silkworms feed on drumsticks. In the tasar variety the worms feed on many plants such as sal [Shorea robusta Gaertn. f.], arjuna [Terminalia arjuna Bedd.], Indian plum [Zizyphus jujube Linn.], asan [Terminalia tomentosa Bedd.], Assamese swalu [Kadsura hetroclita], a bush which is mostly confined to Assam, and Indian rosewood (svet sal) [Dalbergia latifolia Roxb.]. In the endy variety the silkworms feed on castor leaves.
The mulberry silkworm is a domesticated variety of silkworm. Tasar is a naturally grown variety of silkworm. In this variety the cocoons are put on trees in order for the larvae to feed. Once the larvae have hatched the cocoons are collected from the trees. In tasar production the trees are kept to the manageable height of six feet, otherwise it would be impractical to collect the cocoons.
In domesticated silk production moths lay eggs, and then larvae hatch from the eggs, eat leaves, grow to their full size and finally spin a cocoon made of silk. The cocoons are usually dried in the sun or boiled to kill the larvae. As the larvae are in a state of natural hibernation, when they are killed in this way they do not feel pain. The silk cocoons are collected and spun into silk thread. Silk production is a profitable industry, and silk is an excellent clothing fibre. Some silk plants such as mulberry and Indian plum also produce fruit. Different crops can be grown around silk plants so that there is maximum utilization of agricultural land.
Non-grafted seedlings of mulberry give more foliage for silk production than grafted seedlings. Malda is a good source of mulberry. Mulberry seedlings should be planted in such a way that their shade does not fall on agricultural land.
The following should be grown between two mulberry plants:
1) Where the land is extremely rocky and there is no soil, soil should be brought from outside so that palm, Indian plum and custard-apple saplings, not seedlings, can be planted between two mulberry plants. Research should be done on the custard-apple and the Indian plum.
2) Where the land is extremely rocky but there are accumulations of soil between the rocks, thorny puneala plum (thorny paniala) [Flacourtia jangomas (Lour) Raeusch.] and custard-apple can be planted between two mulberry plants. Research should be done on the thorny puneala plum.
3) Where the land is less rocky, non-thorny puneala plum (non-thorny paniala) and custard-apple can be planted between two mulberry plants. Research should be done on the non-thorny puneala plum.
4) Where the land is a bit better than in number three above, date palm (khejur) and custard-apple saplings can be planted between two mulberry plants.
Custard-apple varieties from abroad should be brought to India as far as possible, especially the variety from the Philippines, which is a large variety. Sporting goods can be made from mulberry wood. Mulberry can be grown successfully in Ánanda Nagar.
Next is lac culture. Lacquer is produced by insects grown on trees such as palash [Butea frondosa Koenig-ex Roxb.], Indian plum and kusum [Schleichera trijuga Willd.]. Lac should not be grown on all Indian plum trees, otherwise fruit production will be affected. Lacquer may be used as protective varnish for furniture, etc.
In apiculture bees produce rectified honey and pure beeswax from a variety of flowers. The types of bees include wild bees like rock bees which cannot be tamed, and bush bees which can be tamed. Specially bred bees should be encouraged, but wild bees should not be prevented from entering our gardens. All bees, including wild bees, should be allowed in our gardens.
Bee boxes can be located near oil-seeds, flower gardens, neem trees, Indian olives and grapes. The honey in the bee boxes should be collected regularly. In Bengal the period of maximum flowering for these plants is March, April, May and June.
Floral nectar can be collected directly from some special flowers which naturally produce honey. More research on all kinds of floral honey should be done.
Dairy farming includes milk production from dairy cows, goats, sheep and buffaloes. Milk powder and dehydrated curd should also be produced. Animals are not to be sold for slaughter.
Irrigation is also an important aspect of farming. As a principle, subterranean water should not be used for irrigation purposes. Subterranean water should not be disturbed, otherwise the level of the water-table will drop, leading to an acute shortage of water. The best system is to collect surface water. The rainwater, even from light showers, should be collected where it falls. If the huge reserves of water under some deserts are harnessed, it may do more harm than good. It is always better to conserve surface water.
Water conservation, irrigation and afforestation are essential for desert reclamation. In the Thar Desert of India, a canal has been constructed to bring water from the Ganges to irrigate the land. The Ganga Nagar area has been reclaimed and is now producing large quantities of wheat. The canal can be extended even further into the desert. Conserving surface water is the best method of irrigation and is preferable to exploiting underground water reserves.
Ecologists claim that some deserts are essential for keeping the global ecology in a balanced state. The high day temperatures and the cold night temperatures that occur in desert regions create a useful effect. Because the air in the desert is dry, the hot air rises and creates a vacuum which sucks in other air, generating a chain reaction. Moist air comes in from the sea and causes rainfall. If deserts vanish entirely, the overall rainfall will be reduced.
Certain plants such as sirisha [Albizzia lebbeck benth.], shisu [Dalbergia sissoo Roxb.], Himalayan white oak [Quercus incana Roxb.] and ferns have the capacity to attract rain clouds. They also create a congenial environment for other plants.
Fish should be cultivated in lakes, dams and ponds because they help conserve and purify the water. Small fish can also be cultivated in the paddy fields during the rainy season. Fish are the natural food of birds, so they are an essential part of a balanced ecology.
In the rainy season in the last week of Shrávańa there is water in the paddy fields of Bengal. In these fields we should cultivate fish, but fishermen should not be allowed to catch these fish while the paddy is still growing. Harmful insecticides or pesticides should not be used in these fields because they will kill the fish and pollute the water system.
Alternative pesticides like neem paste pesticide should be used. If copper sulphate spray is used, care should be taken to use the minimum amount because it is harmful. Neem paste can be prepared from neem leaves. Before planting the paddy, during the last ploughing, neem oil cakes should be ploughed into the fields. In addition, neem paste pesticide with urea should be used whenever there is an attack of insects. Copper sulphate solution can also be mixed with urea.
Fish should not be the food of human beings, but the food of jackals, birds, foxes and other fish and crabs. If the paddy water drains into ponds, lakes or rivers, small fish will flourish and become the food of larger fish, birds and animals. In this way the farmers will be helping maintain ecological balance.
Some special medicines can be prepared for particular crops. For example, to kill the worms which attack cauliflower crops, soapy water mixed with a small amount of kerosene may be sprayed on the cauliflowers. Because the water is soapy the kerosene will easily wash off the cauliflowers and not be harmful to human beings.
Snakes will most likely be found wherever wax gourd is cultivated. To avoid this, iishanmula [Aristolochia indica Linn.] is used because snakes are afraid of its smell. Snakes are also afraid of any copper salt. Wherever there is copper salt snakes will not be found, as in Ghatshila and Maobhandar, near Tatanagar. Water kept in a bronze pot becomes antiseptic due to the copper in the bronze. Copper sulphate is poisonous for human beings.
In the distant past, large animals used to go to predetermined places to die. Wild elephants still have this habit. At such places, with the passage of time the bones of the animals became deposits of calcium sulphate and calcium carbonate. Wherever cretaceous animals lived in groups, limestone will be found. In Assam, for example, limestone and petroleum can be found. The fat of these huge animals became petroleum and the bones became limestone. In Ráŕh, in Jalda and Jaipur, limestone can also be found. Limestone can be used to manufacture good quality cement, and it helps make oranges sweet.
There are two types of fertilizers – organic and inorganic. When fertilizers are used, bacteria are also being used indirectly. These bacteria function in two ways – one positive and the other negative. When you utilize bio-fertilizer bacteria, that is, organic fertilizers, the function of the bacteria will only be positive. You should start practical research into positive microvita from the study of bio-fertilizers and their positive functions.
Among the organic fertilizers from animals, the urine and dung from sheep are the best manures. Sheep to be raised in Ráŕh can be acquired from Bengal, Jammu, Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Varieties from Australia can also be used. Materials for bio-gas include cow, buffalo and sheep dung, the dung of mammals kept in protected compounds, and the organic material from beauty spots. Water hyacinths are also a good raw material for producing bio-gas, but cow dung is best. The dung of hybrid animals is not as good as that of pure or natural breeds because hybrids are more prone to disease.
The best manure for green vegetables is rotten vegetables. Cow dung may also serve the same purpose. In the case of gourd, oil cakes and mustard cakes mixed equally with soil will increase production.
Once before I said that farmers need fertilizers for the maximum utilization of agricultural land. Animal fertilizers are insufficient – farmers need chemical fertilizers. However, it is noticeable that whenever chemical fertilizers are used intensively, the land becomes infertile and useless after some time. This is because chemical fertilizers destroy the vital energy of the land so that it becomes lifeless, just like cement. Intensive research should be conducted on how to use chemical fertilizers in agriculture without producing any ill effects on the land. In the system of individual farming it is not possible to escape the ill effects of chemical fertilizers.
The solution to this problem lies in the cooperative system. In the cooperative system there is great scope for agricultural research and development to discover new ways to better utilize and prolong the vitality of the land. The benefit of cooperatives is that they combine the wealth and resources of many individuals and harness them in a united way.
There was a time when farmers used to leave their land fallow for a year after several years of continuous cultivation, but this is not possible today. It is now necessary to adopt a system in which either chemical fertilizers that do not decrease soil fertility are used, or high yields are produced without using chemical fertilizers at all. I am optomistic that this will be achieved in the near future.
Various types of cottage industries should be established on master units,(1) subject to the availability of raw materials. Some types of cottage industries include the following:
1) The first stage of processing farm products of animal and insect origin, such as milk, wool, silk thread, lacquer, honey and wax.
2) Producing all types of farm products derived from plants, such as papad from pulse, beaten rice from rice, cereal flakes from different types of cereals, jams from fruits, etc.
3) Industrial products and herbal medicines of plant origin, such as essences, ayurvedic medicines and naturopathic remedies.
4) Medicines of non-plant origin, such as allopathic and biochemic medicines, as well as medical equipment such as pressure gauges.
5) Different fibres produced from plants, such as jute, cotton, linen, hemp, banana, pineapple, sisal, okra and basil.
6) Fibre products of non-plant origin, such as nylon, rayon, plastic and artificial silk.
7) Articles of mineral but non-metallic origin, such as calcium carbonate, calcium sulphate, calcium phosphate, conch shells, rubber and oyster shells.
8) Non-metallic products, such as soap, shampoo, liquid soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, detergent and nectar.
9) Metallic products from gold, aluminum, bronze, brass, zinc, etc., as well as tin articles, thermometers, crockery and utensils.
10) Iron materials and articles, such as steel, stainless steel, grinding machines, cement and fertilizers.
These are just a few examples of some of the items which can be produced. There are in fact many items which can be produced under each category. In poor areas, two or three simple industries can be started first, such as manufacturing briefcases, medicines or making flour with grinding machines. If cottage industries are properly established, poor local people will enjoy immediate economic benefits.
Energy which can be produced on a small scale includes solar energy, thermal power, bio-gas, hydroelectricity and pneumatic power. Solar energy for lights and water pumps can be produced from solar panels. Thermal power can be produced from coal and other fossil fuels. Bio-gas for generators, cooking, lighting and small generators can be produced from bio-mass waste. The bio-gas plant harnesses the gas generated by the decomposition of the bio-mass, which can then be collected and used for various purposes. Cow, buffalo and human excreta can be used in bio-gas plants.
The slurry is an excellent manure because it breaks down in about one week, whereas fresh manure takes up to six months. Slurry takes only three days to reach the roots of a plant compared to three months for normal manure. Slurry can nourish a plant within ten days, whereas normal cow dung takes up to nine months.
Small-scale hydroelectric plants can also be constructed in the right environment. For example, on the Daksina River at Ánanda Nagar a plant which can generate hydroelectricity can be constructed. It will be able to give power for up to nine months of the year.
Pneumatic power is one of the cheapest sources of energy for pumps and generators. It is very cheap because the costs include only the initial capital investment to construct the mill and the maintenance costs. It is ideal in windy locations.
Research centres should be developed on all large farming projects and master units. Although all types of research should be encouraged, first preference should be given to agriculture, second preference to biology (first preference to zoology and second preference to botany) and third preference to chemistry.
Agricultural research should be done on a wide range of subjects including seeds, fruits, flowers, silk, herbs, medicinal plants, summer vegetables, winter vegetables, all-season vegetables, spices, pulses and paddy. Some nuts and fruits such as walnut, chestnut, almond, persimmon, cherry, apricot, grape, fig, pistachio and Paraguay coconut should also be subjects of research.
Research centres can also be established for fibre plants such as jute, agave, hemp, okra, permanent and winter cotton, linseed, remi and pineapple. Oil-seeds such as melon, cucumber, linseed, sesame, safflower and mustard should also be thoroughly studied. New techniques for extracting more oil from oil-seeds and deodorizing the oil should be developed.
Take the example of okra. Edible oil can be extracted from okra seeds. This oil does not have a high fat content. The stem is low in calories. The fibre of the plant can be used to make cloth. The remaining part of the plant can be used for fodder and fertilizer. Okra is grown above the soil, so it can be grown with a tuber crop to get two crops at a time – one above and one below the ground. The stick of the okra, that is, the stem, can be used in the plastic industry, and can also be used in the paper industry to produce ordinary quality paper. It can also be used as a fuel. Match sticks cannot be made from the wood of okra because the wood is too weak. Okra takes only forty days to grow and it consumes little irrigation water.
Better techniques to increase production should also be developed. For example, in the case of pulses, the leaves and stems of the plants may be plucked often and used as vegetables. This induces more shoots to grow and increases production, but it should be stopped one month before flowering is to occur. Orange tomato, apple tomato and grape tomato were developed in India by Satya Banerjee.
Crops requiring shade include such plants as ginger, turmeric, betel leaf, sweet potato, sweet juice potato and elephantum potato. Plants useful in making scents include the rai bel, matia bel and mogra bel varieties of bel phul [Jasminum sambac Ait.], jui phul [Jasminum sambae], chameli [Jasminum grandiflorum Linn.], bukul [Minisapes elangi], kamini [Murraya paniculata Linn. Jack.], lavender and oleander fragrances.
Paper can be made from bamboo, bamboo leaves, safia grass, soft wood, sugar cane waste and maize waste. Good paper can be manufactured from hoop pine [Araucaria cunninghamii D. Don.].
All sweet seeds should be sown after proper sprouting, otherwise ants will eat them up. Radish seeds should always be brought from at least three miles away from the field where they are to be grown, otherwise they will be prone to disease. To produce seeds for sunflowers, varieties which produce more seeds should be used; for ginger, varieties which have sprouts; for peanuts, the Gujarat variety, the Andhra Pradesh variety or the Tamil Nadu variety; and for paddy, the late boro variety.
There should be a seed production centre at Ánanda Nagar or Ánanda Shiila where the climate is very cold. In the plains of India, good seeds cannot be produced. The best places for producing sugar beet seeds are the Garhwal Himalayas of Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and the Kashmir Valley. We should try to produce seeds at Ánanda Nagar or at Calcutta in a green house. Ánanda Nagar jágrti is the highest point in central Ánanda Nagar, so the seeds of broccoli, sugar beet and cabbage should be grown there.
Herbs and medicinal plants should be given special importance. Some plants are very useful in helping cure mental disorders. For example, brahmi sag [Herpestis monniera H. B. & K.] increases memory power and is good for the brain. Bottle gourd (lau) [Lagenaria vulgaris Seringe] is good for the mentally disturbed. Bhringaraj [Wedelia calendulacea Less.] oil can be used to treat the insane. Tulsi nishanda or oil extracted from basil seeds can be used to treat madness. Other plants are useful in treating physical disorders. For example, kalmegh [Andrographis paniculata Nees.] or cirota, which is dried kalmegh, prevents malaria. Cinchona is a source of quinine. Phaniphal [Trapa bispinosa Roxb.] is good for stomach and intestinal disorders.
There are six categories of hills – small mounds, demi-hillocks, small hillocks, hillocks, hills and mountains. The land near sources of water such as wells and barrages should be utilized by growing varieties of sag or green leafy vegetables, mint (pudina) and Indian pennywort (thankuni) [Hydrocotyle asiatica Linn.].
Creepers to be grown in protected areas include the gach pán variety of betel leaf and long pepper (pepul) [Piper longum Linn.] climbing on alternate red oaks; black pepper (golmarich) [Piper nigrum Linn.] climbing on silver oaks and green oaks; choi [Piper chaba Hunter.] climbing on coconut plants; and other creeping or climbing medicinal plants such as harjura [Cissus quadrangularis Linn.] and iishanmula [Aristolochia indica Linn.] growing on different palms. Such climbers should not be grown on roadside palms. They should be grown only in protected areas.
The Solar Calendar
The Bengali months are solar months, and they take into account the seasons. The Hindi months are lunar months so cultivation cannot be done according to the Hindi calendar.
The Gregorian calendar is also a solar calendar, but it is not adjusted. For example, when the arc is starting it is the fourteenth of April, which is the middle of the month, but if it were properly adjusted it would be in the beginning of the month.
Generally the solar year is 365 days and the lunar year is 355 days. Therefore, every three years the lunar year advances by one month.
The Bengali calendar is followed in West Bengal, Bangladesh, Tripura, Assam, Orissa, the Bengali speaking areas of Bihar, and Chotanagpur. It is also followed for cultivation in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Jammu, Kashmir, the Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Tibet, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan.
When both the sun and the moon are in Pisces, and clouds form in the sky and it rains, this is called hathiya in Bihar. This combination is considered excellent for agriculture because the yield of the crops will increase tremendously.
Some plants are sun affected and others are moon affected. Basil is moon affected. In moon affected herbs the effect increases on the full moon. Sun affected and moon affected plants should be grown in separate areas.
Detailed research needs to be done to make all calendars more accurate. This will make farming more scientific and increase productivity.
Special Features of Farming Projects
All integrated farming projects and master units should endeavour to include some special features such as a wheat grinding machine to produce flour, a bakery to produce bread, a cheap seed distribution centre (sulabha biija vitarańa kendra), a free plant distribution centre, sericulture, a bio-gas plant to utilize the waste of dairy cows, solar energy, apiculture and a school and childrens home.
A cheap seed distribution centre should collect good quality seeds and sell them at cheap rates. Seeds may be purchased from local farmers at the end of each harvest, or purchased at cheap rates in the market, or cultivated, but the centre should provide good quality seeds at cheap rates to the local people.
A free plant distribution centre should grow plants from seeds and seedlings for free distribution to local people. The following system should be used to prepare plants for distribution. The seedlings should be grown until they are one and a half feet tall. The plants should then be uprooted and their roots soaked in water for half an hour. Next, the main root of each plant should be cut off one inch below the base of the plant, and the remaining roots should again be soaked in water for ten minutes. The plants should then be planted in a field or packed for distribution. Plants which are prepared in this way will produce large, sweet fruits. The fruits will be better than those produced from seedlings, but not as good as those produced from grafted plants.
(1) Master units are model rural multi-purpose development centres. The primary requisites of an ideal master unit correspond to the provision of the minimum requirements of food, clothing, housing, education and medical treatment in PROUT. They will expand all possible services, particularly in the fields of education, culture, economics and spiritual upliftment. –Eds.
Agriculture is one of the oldest sciences known to civilization, and directly affects every human being. The knowledge of different crops, their utilization, growing requirements, etc. have been passed down and improved upon from generation to generation. Without this knowledge, human beings would have been dependent on the irregular food supply of nature, just like animals. So learning how to grow certain crops has been an essential requirement for human development, and a significant feature of social progress.
Human beings have acquired some knowledge of a variety of crops, but many plants still have unknown and so far unutilized potential. So human beings should expand their knowledge of all kinds of plants, and develop new and better methods of increasing crop yields.
Some important crops which are grown in Bengal are discussed below, and include: oil seeds, pulses, fibre crops, cereals, vegetables, sugar crops, fruits, nuts, tea, coffee, cocoa, coarse grains, spices, medicinal plants, flowers, trees, etc.
Many plants have seeds which can be used to produce oil. The oil extracted from the seeds of some of these plants is used to produce thickened oil, margarine and other products for human consumption. The oil can also be burnt as a fuel; used to make cosmetics, shoe polish, furniture wax, medicines, hair oil, etc.; or refined for industrial purposes and used as machine oil, etc. The skin of some oil seeds, like groundnut, can also be removed to make flour to produce bread. Many products can be made from oil seeds.
It must be remembered that some oil seeds, particularly groundnut, soybean and linseed, consume a lot of fatty substances from the soil, so oil cakes must be applied as manure when planting oil seeds. The method for this is as follows. First, the cake should be made into powder and mixed with soil, then it should be mixed with water and formed into mounds in the field. If it is to be used at a later date, at that time water should be added to the mixture of powder and soil and then it should be applied to the field. Sunflower and sesame consume an ordinary amount of fatty substances.
Some of the better known oil seeds are:
Peanut (Ciná Bádám)
The peanut grows under the ground and is one of the oldest food crops known. The word peanut is used in Queens English, but in common English, groundnut is used. In recent history, other uses have been found for the humble peanut and its oil, most notably by the scientist George Washington Carver. Peanut is able to grow in less fertile soil throughout the year, and not much water is required for its cultivation. It is a three and a half month crop, contains a lot of protein and has much food value. It is an important food in the diets of many poor people because it is fairly easy to grow and highly nutritious. And it is a regular item in the diets of many not so poor people as well because it is tasty.
From the peanut we get peanut milk, peanut oil, peanut butter, peanut cheese, peanut casein (cháná) and rasagolla. The oil is often used in deep frying, and because it is quite heavy, it can be easily thickened. The thickened oil can be made into margarine. Peanut oil cake may be used both as manure and as animal fodder. If the red skin of the peanut is removed before pressing to extract the oil, then it can be used as a substitute for flour to make bread.
The method for sowing peanut is as follows. The shell is removed, but the red skin is left intact, then the peanut is soaked in water. When it has sprouted, it should be planted on the hills or mounds of the field.
Ground sesame seeds, or sesame butter or tahini, is a popular food item throughout the Middle East. The small seeds are a common item in cooking, particularly as a topping for bread. Sesame seeds are highly nutritious and contain vitamins which are difficult to get from other vegetarian sources. Sesame oil can be used for cooking and has many other uses as well. Scented oils may be made by adding floral essences.
Sesame should be sown during Phálguna. It has three varieties:
There are three seasons for growing sesame – summer, rainy season and winter. Sesame can be grown as a mixed crop with groundnut because groundnut is a tuber crop, while sesame bears fruit above the ground. The two can be sown together on the mounds of the fields. Another name for sesame is mungrail.
Linseed is both an oil crop and a fibre crop. The oil is produced from the seeds and the fibre is produced from the stalk. Unprocessed linseed oil is not fit for human consumption because it is not good for the stomach. But after hydrogenisation and deodourisation, it can be made into a refined oil (dalda) which can be eaten. Linseed oil has some medical value, particularly as a liniment, and it also has other uses. However, it takes a lot of fatty substances out of the soil, and whenever it is planted, oil cakes must be applied as manure. After linseed is harvested, dhaiṋca (Sesbania bispinosa) must be planted as a green manure. The dhaiṋca should be grown for two months and then ploughed into the field to restore the soil and make it ready for the next crop. Linseed can also be grown with soybean as a mixed crop.
Mustard (Sarse, Sariśá, Olerasi Family)
There are three varieties of mustard:
Rái may be sown as a “pigeon crop”(1) along with paddy in the month of Áshvina. Yellow mustard and red mustard can be sown as mixed crops with wheat, but they are not sown as “pigeon crops” because they require regular cultivation.
Mustard leaves are similar to radish leaves. However, all varieties of mustard have yellow flowers while radish has white flowers. The green leaves of yellow mustard (sarśe shák) should not be eaten because although they are tasty, they are acidic.
Mustard oil is pungent. The seeds are ground to make a spicy condiment or used directly in cooking. Mustard oil is widely used as a cooking oil in India. It has some medicinal value and other uses as well.
Cotton is well known for its fluffy, white balls of fibre, but cotton seed is an important source of oil. Cotogen is produced from refined cottonseed oil, and the oil cakes are used as cattle feed. The seeds are roasted and eaten as a snack, but this snack is harmful for pregnant women and pregnant animals. In particular, the oil cake should not be given to pregnant animals as it may cause an abortion. Cotton is not difficult to grow.
After the seeds are removed from the balls, the fibre is spun into thread which is used to produce all kinds of textile goods. Until recently, when artificial fibres began to replace cotton and other natural fibres, cotton was the most widely used fibre for textiles.
There are two main varieties of cotton:
There are also various types of tree cotton. The most notable is the silk cotton tree (simul), which can also be used to make honey. Tree cotton (deva kusum or Gossypium arboreum) is the best cotton variety. The seeds of tree cotton and three month cotton were first brought to India from Egypt. Tree cotton was previously cultivated in Burdwan and Bankura. Three month cotton is grown in the Punjab, Gujarat and Maharashtra, and the growing season is from November to February. If the soil is good, three year cotton can be planted.
Sarguja is often grown in tribal areas. The plants are small and it is a winter crop which even grows on poor, stony soil. The oil has a distinctive smell, but it can be made fit for consumption after decolourisation and deodourisation.
The method of sowing sargujá is as follows. The seeds should be soaked overnight in water and then sown between two groundnuts. In the irrigation canal or furrow between the rows of the field (the nala), sprouted soybean should be sown.
Castor (Erańd́a, Ŕeŕi, Ricinus Communis)
There are two varieties of castor:
Good silk worms can be grown on the leaves of both varieties. Non-mulberry andy silk is produced, which is used to make shawls (chadar), shirts and pants (Punjabi kurta and pajyama) and other clothing. Aside from silk production, castor can be used to produce many products. The green leaves can be used as a fodder for animals. The oil can be processed and has many uses ranging from rectified hair oil to machine oil. The oil also has medicinal value.
The crop rotation for castor is the same as that for cow pea (aŕahar), except that sesame and soybean should not be sown in the month of Phálguna. Green gram (śát́há moog) should be sown one month after harvesting castor.
Karamchá (Karanjá, Carissa Caranda)
Karamchá oil was produced in 2´ Parganas 50 years ago for burning lamps. The burning oil gives off much smoke. Boot polish and kajal for children are made from the soot of the burnt oil. (Kajal is the black substance which is applied under childrens eyes in India to protect them from the glare of the sun.) The fruit of karamchá is made into a type of pickle. Karamchá is used as a hedge plant.
Indian Olive (Mahuá, Mahul)
Indian olive is similar to the Occidental or European olive, but they are not the same. It is an important tree, and a source of both oil and sugar. The sugar is produced from the flowers and the oil is produced from the fruit. The oil can be used as vegetable oil or thickened and processed into margarine. In Ánanda Nagar and Ánanda Shiila, Indian olive grows abundantly.
Soybean (Glycine max.)
The soybean has long been used as a major food item in the Orient, where methods for processing soybean into numerous food and non-food products have been well-developed. For example, there one finds soy milk, soy cheese (tofu), numerous imitation meat products, and many other products made of soybean and its by-products. In the Occident, however, the soybean has been used mainly as animal fodder until recently. Now its versatility is being recognized and it is becoming more popular. The oil can be used for cooking, thickened into margarine or used in other ways. Soybean can be sown with peanut in the irrigation furrows of a field, and sesame or sargujá on the mounds. It is a bit sweet, therefore it should be planted after sprouting, otherwise ants will eat it up.
Sunflower (Súryamukhi, Helianthus Annuus)
The sunflower is known widely for its large sun-loving flowers which make it a good roadside plant. It is also known for its tasty seeds which can be eaten raw, roasted, ground into butter or in a number of other ways. The seeds supply a lot of oil and are a good energy food.
There are two varieties of sunflower:
It is usually the large variety which is used for oil production. The oil of sunflower can be used for cooking and other purposes as well.
Sunflower is an 80-90 day crop in North India, and in South India it is a 65-70 day crop. It can be grown throughout the year. When sunflower is crushed without separating the husk from the seed, a blackish cake is produced which is used as a cattle feed. If it is crushed after the husk has been removed, the cake is white and fit for human consumption. In the large variety, there is a removable skin on the seed. If this skin is removed before pressing the seed to extract the oil, it can be used to make flour for baking bread.
Sunflower can grow on very poor soil. Research should be undertaken to improve the following:
Coconut has many uses. The water is very good to drink and the flesh can be eaten. The tender green coconut is called “d́áb” in Bengal. The hard inner shell and the outer husk can be used for a variety of purposes, including the preparation of medicines. Coconut oil becomes solid in cool climates. It is used in cooking and is well known as a hair and body oil. Oil cake can be made from coconut oil, which is also used in preparing bread. Coconut is most suited to South India and will not be as successful in Ánanda Nagar.
Other Oil Seeds
Rice bran can be pressed for oil and the remainder can be used to make cement. Olive and ladys finger can also be used to produce oil. Safflower (kusum flower) seeds can be used to produce a less popular but good quality light oil which can be taken by those who must avoid heavy fats. In fact, most seeds contain oil of varying types and uses. Melon and cucumber (sosa) seeds may be used for oil extraction, but they are not commercially viable. Radish seeds are larger than mustard seeds and they provide a pungent oil somewhat like mustard seed oil. Radish oil cake makes a good manure, but radish oil is not widely used. Even onion seeds can be used to produce an oil which has medicinal value. Research should be done on the uncommon oil seeds in order to increase their utility.
Pulses are a valuable source of protein, and indispensable in the vegetarian diet. Most pulses are high in protein but have varying degrees of fat. They are easier to digest than casein, but less substantial. They are more important as a food than cereals, and in emergency conditions, pulses are more essential for health. Some pulses are also used for oil production.
For farming, pulses are important as nitrogen fixers. The roots of all pulses should be left in the soil for some time after the harvest so that they can perform this function. This is one reason why they make excellent blended crops with plants like cereals, which do not fix nitrogen in the soil.
Pulse in Saḿskrta is “dvidal,” and in Hindi and Bengali, “dál.” In Urdu all pulses are called “dalahan.”
There are many common pulses which include:
Green Gram (Śát́há Moog)
Green gram is known as “mudga” in Saḿskrta, “muga” in Bengali, and “moog” in Hindi. Mudga giri means “a hill like moog,” hence the name Munghyr.
There are three varieties of green gram:
The most substantial of these is horse gram, but the variety which is the most sweet scenting and palatable is golden gram. The best quality golden gram is grown in the Nadia district of Bengal. Golden gram is a two month crop, thus five to six crops can be harvested per annum, with some rest period for the land. In the Ánanda Nagar area, both golden gram and tapioca may be cultivated. They make a good combination in khicuri (rice, pulse and vegetables cooked together) for mass feeding.
There were formerly many seasonal green grams, but nowadays two main varieties, 60 day green gram (śát́há moog) and rainy season green gram, are grown. The period for rainy season gram is during the months of Aśádha, Shrávańa and Bhádra. The production and growth of rainy season gram is ordinary. 60 day green gram grows throughout India, as does golden gram. Green gram grows best in half sandy (demi-sandy) alluvial soil. It grows well throughout the year, except in the rainy season, and requires less water than áus paddy. One special rule for harvesting green gram is that the pods should be plucked singularly, one by one. Children may help pluck the pods, which should be plucked before they have completely dried.
Black Gram (Biri Kalái)
Black gram is known as “mash kalai” in Saḿskrta, “biri” or “beuli” in Bengali, “mash” in Nepali, “mah” or “mash” in Punjabi (the bigger variant is known as “rajmah” or “raj mash”), “ureda” in Hindi and “wid” in West Bihar. Black gram is the most nutritious of the pulses and may be eaten regularly, but it should be avoided if ones stomach is not in order.
Gram is difficult to digest, but it gives immediate energy and no reserve energy. Cow pea gives reserve energy but is more difficult to digest than gram. Black gram is called “mash kalai” or “thakuri kalai” in North Bengal. Green gram is more palatable but less nutritious than black gram.
The best seasons to grow black gram are the rainy season and autumn, for the five months from Ashadra to Kárttika. High, rain fed, alluvial or laterite soil is the best soil for growing black gram. Black gram grows in the western and northern districts of West Bengal, certain parts of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and the Punjab. As a pulse, it is very substantial. Bará, bari, dahi bará and pápad are all prepared from this pulse. The creepers may be used as animal fodder. They may be cut at intervals of 45 days, except one month before the flowering date. Pruning should cease one month before flowering. Since black gram flowers in the month of Áshvina, pruning should be stopped in Bhádra, otherwise there will be less flowering and fruiting. After pruning there will be a profuse growth of the branches and sub- branches. It may also be grown as a blended crop. Associated crops that may be grown with black gram are turmeric, sugar cane, shák (green leafy vegetables), brinjal, raw chilli (green chilli) and radish.
The Urdu name “khesári” comes from the Saḿskrta word “khesara.” In Tripuri khesári is known as “triputi,” in standard Bengali and Hindi as “khesári,” in Ráŕhi Bangla and Assamese as “tewada,” and in the villages of Burdwan as “tewada.” Khesári may be produced as a “pigeon crop” along with paddy without tilling the land, or it may be grown afresh in the month of Áshvina when watery clay remains in the paddy field. During the paddy harvesting period, the upper portions of the khesári should be cut off, and as a result new shoots and offshoots will grow. Khesári takes four months to mature and may be grown as a single winter crop after tilling the land.
Khesári contains certain poisonous alkaloids in the pulse and the leaves which may cause paralysis in the lower part of the body in both human beings and animals. Children are more likely to contract this disease than others. So, khesári should not be eaten. Some people are of the opinion that if khesári is kept in hot water during the night and removed from the water in the morning, and then properly rubbed, it will be cleansed of the poison. If a new, non-poisonous khesári variety could be developed, then it may be used as food. Unless this is done, it is not advisable to eat khesári, even though it is very rich in protein.
Peas (Kalái, Mat́ar)
Peas are called “kalai” in Saḿskrta, “matar” or “kalai” in Bengali and “kerao” by the inhabitants of Bihar. Peas are a very substantial and nutritious food, but if they are eaten excessively they may cause skin disease.
There are two varieties:
The small variety is called “t́hikre matar” in Bengali. This black pea may be grown as a “pigeon crop” in the paddy field, like khesári. It may also be used as a single crop by tilling the land and growing it as a winter crop, or as a blended crop along with wheat in a ratio of 9:1 wheat to peas.
The big white variety will produce a winter crop, but the land must be tilled properly. Peas take four months to mature, that is, almost the same amount of time as khesári. The leaf of the pea has more potassium than the green gram leaves (cholá shák), but less than caladium. It is also a laxative.
Bengal Gram (Cáná, Cholá)
Bengal gram is known as “canak” or “buntik” in Saḿskrta, “cáná” in Hindi, “cholá” in Persian, Urdu and standard Bengali, “rahimá” in Bhojpuri and “but” in Bihar and Ráŕhi Bangla.
There are three varieties of Bengal gram:
The black variety of Bengal gram has substantial food value and is the most tasty. The plants are small and the yield is low. It is grown as a “pigeon crop” with paddy, just like khesári, black pea (t́hikre mat́ar) and pea, if the soil is dry after harvesting the áman crop. If it is grown as a “pigeon crop”, it should be sown by the 10th of Agraháyańa at the latest, otherwise boro paddy should be planted. Black Bengal gram takes five months to mature, from Kárttika to Phálguna. Black gram can also be sown as a “pigeon crop” for research.
The pink variety is produced as a winter crop after the land has been tilled. It also takes five months to mature.
The all white Bengal gram is all white, and bigger, less tasty, less substantial and less productive than the other varieties, but it is a good money earner. It is also produced as a winter crop after tilling the land.
Gram has good nutritional value but it is hard to digest. Gram gives immediate energy, but not much reserve energy. Horses are often fed gram because it is easy to soak. As long as the gram is in their stomachs, they can work, but when it is digested they must be fed again.
When the gram crop is one month old, its leaves and stems should be picked for use as green vegetables (shák). This induces side offshoots so that there is more flowering and fruiting. But the practice of plucking the leaves and stems should be stopped one month before flowering. For example, if flowering occurs on the 1st of Paoś, then plucking should be stopped from the 1st of Agraháyańa. This rule applies to all the pulses.
One property of gram leaves is that they are rich in calcium. During teething, children often suffer from diarrhoea because all the calcium in their diet goes into teeth formation. In the rainy season also, children sometimes suffer from diarrhoea because the rainwater does not contain many minerals. If a child develops diarrhoea and becomes emaciated due to lack of calcium, gram leaves will restore his or her health. The leaves should be ground into a liquid, which will turn red, and this juice should be taken. Also, if a nursing mother dies, the baby can be fed boiled gram leaves as a substitute for mothers milk. This will prevent the health of the baby deteriorating.
Gram husk makes a good cattle feed. Milk giving animals relish gram husk mixed with mustard oil cake (sarśe khal).
In Saḿskrta the word for lentil is “masuri,” in Hindi it is “masoor,” in Bihar it is called “masoori” and in Bengali it is called “masoor” or “masoori.”
There are two varieties:
The small variety may be cultivated as a “pigeon crop” along with paddy in the month of October. The large variety may be cultivated along with wheat, as a winter crop, after the land has been tilled. Lentil leaves have no special qualities although they are sentient. Lentils are to be treated as a static food and must not be eaten by sannyasis. They may be eaten in the daytime by householders (grhis), but they must not be eaten in the night by anybody because at night they ferment easily.
Cow Pea (Árahar)
The Saḿskrta name for cow pea is “kandul tandul.” In Midnapur it is called “gach kalai.” In North Bengal it is known as “alry” in colloquial Bengali. Cow pea is a substantial food crop because it supplies a lot of energy to both human beings and animals, although it is a bit hard to digest. Cow pea provides a lot of reserve energy, whereas gram gives immediate energy. Cow pea is even more difficult to digest than gram. Horses are not fed cow pea as it is hard to soak.
There are two recognized varieties:
The season for both the varieties is in the month of Aśádha. It may be produced with the áus paddy in the month of Aśádha, and after the harvest of the áus crop it stands alone in the field because it takes nine months to mature. During this period, a second associate crop should be grown. It is best if this second crop is a tuber crop.
The junior variety becomes fit for harvesting in the month of Mágha. The senior variety is harvested in the month of Caetra, and has greater food value than the junior variety. The plants may be utilized to produce fuel, as fencing or for constructing temporary sheds.
The roots of all pulses, including cow pea, should remain in the ground for some days after the harvesting is finished because nitrogenous compounds are produced in the roots, and these help increase the soil productivity after rain. A new variety of cow pea which can be harvested in the month of Agraháyańa should be developed. If this is done, then the cultivation of this variety should be encouraged. The soil at Ánanda Nagar is good for growing cow pea.
This bean is most conveniently used as a pulse (dál) along with its special nutritive value of fat. Also, as a protein it is about 250% richer than casein. Soybean is an all-season crop and takes about 90-100 days to mature. It may be cropped along with peanut, linseed, sesame or jute. The cultivation of soybeans should be encouraged at Ánanda Nagar and the surrounding areas because the people there are very poor. Soybeans will help meet their nutritional requirements. It requires two watering periods and soil that is somewhat fertile. Compost (patta pache sárá) will suffice as fertilizer.
Bengal gram and siima, two varieties of pulse grown in Bengal, are equivalent to each other in food value, but soybean has 2.5 times more food value than either of them.
Barbat́i beans are also a very nutritious and substantial food, and can be eaten either as a vegetable or as a pulse. In Bengal barbat́i beans are called “barbat́i” as a vegetable and “hanuman karai” as a pulse. They are richer in food value than many other pulses. Barbat́i beans are grown as rainy season and autumn seasons crops. Unlike many other beans, which are pre- winter and winter season crops, they require some water, and more water than the other pulses. Other pulses require water twice in the season, while barbat́i beans and wheat have to be watered three times.
Many different kinds of plants are grown as fibre crops. The fibres themselves vary in their consistency. Some fibres may be rough and are used for making mats, baskets, string, rope, etc., while others may be fine and are used for making clothing, etc.
Some of the more common fibre crops are:
The fibre from these crops is collected from the stem of the plant. In the case of pineapple, the fibre is processed from the leaves. As a general rule, only jute should be soaked in water to extract the fibre. Other fibre crops should be buried under the ground to seperate the fibre from the plant.
Linseed (Tisi, Mosne, Chikaná)
Linseed is utilized by extracting oil from the seed and fibres from the stalk. The Irish discovered the process of extracting the fibres from the stalk, and called the smooth cloth that was produced “linen.” It was discovered that if the stalk was allowed to rot a bit, the fibres could be separated and made into a fine thread. The straw is also used as cattle fodder.
In Ráŕhi Bangla, linseed is known as “mosne,” and in Magahi, it is known as “chikaná.” Linseed is a four month crop and is grown only in winter. It requires much manure, and can be grown as a mixed crop with soybean. Both linseed and soybean take a lot out of the soil, so it is mandatory to use oil cake manure when growing these crops. After growing linseed, dhaiṋca (Sesbania bispinosa) must be grown for two months and then ploughed into the field to help the soil recover.
Jute requires a lot of rainfall, but it cannot tolerate waterlogging. For this reason, it does well on the slopes of Assam. In this respect it is similar to tea.
In the month of Vaeshákha, the soil is tilled and the jute seeds are sown in a seed bed. In the month of Aśádha, the áus variety of paddy is sown, and along with it the transplanted jute seedlings should be grown. In the month of Shravańa, both jute and áus paddy are harvested. The harvested jute is soaked in water for a few days to make it ready for processing. When fully processed, the fibres are separated from the stalk and sent for marketing.
After the jute has been harvested, the land can be used for autumn maize, a 60 day crop. Along with this, radish and soybean may also be sown. After harvesting the maize and soybean, radish is harvested and the land utilized for winter crops such as wheat, winter vegetables, etc. At the end of winter, linseed can be harvested for fibre and the seeds used for oil. Radish seeds can also be used to produce oil. After this, dhaiṋca should be sown to restore the fertility of the soil, because linseed depletes the soil. Dhaiṋca should be ploughed into the land, and in the month of Vaeshákha, jute and áus paddy should again be sown. This is the rotation for a one year fibre crop.
There are two main varieties of jute:
Tiitá pát is better for fibre production, but the leaves of miit́ha pát are also useful as a leafy vegetable (miit́ha pát shák).
The seasonal period of jute of inferior quality (mestá pát) is the same as that for hemp and flax. The fruit of mestá pát, kudrum, is a red colour, and the bark is yellow. Mestá pát is not actually jute, but it is often called jute.
Pineapple is another tropical fruit crop known more for its juicy sweet fruit than for its fibre. The fibre is processed from the leaves of the pineapple. In the Philippines, pineapple cloth is used to make many products including tablecloths and clothing. Medicines can also be prepared from its leaves.
There are two varieties according to leaf type:
However, there are three varieties of pineapple according to the season:
The West Indies variety comes from the West Indies, and the East Indies variety comes from the area of Singapore, Malaysia, and Oceania. Both varieties provide fibre for commercial use, but the East Indies variety produces better fibre.
Where the land is alkaline, nothing will grow except pineapple. If all the conditions for growing pineapple have been properly met, but the plants will still not produce fruit, they should be surrounded by sawdust smoke for half an hour at a time for three days.
Ladys Finger (Okra, Bhińd́i, Dhenŕash)
Ladys finger or okra is a popular all-season vegetable, but it is largelù unknown as a fibre crop. The original home of the ladys finger was Africa. The fruit looks like the finger of a lady, hence the English name. It was first introduced into India in the Bhind district of Madhya Pradesh, so it is also called “bhindi.” In Bihar it is known as “ram taroi,” and in Bengali, “dhenrash.” Ladys finger should not be fried because frying destroys its food value.
To separate the fibre from the plant, cover the green stalk with soil for three weeks. Fine dhutis or traditional Indian mens garments and other clothing can be made from the fibres.
The mature plant is about four to five feet tall. The seeds contain 5% oil. If this proportion can be increased to 10% through research, ladys finger can be used to produce commercial edible oil. Ladys finger is already known as a vegetable, but if it can be developed as a fibre crop and oil seed as well, it will become extremely useful.
There are two varieties of ladys finger:
To prepare the ladys finger seeds for sprouting, put the seeds in warm, not boiling water, and after the water temperature has returned to normal, soak the seeds for 2´ hours. The seeds should then be sown.
Agave (Sisal, Agave americana)
Agave requires only 20 inches of annual rainfall, which makes it very useful in dry climates. It originated in East Africa. In Bengal the plants can be acquired from Birbhum district.
Agave is a succulent, similar to cactus. A thick stalk grows from the ground and on this stalk the flowers appear. The fibre is removed from the stalk and is used for making rope. The best soil for growing agave in Bengal is in the Mámud Bazaar Thanar block of Birbhum district. There it has been grown successfully.
Agave makes a good roadside plant and is the prescribed plant for filling the gaps between other roadside and riverside plants in Ánanda Nagar. It has the capacity to help check soil erosion. So, it should be planted in areas where there is the danger of soil loss through erosion, especially along the banks of rivers.
Banana trees are known more for their fruits than for their fibre. Both the fruit and the flower can be eaten, and when the tree is young the inner trunk can be taken as a vegetable as well. The leaves are used for plates or for wrapping food. Sodium carbonate may be obtained from the banana tree by burning the trunk into ash, and sodium bicarbonate may be obtained by boiling the ash until the water evaporates. There are numerous products which can be made from the banana tree. The fibre is obtained from the trunk of the tree. The greater the size of a tree, the greater the quantity of fibre, but the same rule does not necessarily apply for the quantity of fruit produced by the banana tree. Not more than two offshoot saplings should be allowed to grow from one banana tree. The extra shoots should be cut. There are many varieties of banana.
Other Fibre Crops
Hemp (ganja, Cannabis indica) is still grown for fibre although there is some restriction on its production due to its use as a narcotic. Previously, the West Bengal government grew Cannabis indica in Nogong, but now it is grown in Bankura. It is not necessary for us to grow narcotic plants for research. Rather, this should be done by the government.
Mat stick is a grass of the paddy group which is used for making mats. It is called “mádur” in Bengali. Mat making using mat stick is a large cottage industry in Midnapur. Mat stick is grown in Midnapur and Lontai.
Bichali, especially the Patna variety, is used for making ropes, and the seeds are used as animal fodder. Safia grass is used for making baskets and paper, notably in Saheb Ganj.
Paper crops are related to fibre crops. There are many plants which can be used to produce paper, such as eucalyptus, bamboo, bamboo leaves and sugar cane waste. Bamboo can be used to make everything from paper and furniture to fences and even houses. Paper, pitchboard and cardboard can also be made from bamboo, and oil paper can be made from both bamboo and maize.
Cereals are the staple food of human beings. Cereals vary in their type, nutritional value and use. In many languages the words for food are synonymous with the words for rice or wheat, which signifies the importance of these crops to the people. Rice is an older crop than wheat.
Cereals can be divide into two sections – cereals and grasses.
Some important cereals include:
Some grass seeds include:
There are other edible grass seeds grown in India, but they have little food value. On the border of coarse grains crops like millet, it is good to grow hing (asafoetida) and lemongrass. Rye is an oat group course cereal which is grown in cold countries.
Rice is one of the most important staple foods in the world, and is eaten by millions of people every day. In these places, the size of the rice harvest is often taken as an indication of the standard of living of the people. There are many uses for rice and its by-products. Oil can be made from rice bran; cement can be made from de-oiled rice bran; margarine can be made from the oil of rice bran after thickening; biscuits can be made from the waste of milled rice; rice starch can be dehydrated for household and industrial use; alcohol can be made from rice; etc.
There are many varieties of rice – there are many domesticated varieties and many wild varieties. The major seasonal varieties grown in India are: áus paddy, which is an early variety; áman paddy, which is an autumn or pre-winter variety; and boro paddy, which is a summer variety. These crops take four months or approximately 120 days to mature.
The straw also has some utility value according to the season:
Rice requires suitable soil and climatic conditions. The soil must be clay soil, and four tillings are necessary. The right amount of water as per the season must also be present. For boro paddy, there should always be one inch of water in the field until flowering starts; for áman paddy, there should always be nine inches of water in the field; and for áus paddy, the soil should always be wet. If these conditions are not met, the crop may fail and people may go hungry.
The traditional method of planting involves a rotation of these three varieties. Usually, it also involves the sowing of at least one “pigeon crop”. The “pigeon crop” is sown after the rice has already grown and is standing in the field. The soil is not tilled. The “pigeon crop”, which is usually a pulse like cow pea (aŕahar) or an oil seed like mustard (rái variety), is simply thrown into the field and comes up on its own. When the rice is harvested, the tops of the “pigeon crop” are also cut. This increases the yield of the “pigeon crop”, which continues to grow in the field until it reaches maturity.
If the production of rice can be increased by a better method, it will be a great benefit to the people of rice growing countries. Ánanda Nagar is demonstrating a new system of rice production whereby four rice crops can be reaped per year instead of one, two or three crops.
With the system of four crops per year, there is no time for the “pigeon crops” because the field is constantly engaged in rice production. However, mixed crops can be grown. Mixed crops such as radish, big onion (big piaz), small hot onion (small piaz), and small sweet onion (sachi piaz) may be sown at the time of paddy transplantation. There cannot be mixed crops with áman because there is too much water in the field. Mixed crops grow best with boro paddy.
The system of growing four rice crops in a year requires that the rice seedlings are kept in a nursery for the first month to six weeks of their growth, because each rice crop takes four months to mature. Traditionally, the seeds are sown in a small plot at random, then transplanted in a more systematic manner. With the new system, the seeds should be grown in a nursery for the first month, and then transplanted in the field. The seedlings should always be transplanted after one month, or one and a half months at the most in some rare cases. If the seedlings are kept in the nursery for a longer period, the production will decline. Thus, in the two and a half to three months of their main growth period, the transplanted rice seedlings will remain in the field, and the best paddy land will be utilized for the main period of rice production. The four rice crops which can best be grown with this system are áus, áman, early boro and late boro. The production of these crops varies – áman produces the maximum amount of rice, boro a medium amount and áus the minimum.
Áus remains in the field for the period of late Vaeshákha, Jyaeśt́ha, Aśádha and the first half of Shrávańa. Áus should be used as a transplanted crop, not as a sown crop. Plant early áus seedlings in the month of Caetra, and late áus seedlings in the month of Aśádha. Áus paddy does not require waterlogging the field. Along with the áus paddy seedlings, radish seedlings can also be planted. The radish seedlings should be 15 days old when they are planted.
Áman remains in the field for the period of late Shrávańa, Bhádra, Áshvina and the first half of Kárttika. Áman paddy requires waterlogging. As the water level rises, the plant grows taller, but the tip should always remain above the water or the plant will die. If the water is higher than four inches, the plant will be healthy but the crop will be poor. Áman paddy requires profuse watering and water accumulation. No mixed crop can be planted with áman. At this time the big onion seeds are not ready and small onion cannot be planted as it is too small and will go under water. Thus, no mixed crops should be sown along with áman paddy, but pisciculture can be practised.
Early boro remains in the field for the period of late Kárttika, Agraháyańa, Paoś and early Mágha. In the early boro field, big onions can be transplanted (sprouted chachi piaú of the preceding period). Big onion is planted with early boro and small sweet onion (sachi piaz) is planted with late boro. Special care should be taken to obtain a big onion type which is a winter crop, as it requires less water. The big onion variety can be planted in the early boro field, but care should be taken that the top of the big onion plant always remains above the water. 60 day green gram (śát́há moog) can also be grown with late boro, as gram does not need much water. The green gram may be grown as a “pigeon crop” in the second two months of the transplanted áus, field, the second two months of the transplanted early boro field, and the second two months of the transplanted late boro field. If irrigation water is not available after the áman crop, instead of the boro crop, a “pigeon crop” can be grown.
Late boro remains in the field for the period of late Mágha, Phálguna, Caetra and early Vaeshákha. If there is a sufficient supply of irrigation water available, only boro and no pigeon crop should be cultivated after the áman paddy. Otherwise, the field should be engaged for pulse cultivation. Along with late boro, onion may be transplanted in the same field for three months. Small sweet onion (sachi piaz) takes four to five months to grow and should be cultivated in the nursery for the first one or two months before being transplanted. Onions need water (and are 67% water themselves), so they may also be harvested in the month of Vaeshákha along with the late boro. The Saḿskrta word for onion is “sukarkanda,” in Hindi it is “piaz,” and in Bengali, “pianz.”
With late boro, instead of moog, onions may be planted. Bangladesh and the Arab countries are good markets for onions. Seeds from big onions are used for producing small onion (chachi piaz), and the kalik or onion tubers from small onion are used for producing big onions. If big onions are to be harvested for marketing, then the stalk should be twisted down while it is green and about to flower. If this is done, the onion will attain its maximum size. In mid-Vaeshákha, when the boro paddy and onion are to be harvested, harvest the rice. If the stalk of the onion is also cut down at this time it is better. After that, dig out the onion bulbs, then prepare the field for transplantation in mid-Vaeshákha for áus paddy. And so the cycle continues.
With paddy, only the rái variety of mustard and yellow mustard can be grown, not red mustard. Yellow mustard can only be grown as a mixed crop, not as a “pigeon crop”.
To apply liquid manure to paddy, wait until one month after transplantation. At this time, weeding should also be done. The liquid manure should be applied after the weeding, and should always be non-poisonous so that it does not affect pisciculture.
Rice seeds of good quality should be collected from Korea, Japan, mainland China and Thailand. Nunia paddy seeds from North Bengal are the best variety of paddy, but their production is very low. The finest and most sweet scented plants are small. Research should be done to increase their yield.
Another staple food eaten by many people is wheat. Wheat is a more recent discovery than rice. Early wheat varieties grow in Kárttika, Badra, Agraháyańa and Caetra. The prescribed period for sowing wheat is Kárttika, Agraháyańa, or up to the 7th of Paoś, that is, not beyond the 21st of December. Late wheat varieties grow in Agraháyańa, Paoś and Vaeshákha. Wheat can be grown together with poppy (ordinary or opium varieties) and mustard. In England, wheat and poppy are commonly sown together. If, in the month of Phálguna, easterly winds blow, the ripening will be delayed. Wheat cannot be transplanted and is a winter crop, a sown crop. For mixed cropping grow lentil, pea, khesári and poppy (both ordinary and opium) along with it. If these mixed crops occupy 10% of the field, they will not hamper wheat production. Rather, the production may increase because the mixed crops fix nitrogen in the soil. Wheat requires at least three watering periods during the sowing season.
Barley grows on less fertile land.
Maize is an all-season crop which matures in 50-90 days, depending on the variety. The rajendra variety matures in 50-52 days, but has no taste.
Oats are a winter crop which can grow in land that is not very fertile and requires little watering. They have a lot of food value but are not very tasty.
Rye has some characteristics similar to those of oats. It requires extremely chilly weather in order to grow properly.
Millet is a summer crop which may also be grown in winter.
Most grasses take 60-80 days to mature. They have little nutritional value and are used by poor people to fill their bellies.
There are numerous grass seeds grown for this purpose in India:
Many crops also provide good fodder for animals. Some of these crops, such as sweet potatoes and black gram, can be pruned regularly, thus encouraging more growth and providing more animal fodder. In addition, some crops need to be grown exclusively for animal fodder. One of the best grasses to encourage milk production in cows is napier grass (Pennisetum purpureum). Wherever possible, this grass should be grown on the top of hillocks and hills to conserve the best farm land for other crops. This may be a bit difficult because napier grass needs a lot of water, but the attempt should be made.
Vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals, so they are a very important component in the human diet. People can be healthy without eating rice or bread, but they cannot remain healthy if they go without vegetables. Even though many vegetables require specific conditions to grow well, they are so important that they should be eaten regularly. Without them, human beings will be prone to nutritional problems and disease.
In the emergency food programme given for all integrated farming projects, vegetables are one of the four items, and potatoes are another. The other two items are pulses and animal fodder for milk producing animals. Potatoes contain carbohydrate, and in an emergency can be eaten as a substitute for cereals.
Vegetables have a variety of uses. They can be eaten raw, cooked, dried, pickled, etc. Vegetables such as sweet potato or sugar beet can be used for producing sugar; others such as ladys finger can be used for producing clothing fibre; and still others such as radish, ladys finger, etc. can be used for producing oil.
Vegetables usually have seasonal varieties. For example, common winter vegetables include cauliflower, cabbage, sugar beet, big onion, tomato, brinjal, lettuce, greens, carrot, etc.; common summer vegetables include the summer varieties of pumpkin, cucumber, brinjal, drumstick, gourd, etc.; while all-season vegetables include pumpkin, cucumber, drumstick and different varieties of gourd.
For the sake of convenience, however, vegetables can also be divided into groups which have common characteristics or requirements. For example, there are creeping vegetables, creeping tuber vegetables and non-creeping tuber vegetables besides winter vegetables, summer vegetables, all-season vegetables, etc.
There are many creeping vegetables. The best organic fertilizer for creeping vegetables is animal compost, and the cheapest animal compost is cow dung. The cow dung should be dried and used after it is three months old, otherwise insects will breed in it. Fish meal is a good fertilizer for growing gourd.
Creeping vegetables include:
Pumpkin, cucumber and watermelon seeds may be used as an alternative to nuts. Cucumber and watermelon seeds have little value as oil seeds. The white portion inside the skin of the watermelon may be used as a substitute for flour or maize, but it too has very little food value.
Bottle Gourd (Láu)
Bottle gourd is an all-season creeping vegetable.
The varieties include:
Intermittent plants such as wax gourd should be grown between two bottle gourd plants. The wax gourd cuttings should be planted in Aśádha, Shravańa, Bhadra and Áshvina, but some special varieties should be planted from Aśádha to Mágha. Wax gourd is an all-season creeping vegetable. Bottle gourd must be grown with a platform from Ashvin to Mágha. Creeping vegetables planted in Aśádha usually give fruit by the 15th of Shrávańa, those planted in Bhadra give fruit from Ashvin to Mágha, while those planted in Mágha give fruit by the 15 Phalgan to the first week of Aśádha.
Long bottle gourd is very tasty, but ghoti láu is the most productive. All varieties of bottle gourd are good for the stomach and can be taken by those suffering from stomach problems or constipation.
Pumpkin is known by the botanical name “pumpkin indica”. It is called “kaura” in Bihar, “ralekha kumŕá” in Ranchi, “chál kumŕá” in Bengali, “sachi kumŕá” in Calcutta, and “petha,” which refers to both the fruit and the seeds, in Hindi. It is also called “chum kumŕá” by Muslims. Pumpkin sweet is known as “murraba” in Bengali when it is made from chal kumŕá.
Most varieties of pumpkin have little food value. Pumpkin aids digestion, is good for the kidneys and neutralises intoxication. If pumpkin is prepared with mustard seeds, its food value will be utilized to the maximum. Many preparations, such as bhaji, charchari, pumpkin flour and basin pakora, can be prepared from pumpkin. The pumpkin flower can also be eaten. Pumpkin seeds can be cooked and taken as a snack, eaten with puffed rice (moori), safflower (kusum) seeds, etc.
There are three edible parts of the pumpkin:
There are various varieties of pumpkin. For example, ghumo kumŕá is a large variety, while chachi or chal kumŕá is a small variety. There are three seasonal varieties of chal kumŕá:
The farmers of Shewra Phuli cut a small hole the size of a hand in the side of each pumpkin at a particular stage of maturity after the seeds have formed, and scoop out all the seeds. The piece of pumpkin that was cut out is then replaced. Through this process the size of the fruit becomes very large, and ghumo kumŕá will become even larger. Information on the exact stage at which this process is to be done should be gathered from the farmers. Good pumpkin seeds can also be acquired from Shewra Phuli.
Pumpkin is a three month crop. The plant grows for up to 40 days, and after 40-45 days it stops growing and starts bearing fruit. So, pumpkin starts bearing fruit after approximately one and a half months and continues to do so for the next one and a half months. The fruit matures fully after the plant dries up.
Research should be done to see if it is possible to cultivate pumpkin from cuttings, like wax gourd. If this research is successful, it will signify a new development in agriculture. But such research should be done very carefully, because unlike wax gourd cuttings, pumpkin plants are very watery.
Cucumber is an all-season vegetable which should be grown in sandy alluvial soil. It will not grow well in clay soil. Cucumber is grown successfully in Hoogly and Nadia districts.
There are two varieties of cucumber according to the season:
Cucumber is related to the melon group, particularly watermelon and musk melon. Their agricultural needs and growing habits are very similar. Water melon and cucumber can grow in sand, but they need alluvial soil for sprouting. All-season cucumber (baramasiya) is grown in Faridpur in Bangladesh. Cucumber is also similar to ladys finger.
The white portion of musk melon and cucumber can be made into flour. In cucumber, the entire pulp is white. Cucumber seeds may be used to produce oil, but not on a commercial basis. They may also be eaten, but have very little food value. The dried seeds are mixed with cháná chura, a popular Indian snack.
Bitter Gourd (Karela)
Bitter gourd, named after its extremely bitter taste, is often eaten fried, but it has more nutritional and medicinal value if it is boiled or steamed. It is known mainly as a blood purifier.
To prepare bitter gourd seeds for sprouting, put the seeds in warm water, not boiling water, and after the water temperature has retuned to normal, soak the seeds for 72 hours. The seeds should then be sown.
Wax Gourd (Pat́ol)
Wax gourd is also called squat gourd in English, “pat́ol” or “pat́ol laja” in Saḿskrta and “potol” in Bengali. In Calcutta the plant is also called “patal”. In Magahi the white variety is called “patal” and the green variety “parval;” in Maithili, “paror;” in Bhojpuri, “parura” or “parora;” and in Hindi, “parval”.
Wax gourd originated in East India, in the Ganga basin in Saheb Ganj, Maldha, Nadia and Rajmahal. It belongs to the Indica group. 4000 years ago farmers developed wax gourd by crossing telekocho, a type of rhizome, with khundri, a variety of gourd. The Saḿskrta names for telekocho are “bimba” and “magchi,” and in Bhojpuri it is called “pilkandi”. New varieties of wax gourd may be developed by crossing kundri and telekocho with wax gourd, or wax gourd with bottle gourd. Crossing the male wax gourd and the female khundri will make an even better variety. Telekocho is a good medicine for diabetes, while khundri is good for digestion.
Wax gourd leaves have a bitter taste, but the fruit is sweet. The leaves purify the blood and are a good medicine for insomnia and the liver. The wax gourd leaves can be dehydrated to make a powder, and the vegetable itself can also be dehydrated. Plants grown from the seeds produced by the vegetable bear very small fruits. Such fruits may be sweet or bitter, but the fruits grown from grafted plants are always sweet. For cultivation, only grafted plants should be used. In fact, all varieties of wax gourd have bitter leaves.
There are several varieties of wax gourd grown in Bengal and Bihar and include:
Wax gourd can be grown during any season, but its best planting period is between Aśádha and Mágha. It is good for many diseases and has some food value as well. If wax gourd is grown in a field where betel leaf (baruj pán) is grown, its medicinal value will be increased. Betel leaf requires half light and half shade. Wax gourd may be grown in sandy soil like melons, but the sandy alluvial soil is recommended.
When planting wax gourd cuttings, follow the same procedure as watermelons and musk melons. A pit one and a half feet deep should be dug in sandy alluvial soil and filled with a mixture of compost and soil in equal proportions, then the cutting should be planted. The cuttings should be prepared so that each cutting has two intact nodes, one at the base and the other at the top. Each cutting should be planted so that it is slanting with respect to the ground, and the lower node should not be covered by soil. After the wax gourd cutting is planted, it requires shade and proper watering in all seasons for the first five to six days while the new leaves appear. Within 7-15 days, a green sprout will appear on the upper node. After that it does not need much care. The plant starts flowering after one month. In the evenings the flowers bloom all at once at 11:30 p.m. sharp. When the size of the fruit starts becoming small, the old plants should be removed and replaced by new cuttings. Good cuttings are available in Burdwan, Ranaghat, Beldanga, Monghyr, Farakka, Rajmahal and Saheb Ganj. Wax gourd grows well if subterranean water is available, otherwise the fields will have to be irrigated.
Wax gourd is mostly grown along the banks of the Churni river in Ranaghat, but it may be planted along the banks of the rivers in Purulia district. Snakes congregate wherever wax gourd is cultivated extensively. To avoid this iishanmula should be grown because snakes are afraid of its smell. Serpents are also afraid of any copper salt, so they will not be found wherever there are deposits of this salt, as in Ghatshila and Mohabhandur (near Tata Nagar). Copper sulphate is poisonous for human beings.
CREEPING TUBER VEGETABLES
Vegetables which require direct sunlight should not be planted with creeping tubers because the creepers will cover the other plants. For example, cauliflower needs direct sunlight, so it should not be planted with creepers.
Creeping tuber vegetables include:
Sweet juice potato and sweet potato are also sugar crops and are discussed in that section.
Elephantum Potato (Khámálu)
Elephantum potato is a three year crop. It has more food value than sugar beet, but it takes longer to grow. It should be pruned every 45 days, and the offcuts fed to farm animals. The land may also be suitably used for cultivating bamboo, cane, banana, papaya, etc. As this variety of potato is a climber, it can use these plants for the purpose of ascending.
NON-CREEPING TUBER VEGETABLES
Non-creeping tuber crops include:
All tuber crops should be harvested only after the stalk dries up. If the stalks of tubers are allowed to grow freely, the plants will bear flowers and seeds, but the tubers may disappear. The stalks of onion tubers should be twisted down before harvesting.
Potato is one of the most common vegetable crops and is a staple food in many countries. It is high in carbohydrate, contains many vitamins and is very satisfying. In emergency conditions it can be eaten instead of rice. Potato is especially beneficial when little land is available for cultivation and many people must be fed economically. It can be steamed, boiled, baked, fried and prepared in a number of other ways. Potato chips, for example, are a popular snack. The black skinned and milk white potato can be dehydrated.
There are three main varieties of potato grown in India:
The white and black skinned potato grows well in cold climates. There are good varieties of potato grown in various countries which should be brought to India for cultivation.
The schedule for planting potatoes is:
To avoid pests, potato fields should be prepared with mustard oil cake or castor cake manure. Acidic (ták) manure is not good for potato, while hybrid animal manure is not as good as the dung of pure bred animals because hybrids are more prone to disease. Cow dung is the best manure.
Like other tubers, potatoes should be harvested only after the stalk has completely dried up. Potatoes which are harvested before the stalk has dried are called “satha” or 60 day potatoes. They shrink and lose weight. Seeds cannot be grown from 60 day potatoes, and the young plant perishes quickly.
Tubers in the anthurium group have a lot of nutritional value, but they require three years to grow.
Tubers in the caladium group are three month crops and their nutritional value varies. In Bengal, many varieties of caladium root crops are available, while some varieties are available in the Silli area of Ranchi, the Kathua area of Burdwan and the Teliamura area of Tripura.
Elephant Root (Elephant Foot Yam, Amorphophallus Campanulatus)
Elephant root, also known as “ol” or “telegu potato,” is a nutritious non-creeping tuber. It has more food value than sugar beet, but it takes longer to grow. It is similar to potato and it is eaten in much the same way. Dehydrated powder is also prepared from it. Elephant root has many varieties such as water kacu, kamal bhoga kacu, muci kacu, etc.
Winter vegetables include:
Research should be done on winter vegetable such as cauliflower, cabbage, sugar beet and carrot to see if they can be grown all year round. Several types of vegetables, such as pumpkin and drumstick, have winter varieties.
Cauliflower is very popular in India and can be eaten fried, boiled, steamed, raw, deep fired with batter (pakora), etc. Cauliflower can also be dehydrated and preserved.
Cauliflower needs direct sunlight to grow properly. It should not be planted with creeping vegetables such as sweet potato because they will cover the cauliflower and hide it from the sunlight. The early variety of cauliflower, the aghani variety, which is grown on the plains of Bengal, should be grown all over Ánanda Nagar throughout the year.
Cabbage can be produced cheaply and is usually sold at a low price, which is one reason why it is popular. It is served fried, boiled, steamed, raw, etc. It can be dehydrated or pickled and preserved, thus it is common in cold countries during winter. In Germany, sauerkraut is make from cabbage. The early variety of cabbage, the early December variety, which is grown on the plains of Bengal, should be grown at Anandanagar throughout the year. The karamakala variety of cabbage does not require much direct light, and can be planted with creeping tubers like sweet potatoes.
Sugar beet is a three year winter crop. Research should be done to develop varieties which can be grown three time a year. Sugar beet produces large amounts of sugar, so if three crops can be grown in a year, sugar production will be greatly increased. Seeds can be easily grown from sugar beet where the temperature is zero to ten degrees Celsius. The best sugar beet seeds are cultivated in Europe, but effort should also be made to develop them in the coldest part of Ánanda Nagar.
The stalk of the onion plant should be twisted down to enable the onion to grow to its maximum size. If the stalks of the onions are allowed to grow freely, the seeds that are produced can be used to grow small sweet onions (sachi piaz) which can only be used as seeds. The same applies to ginger.
Tomatoes are very nutritious, but they are also valued for their taste. They can be eaten cooked, raw, dried, pureed, etc. and are a welcome addition to nearly any dish. When tomatoes are cooked the skin should be removed because it is indigestible. It may cause problems if it is not expelled from the body and lodges in the intestines. The skin can be removed by dropping the tomato into boiling water and then quickly removing it. The skin will then peel off easily.
Brinjal (Eggplant, Begun)
The most common varieties of brinjal are violet in colour with a thin skin and a spongy white inner pulp. Brinjal has little nutritional value, but it stimulates the digestive juices. It can be served fried, boiled, steamed, roasted and even raw, with or without the skin. It is a well-known vegetable in many countries.
There are two types of brinjal and many varieties. The two main types are:
Thorny brinjal is of medium size. Non-thorny brinjal is harvested in three different sizes – small, medium and large. Brinjal is a three year crop. The first year will produce a good yield, the second year a medium yield, and the third year a very low yield. It is better to remove the old plants after the first or second year and grow new plants.
Brinjal takes three months to mature and has three growing seasons:
Summer brinjal usually has a violet colour and a round shape. It is known as “mahada begum” in Bengali, “bhote” in Bhojpuri and as “adi” in Maethilii. The fruit is quite palatable when fried. Seedlings of summer brinjal should be transplanted in the month of Phálguna, that is, just after winter. The fruits appear after two months in the month of Vaeshákha. Winter brinjal is very big and is called “Benaras brinjal”. It is to be sown in the rainy season. White brinjal is a summer crop, but it is a static food. Thorny brinjal is more palatable. Long brinjal is called “brhati,” and small round brinjal is called “varttaki”.
Lettuce is popular in occidental countries, but is relatively new to India, where only early and late lettuce are grown.
Broccoli is a winter season vegetable which has some similarity with cabbage. However, while only one cabbage will grow from one plant, two or three broccolis will grow from one plant. European broccoli is the best quality. Though it is a winter season vegetable, it can still grow in the Calcutta climate, but will not produce seeds. So seeds should be brought from Europe and cultivated in the coldest part of Ánanda Nagar.
The procedure for growing broccoli is as follows. In the first week of Kárttika the field should be ploughed four time by tractor. Dried cow dung which is at least three months and upto one year old or organic compost should be applied to the field as fertilizer. Then the field should be ploughed three more time by tractor. The broccoli seeds should be planted in rows which are 20 inches apart, while the space between each seed in a row should be 10 inches. After the seeds have been planted they should be watered, and thereafter, they should be watered regularly at 10 day intervals. In the last week of December, in the month of Paoś, the crop will be ready for harvesting.
Healthy broccoli plants five to six feet tall can be grown in Calcutta, but they will not produce seeds. Research should be done to develop varieties which will produce seeds in the warm climate of Bengal.
Carrot grows very well in the fertile land on either side of the Ganges, and is a very rich food. To cultivate carrot, the field should be ploughed four times by tractor in the month of Áshvina. Dried cow dung or organic compost should be used as fertilizer. The seeds should be soaked in water for twelve hours and then properly dried before they are sown in the field. The crop can be harvested in the last week of Paoś or the first week of Mágha. Carrot is like broccoli in that it will grow in the warm weather of Calcutta, but will not produce seeds. So research should be done to develop varieties which will produce seeds in warm climates.
There are various green leafy vegetables called shák in Bengali, including lal shák (tampala or Amaranthus tricolor, L.), pui (spinach), palak shák or palang shák (beetroot, Beta vulgaris), summer shák (known as “Gandhari tandularak” in Saḿskrta), etc. Green leafy vegetables contain many vitamins and minerals, but are most important as a rich source of chlorophyll. Summer shák grows very well wherever rice water is thrown onto the soil. Other varieties of shák should be sown wherever there is enough water, such as beside water pumps, to utilize the water and every inch of land.
Some common summer vegetables include:
Pumpkin, cucumber and gourd are creeping vegetables, while gourd and pumpkin are also all-season vegetables with summer season varieties. These three vegetables are discussed in the section on creeping vegetables. Brinjal is primarily a winter vegetable although it has a summer season variety and is discussed in the section on winter vegetables. Drumstick is an all-season vegetable which has both summer season and winter season varieties, and it is discussed in the section on all- season vegetables.
All-season vegetables include:
Many varieties of gourd, pumpkin and cucumber are creeping vegetables as well as all-season vegetables, and are discussed in the section on creeping vegetables. Ladys finger is also a fibre crop and is discussed in that section.
There is very little food value in pumpkin, but chal kumŕá has much food value. It is very good for the stomach and for stomach diseases.
The pods of this vegetable are shaped like drumsticks, hence the name “drumstick”. Drumstick is called “muuṋgá” in the Scythian language, which means “that which grows fast”. The Scythians came to India just after the Aryans. The non-Brahmins of Maharastra and Madya Pradesh who are short with a dark complexion are of Scythian origin. The Brahmins of Maharastra are tall and have a fair complexion. “Muuṋgá” is the Scythian word for drumstick, and “muuṋgi” is the Scythian word for ants which go on moving continuously.
The bark, juice and oil of drumstick is a good medicine for skin disease. The oil is also good for kidney problems. If drumstick is eaten in spring and winter, people will not contract pox. The stem is beneficial for the gums. Lozenges can be made from the gum of drumstick, like the gum of the babul. The taste of drumstick gum is hot and spicy, so the flavour should be rectified before making lozenges. Drumstick is a suitable host for silk worms. Caterpillars feed on the plant, and when the cocoons have formed, they are to be removed from the tree. Silk thread is spun from the cocoons.
There are two varieties of drumstick:
The winter season variety flowers in the rainy season. The flowers are white. The stick matures in the month of Vaeshákha. If the branches are cut and the green sticks planted as cuttings, they are sure to succeed. The winter season drumsticks are more tasty than the summers season variety, and muuṋgá silk worms like them more. The market value of winter drumsticks is also better.
The summer season variety is also known as the all-season variety. The drumsticks are short, thick and inferior to the winter variety in taste and market value. This variety flowers all year long and the flowers are cream coloured. In Calcutta, it is called “najne,” in Burdwan, “sojne,” and the general name is “baramasiya sojne” or all-season drumstick.
When planting drumstick cuttings, the upper portion should be covered with cow dung and the lower, thicker portion should be placed in the soil. If there is regular rain, there is no need to irrigate the plants. In the dry season the plants should be watered two or three times a day, which should continue until new leaves appear. Watering should be done so that the entire plant gets wet. This will ensure that the plant grows successfully.
Drumstick is everlasting. Like kool, all the branches of the drumstick should be cut off in the summer. If the cuttings are planted, by the rainy season they will become quite big, and in the month of Paoś silk worms can be grown on them.
Sugar is an important part of the human diet, and for many farmers, sugar crops are an essential source of income. Sugar is also used in the production of alcohol, which has many medicinal and industrial uses. Fermented sugar juice is used to prepare vinegar, and the residual materials from vinegar production are used to make yeast. Sugar foods come in many forms according to the type of sugar crop and the degree to which it is refined. For example, besides refined sugar, there are several forms of liquid and solid molasses (gur), brown sugar or country sugar, sugar syrups, as well as many other types of sugar sweeteners.
The most well-known sugar crops include:
There are other sources of sugar which are not very commonly used because they are not commercially viable. For example, fructose or fruit sugar, obtained from fruits such as grapes, and sugar obtained from the red sweet variety of African yam, are good sources of sugar. The sweet root of the African red yam is a staple food for many people in Africa, especially during famine. It has been introduced into India and has many interesting qualities. Research should be done on these and other sugar crops to make them commercially viable. Research should also be done on commercially viable sources of sugar to increase their yield. High yield varieties of sugar crops should always be grown if they are available.
Sugar cane is a member of the grass group. The long canes are simply peeled and chewed to extract the sweet juice. Mechanical methods of extracting the juice are also used. Previously, sugar cane was sown in Kárttika, but now early varieties can be grown in the month of Phálguna. It is preferable if sugar cane is planted in the month of Phálguna. The cuttings must be brought from at least 20 kilometres away or the crop will be prone to pests and disease. Solid molasses or gur may be prepared from sugar cane. Country sugar can also be made, as well as sugar candy. Research should be done on the early varieties of sugar cane, which take five to six months to grow, to see if the cane can be grown in a shorter period of time. Also, sweet varieties of sugar cane should be grown wherever possible. Good varieties are available from Coimbatore, Fiji and Mauritius.
Sugar beet is a root crop. During the last world war, the sugar supply to Germany from Mauritus and India was blocked, so sugar beet was used as a substitute for sugar cane. Elephantum potato (khámálu) and elephant root yam (ol) have more food value than sugar beet, but they take longer to grow.
Sweet potato is a creeping tuber. It can be planted among many other plants, including fruit trees. It grows very well with bamboo because it can climb the bamboo poles.
There are two main varieties of sweet potato:
Where sweet potatoes are grown, the land may also be used for the cultivation of bamboo, sugar cane, banana and papaya. The early variety of sweet potato should be grown from Áshvina to Agraháyańa, and the late variety from Paoś to Phálguna. Almost any space between two other plants can be used to grow sweet juice potato from the month of Áshvina to Phálguna.
A good quality solid molasses can be produced from sweet juice potato. Dehydrated sweet potato powder can also be made.
Date Palm (Khejur)
Several palms produce juices which can be converted into sugar. Solid molasses (gur), country sugar and half concentrated juice (used as a beverage) can all be prepared from date palm. The Bengal variety of date palm is not good as a food, but it is excellent for producing plant juice from which we can get good quality solid date palm molasses (khejur gur) and date palm sugar (chini). The juice produced on our farming projects should not be used for preparing fermented juice (khejur tadi). Date palm molasses is 125 times more substantial than refined sugar, but for diabetics, refined sugar is more harmful than molasses.
Indian Palmyra is another palm which produces sweet juice for making sugar. Sugar, solid molasses, hard molasses (bheli gur) and refined molasses (khadesri) and many other products can be made from the Indian palmyra tree. Half concentrated palmyra juice in an airtight tin can be produced for sale. Sugar candy can also be made.
To plant the Indian palmyra tree, make a waist deep pit and fill it up with an equal mixture of soil and compost. Plant the seeds or seedlings. After some time, when the soil goes down, fill it up again with soil. If the plant dies, replace it with a larger seedling. The same technique can be used to plant banyan. Indian Palmyra is to be planted alternately with banyan as a riverside plantation.
There are two varieties of tál according to colour:
The three seeded tál is called doma tál or hadi tál. It is found in the Howrah, Midnapur, 2´ Parganas and Patna districts. No special soil preparation is required for tál. It grows in normal soil, although wet, alluvial soil is best. In Howrah and Midnapur districts, solid molasses is made from it. Fermented juice (tadi), not solid molasses, is usually made from the Patna variety. Solid molasses, fermented juice (tadi) and yeast can all be made from tál. It grows within 15 miles of either side of the Ganges, but tál cannot be grown in Gaya.
Solid molasses and other sugar products can be prepared from gol, but it will not grow successfully in Ánanda Nagar. It needs saline soil.
In the past, Calcutta and the surrounding localities were a salt water swamp, like the Sundabans. This was caused by a flood which inundated the region with salt water. As a result, many gol trees grew in Calcutta and the surrounding area. Salt Lake was named after the salty water in eastern Calcutta, and Gol Park derived its name from the many gol trees that once grew in southern Calcutta. Now gol trees are mainly confined to the Sundabans.
Indian Olive (Mahuá, Mahul)
Indian olive is important both as an oil crop and as a sugar crop. The source of sugar in Indian olive is the flowers, from which solid molasses is made, and this can be refined into sugar. The dehydrated flowers can also be made into flour.
Fruits are a vital part of the human diet, and the easiest food for human beings to digest. Many fruits have a purifying and cleansing effect on the body, and most fruits are high in vitamins and very nutritious. Some fruits have medicinal value as well. In an emergency planting programme, cereals may be omitted from the human diet, but fruits should not be neglected. This shows their importance.
The following system can be used for planting big, medium and small categories of fruit trees:
Ginger, tumeric and sweet potato should be planted in the shade of fruit trees in the prescribed rotation.
Some examples of fruit trees include:
When preparing the land for horticulture, the following system should be followed. The land should first be divided into blocks so that 25 big fruit trees can be planted in each block. Then, as many medium and small fruit trees as possible should be planted in the remaining area. The planting method should be as follows. First plant one big tree, one medium tree, one big tree, one medium tree, etc. After the medium trees have been planted, start planting small trees in between the big trees – one big tree, two small trees, one big tree, two small trees, etc. The small trees can also be planted in association with medium trees. Before the trees are planted, deep pits should be dug in the ground and a good amount of compost and some calcium should be put into them. Calcium should be used when planting fruit trees, and especially with sour fruits because it makes the fruit sweet.
Research should be done on the following trees:
Fruit trees conserve a lot of water in their fibrous root systems and fruits. They can be planted as riverside trees and beside paddy fields to help conserve water. However, only tall and non-shady fruit trees should be planted beside a paddy field, because they will not block the sunlight from the crop. There are many products which can be developed from fruit trees besides those already known. Some of the more common fruits are mentioned below.
Although the lemon is hardly ever eaten in the form that it comes from the tree, the sour fruit is widely used for its juice and peel. It has medicinal qualities and is generally used to cleanse the body, help purify the blood and alleviate acidity.
There are two kinds of citrus fruits according to their skin type – the orange group, in which the skin can be easily peeled from the fruit, and the lemon group, in which the outer skin cannot be easily peeled off. The fruits in this group should be cut to extract the juice. Plants of the lemon group include sweet lime (mussambi), batabi (pomelo), lemon, etc. and are recommended for diabetes. Fruits of the orange group should not be taken by diabetics.
Sweet Lime (Mussambi)
Sweet lime is a member of the lemon group and is sometimes referred to as “mussambi.” It is grown for its sweet, juicy fruit.
The orange is one of the most commonly available fruits in the world. There are many varieties which differ in skin colour and thickness, taste, quantity of juice, etc. To grow oranges successfully, no special soil conditions or prescribed amount of rainfall is required, except that sufficient quantity of calcium must be present in the soil. The calcium will make the fruit sweet. 53 orange trees can be planted to one bigha (approximately one third of an acre).
Medicine can be prepared from the juice and skin of the orange. For example, a good medicine to reduce fever is 50% orange juice and 50% warm water. If this is taken several times a day, it will be very beneficial for the patient. This preparation is also good for treating influenza.
Non-Indian Black Plum (Jámun, Java Plum)
Black plum is also known as “jambolana” or “Java plum,” and is a popular fruit. It is used in homoeopathy and allopathy to treat diabetes. The juice tastes very good.
The custard apple has a creamy, sweet fruit which is popular in tropical countries. The variety from the Philippines should be imported into India because it has a larger and better quality fruit than the local varieties. Custard apple helps to prevent erosion and can grow in places where the soil is a bit rocky.
Kábáb cini is a bush which is often used as a boundary plant. The fruit has a spicy taste.
The fruit of chalpa is usually made into chutney. It can be grown as a roadside plant as well as a boundary plant.
Mulberry is widely used as a host for silk worms. The worms eat the leaves of the plant and produce garad silk.
The coconut palm is very common in most tropical countries. Spiritual aspirants should emulate the coconut – they should be hard and resilient on the outside, but soft and sweet on the inside. There are numerous products which can be produced from the young or fully ripe coconut. Coconut milk is a standard base for cooked dishes in Southeast Asia and South India. Shredded coconut, sweetened or plain, is a popular ingredient in biscuits, cakes and all types of baked goods. Coconut is good for digestion and helps to alleviate constipation. It has other medicinal uses as well.
Green coconut water (d́áb) is rich in potassium, so it has a sweet taste; but it should be taken only from the authentic source. Vendors sometimes replace the coconut water with ordinary water through a syringe.
A particularly good variety of coconut is the Paraguaya coconut. Research should be done on this variety and it should be grown in India.
Ámlá has a sour fruit which is usually boiled or made into pickle. The oil helps digestion and can be used for hair oil.
Pomegranate has two varieties:
Some people call red pomegranate “red corn.” The fruit is comprised of many small flesh covered seeds, somewhat resembling corn, which are packed in undulating rows inside the skin. The fruit of both varieties can be preserved and used in the preparation of medicines.
Mango is a very popular fruit wherever it is grown. It is eaten as a green or fully ripe fruit, dried, candied, pickled, and made into various jams, jellies, dehydrated products, juices and other items. It is very delicious. However, ripe mangoes should not be over eaten because they generate heat in the body, cause boils on the skin and dysentery. Only two or three ripe mangoes should be eaten in a day.
The inner portion of the mango seed contains harmful acids and alkaloids. Poor people use flour ground from mango seeds without removing these substances. Ways should be devised to remove them, so that the seeds can be used to make flour without any harmful effects.
As much as thirty percent of the maize flour sold in the market place in India is adulterated. The adulteration is done with mango stone, tamarind seed and soap stones. Soap stones are soft earthy stones which are very injurious to health because they can cause kidney stones. To test the purity of maize flour, knead the maize in a copper vessel (or kausa) and keep it in the vessel for some time. If the flour is adulterated, it will leave a blackened mark in the vessel.
Mango and litchi grow successfully in the Nadia district of Bengal. Mango, like all fruit trees, has fibrous roots which help to conserve water and protect the soil. It also makes a good roadside plant.
Mangosteen is a tropical fruit with a thick purplish skin and white flesh which contains much juice, but it is not well known around the world. Flour can also be made from mangosteen.
Papaya is another very popular tropical fruit, and it is used to make many edible, medicinal and other products. When it is still green, papaya can be cooked as a vegetable, and when it is ripe, it becomes a bright yellow or orange-red fruit. The medicinal qualities of papaya are well-known, and in particular, it is used to make pepsin to treat jaundice. Pepsin is prepared from the leaves of papaya. Latex can also be prepared from papaya, but it should not be extracted from the fruit. To make papaya latex, wait until the green papaya is about to mature, then pluck it from the tree. The latex is obtained from the tree itself after the papaya has been removed. Papaya latex is used medically to cure ulcers, as a liver tonic and to help loosen stiff, rheumatic joints.
There are many types of melons, but here the word melon refers to the five plants of the melon group. These plants are:
These plants should be sown from December to March. The completion period is just before the rainy season starts. Melons grow best in sandy soil (bele mati). Only one rainfall is sufficient for their cultivation.
While sowing the seeds of this plant group, khosta, an oil seed of the sesame group found in the Birbhum district of Bengal, should also be sown. Khosta is an oil plant that grows with a meagre amount of water. Research should be done on the khosta plant.
Melons grow during the first one and a half months after planting, and bear fruit during the following one and half months, hence the season lasts 3 months. Melon varieties from India and all over the world should be planted at Ánanda Nagar. Cucumber (sosa), water melon and serpentine melon should be planted from December to March. Watermelon flowers at 4 p.m. Maximum production occurs in Baruipur. The water melon fruit is of medium size, so research should be done on how to increase its size. Satpatia water melon is also small in size and the fruit grows in clusters. Latex from water melon is good for the liver. The seeds can be used as a kind of nut and mixed in cháná chura (a popular Indian savoury snack). Oil may be produced from the seeds, but this process is not yet commercially viable and should be developed.
Musk melon and watermelon should be sown in pits in sandy soil. A pit should be dug about one and a half feet deep and filled with a mixture of compost and soil in equal proportions. The melon seed should be planted in this pit. Soon the roots of the seedlings will reach water and then their rate of growth will accelerate. Musk melon should be planted in the summer. Safed musk melon is a small, sweet scented variety and it is grown on the banks of the Gomati river in Lucknow.
Grapes are known as “draksha” in Saḿskrta, “áuṋgur” in Bengali, “inab” in Persian, “iinab” or “angur” in Urdu and “angur” in Hindi. The fruit bearing portion of the plant is called a vine – a grapevine. The fruit is simply called grape. Fermented grape juice is called wine. The Latin name for wine is “vinum glacia.” Some medicinal alcoholic beverages can be made from grapes. A wine called “asoke risaja” used in the treatment of female diseases can be prepared from overripe grapes and sold to medicine factories. Medicines can also be prepared from dried and dehydrated grapes. Grape sugar (drakshasarkara) can be made from grapes, but it is not presently commercially viable. Seedless grapes are generally grafted, but seeded grapes may or may not be grafted. Raisins (kishmish) can be made from seedless grapes after they have been dehydrated. Seeded raisins (munacca) can be made from seeded grapes after they have been dehydrated. In Bihar, people use seeded raisins as a nutritious sweet (meoyá) during festivals. For a long time grapes have been eaten as fresh, dried or candied fruit; taken in the form of wine or vinegar; enjoyed in sweets, cakes, etc. Research will improve the preparation of grape products and discover more uses for grapes.
Some varieties of grapes that are suitable for research include:
Sandy, reddish soil is good for growing grapes. Grapes can be successfully grown in Ráŕh, but bone dust should be added to the soil to make the fruit sweet. Grapes should be grown on a slanting trellis or platform (machan). Good varieties of grapes can be found in Andhra and Maharashtra. On the border of the vineyard the following plants should be grown – large cardamon (bara ellaichi), ipekak (a medicinal plant), cinkona (the source of quinine and other anti-malarial preparations), and hing (asefoetida).
According to leaf type, there are two varieties:
The West Indies variety was brought to Europe by the Portuguese from its original home in the West Indies. The Portuguese also brought tuberoses, kena flower and some varieties of banana from the West Indies. The West Indies variety of pineapple has thorns on both the fruit and the plant. The East Indies variety comes from Singapore, Malaysia and Oceania, and the fruit is big with less thorns. The Baruipur varieties also come from the same region. These varieties are golden in colour. The Tripura and Assam pineapple varieties are from the East Indies.
Some good sources of pineapple outside India include:
Some good sources of pineapple inside India include:
Pineapple tops are also available from the Calcutta markets. The Tripura, Siliguri and Baruipur varieties all grow well in India. At Ánanda Nagar, however, pineapples will not bear fruit, due to the low amount of rainfall, which is below 60 inches per annum. However, if the plants are showered with water, they will be fooled into believing that it is raining and induced to bear fruit. If the same quantity of water is given to the plants through irrigation, they will still not bear fruit.
There are three seasonal varieties of pineapples – rainy season, winter season and all-season. Sloping land and alkaline soil are best for maximum production. Normally, pineapple starts bearing fruit after growing for one and a half to two years. If the mature pineapple plants are kept in a glass house and smoke is added, they can be induced to bear fruit within one week.
The banana tree grows as both a wild and domesticated plant. It has sweet, tasty and easily digestible fruit, and the fruit and plant can be eaten in many different ways. For example, the fruit can be eaten raw, boiled in sugar syrup or fried, and the flowers and stem can be eaten as vegetables. It is also very useful, and products like banana chips, banana powder, sodium carbonate, sodium bicarbonate, clothes, plates, etc. can be manufactured from various parts of the plant. Clothes can be made from fibres in the trunk, and plates can be made from the leaves.
Usually the banana tree is called “plantain” and the ripe fruit is called “banana.” In the case of the kaca kalá variety, both the plant and the fruit are called “plantain.” Banana originated in South Africa.
There are numerous varieties of banana, some of which are:
Bhusawal and martamán are good quality varieties, but kátáli is not as good. There are also many good varieties grown outside India.
Banana plants should not be allowed to grow too close together. It is best to plant them 10-12 feet apart. If they propagate on their own and grow densely, they will quickly become undomesticated. Wild bananas have large, hard seeds, but domesticated bananas have very small, inconspicuous seeds.
Indian Plum (Kool)
The fruit of the Indian plum is tasty, but the plant also has other uses. It is used as a host for both silkworms and lac insects. Lac should not be planted in all the trees in an orchard at the same time, otherwise the production of fruit will decline.
Litchi is a sweet tropical fruit which looks like a strawberry, except that the outside of the fruit has a thin shell which must be removed in order to eat the flesh. Litchi can be preserved and grown successfully in the Nadia district of Bengal.
Jackfruit is a large tropical fruit which is very nutritious. It can be eaten ripe as a fruit or unripe as a protein rich vegetable. Inside the yellow flesh are large starchy seeds. Three hundred years ago there were no potatoes in India. In those days the seeds of the jackfruit were eaten. These seeds are two and a half times more nutritious than potatoes. From the dried flesh of jackfruit a kind of vegemeat can be made.
Chámal is a wild cousin of the jackfruit. Although it is similar, it is not as tasty. Vegemeat can also be made from the dried flesh.
Most nuts are rich in protein and very beneficial for vegetarians. There are quite a few nuts which should be grown on our farm projects. They can be eaten or sold as a cash crop. Some of the nuts which should be grown at Ánanda Nagar are pistachio, almond, walnut, chestnut and cashew. Cashew is more a South Indian tree, but it can also grow in Purulia district. The cashew nuts grown in India are usually sent to Madras for processing. Some nuts like walnut and chestnut should be the subject of further research.
TEA, COFFEE AND COCOA
In olden times, Buddhist Tantrics used to take a drink which was made from the green leaves of a bush boiled in water. The beverage kept them warm and gave them instant energy. These Tantrics generally lived in the area of Assam. Modern tea originated in Assam from this beverage.
In Chinese tea the green leaves are generally boiled and taken with butter, but in India the boiled leaves are taken with sugar and milk. The Saḿskrta name for tea is “kamal” and the Chinese name is “cinyá.” In India various black teas are grown and are commonly called “chá.”
The British took tea from India and popularized it throughout the world. Tea is more popular than coffee in England, but not as popular as coffee in South America. Tea requires more water than coffee to grow properly, but it cannot tolerate waterlogging. It grows well on the slopes of Assam. Tea does not require special soil or a lot of rainfall, but the rainwater should not be allowed to accumulate around the plant.
There are three main varieties of tea grown in India:
Assam tea is the most tasty, while Darjeeling tea has the most flavour but the least taste. The tea from Ghana is less tasty than Indian tea, but is more popular in the world market. The main reason for this is that some Indian businessmen adulterate the tea with tannin. Consequently, it has lost its popularity. In French tea is called “te.”
Once upon a time, a shepherd in an Arab country observed some thieves frequently going to a certain place at a fixed time. On their return, he noticed that the thieves always looked sleepy. The next time they came he decided to follow them. Undetected, he watched them eat the leaves of a particular plant. Later he also ate the leaves, but they did not taste very good. So he took some of the leaves, fried and boiled them, after which they became tasty. This is how coffee developed.
Black coffee is coffee which has been fried a lot. This type of coffee is intoxicating and injurious to health. If you take it you will feel sleepy, but you will not be able to sleep. Sometimes students take black coffee during their examinations to enable them to study better. But because the coffee makes them feel sleepy, they cannot assimilate what they have read.
Cocoa is less intoxicating than coffee and tea, but if it is taken daily it will become addictive.
Coarse grains include:
Many coarse grains are also cereals, and include rice, wheat, barley, maize oats, rye and millet. These grains are discussed in the section on cereal crops.
Tapioca is more nutritious than sweet potato (shakkarkand). It is usually prepared by powdering the roots of the plant into small granules. Other products like papar and bari can also be made from tapioca.
There are two varieties of tapioca:
Arrowroot is a non-creeping tuber of the potato group. It is nutritious and is commonly used as a tickener. It has medicinal qualities as well.
Soti is a non-creeping tuber of the potato group and is often preserved as a kind of pickle. It is also a source of chewing gum. Soti will not grow successfully in Ráŕh and its food value is much less than that of arrowroot.
SPICES AND COMMON COOKING ADDITIVES
Some common spices include:
All the parts of the garlic are static. The Saḿskrta name for garlic is “rasona”. It has five out of the six tastes (rasas). The six tastes are: tikta – neem (bitter); katu – chilli (hot and spicy); kaśava – plantain (alkaline); lavańa (salty); amala (acidic); and madhu (sweet). Garlic has all of the tastes except acidic.
Garlic is indigestible, so it comes out in the perspiration. Thus, it helps in the expulsion of hidden diseases. Yet, it has negative effects also, so it is not to be eaten by persons following a sentient diet. Those who eat garlic emit a very foul odour. Garlic can be used as a medicine, but it is not necessary to eat it as a food.
In very cold climates static food becomes mutative, and mutative food becomes sentient. In such climates householders (grhis) may take garlic.
There is a childrens rhyme about garlic. A bird sang a song and everyone heard different things. The bird sang, “Na na na na nanan na”. The scholar heard, “Rama, Siita, Dasharath”. The mullah heard, “Allah, Mohammad, Hazarat”. The wrestler heard, “Dan, Baithaka, Kasarat”. The cook heard, “Rasun, Piaz, Adarak”.
Garlic is propagated by planting bulbs (kovas). Each bulb should be planted so that three quarters is below the ground and one quarter is above the ground. The quarter above the soil must not be buried under any circumstances, and it must also remain above water during irrigation. The water requirement for garlic is less than that of small onion (chota piaz), but more than that of big onion (bara piaz).
Garlic can be cultivated on the border line of wheat and early boro paddy fields. When growing garlic with rice, sow the garlic in two rows so that it forms equilateral triangles. One line of safflower seeds (kusum biija) should be sown between the rows of garlic so that each seed is in the middle of one triangle.
Research should be done on garlic to pinpoint its medicinal properties, and to ascertain whether there is any possibility of producing garlic oil from the leaves.
The Saḿskrta word for onion is “sukarkanda”. In Hindi it is called “piaz” and in Bengali “pianz”. Like garlic, onion has some medicinal value. It helps to bring out hidden diseases, although it also has negative effects. The medicinal value of onion minus its negative effects can be utilized if onion is used in ways other than eating it, such as in the form of onion oil. Onion is also a good blended crop with rice in certain seasons. Onions can be sold at good prices in Bangladesh and Arab countries.
The method for rotating onion crops is as follows. In the month of Paoś, onion seeds are sown. The seedlings should be transplanted along with late boro paddy in the month of Mágha. In the middle of Vaeshákha, the late boro should be harvested. After that, the onions should be dug up. These small onions (chota piaú or kali piaz) are very pungent. The soil requirements for small onions are the same as for áman paddy, that is, clay soil. These small onions should then be sown with early boro paddy. Small onion is a winter crop. The top can be used as a green leafy vegetable. After harvesting early boro, the large onion bulb (boro piaú kanda) can be dug up. The stalk of the boro onion (boro piaz) should be twisted down fifteen days before the bulb is dug up, and the bulb should be dug up only after the stalk has dried. Big onion (bara piaz) is tasteless, but it may be considered pungent if it brings tears to the eyes. Some of the small onions which are sown on the border of the paddy fields should be left for flowering. Seeds will grow from these plants, but once the seeds have formed, the bulb will disappear. These seeds can again be sown in the month of Paoś for small onion (chota piaz).
The onion stalks should be twisted down so that within a short time the plants die and the tubers become ready for harvesting. If the stalks are allowed to grow, they will bear flowers and seeds, but the tubers may disappear. From these seeds, small sweet onions (chachi or sachi piaz) can be grown which can also be used as seeds. If big onions are going to be harvested for marketing, then the stalk should be twisted down while it is green and about to flower. This process will ensure that the onion attains its maximum size.
Onions are 67% water and need a sufficient supply of water to grow properly. The seeds from big onions are used for producing small sweet onions (chachi piaz), and the onion tubers (kalik) from the small sweet onions are used for producing big onions. Small sweet onion takes four to five months to grow and should be developed in a nursery for the first one or two months before being transplanted.
Ginger is a popular cooking additive. Many products can be made from ginger including syrup, sauce, marmalade, liquid extract, etc. Ginger processed in cow dung water is called “sout ada” and is used in Ayurvedic medicine.
Ginger can grow in either the sun or the shade, but it should be planted in the month of Phálguna. Ginger stalks, like onion stalks, should be twisted down so that within 15 days the plant dies and the tuber is ready for harvesting. The best ginger is found in Tripura and Mizoram.
Chilli is very common in India. There are many varieties which vary in size, spiciness and growing conditions. For example, the kacha lanka variety is a three year crop. In the first year it will produce a good yield, in the second year a medium yield, and in the third year a very low yield. Thus, the plants should be removed after the second year and new ones grown. Dhani lanka is not suitable as a blended crop because it grows very large and affects the nearby plants. The indigenous and suryamukhi varieties have similar yields, but the dhani lanka variety produces more than either of these two. The indigenous, suryamukhi and dhani lanka varieties are all summer varieties of green chilli. There is also a red winter variety which is often dried and made into powder. Chilli can also be made into a spicy sauce.
Turmeric is commonly made into powder and used as a spice. When taken raw, it is poisonous. It should be taken only after it has been processed in cow dung water. Raw turmeric can be converted into sunte halud by boiling it with cow dung. Turmeric requires half sun and half shade. The best turmeric tubers are found in Patna.
Radish is a 45 to 60 day crop. Its original home was Japan and it first came to India 3,000 years ago. Its food value is less than that of potato, although it is rich in mineral salts and is good for the blood. It is a general purifier. It is not easily digestible, but it helps digestion because it stimulates saliva secretion. It can be eaten raw, cooked, pickled, etc. The leaves of mustard and radish are similar, but all varieties of mustard have yellow flowers while radish has white flowers. The green leaves of radish (mula shák) are a good food, but the green leaves of mustard (sarśe shák) are not. Where there is a dense growth of radish plants, they should be thinned out. The leafy off-cuts can be eaten as a vegetable (mula shák).
The varieties of radish include:
Radish seeds are larger than mustard seeds and can be used to produce oil, although they are not usually used for this purpose. Radish oil is pungent, like mustard oil. Radish oil cake makes a good manure. If radish tops are planted, they will produce seeds and flowers. The summer variety of radish can also be grown with áus paddy.
Radish can be grown as a blended crop with potato and other crops. The root is not wide, so it can be grown with a tuber such as potato without disturbing it.
The soil for growing radish should have a very light texture. Sandy alluvial soil is good, but it should contain a lot of calcium. Radish require 1 tillings. In Guazipur and Juanpur radish grows quite large. Radish seedlings should be planted in such a way that the roots go straight down.
Two techniques can be used to grow radish seeds. If soil is available, cut off the top one to one and a half inches of the radish and plant the top in wet soil. Use the remainder of the radish as a vegetable. After some time plenty of flowers and seeds will grow. If soil is not available, cut off the top of the radish as above, but hang the top upside down in a sheltered place. Gouge a cup-shaped cavity in the pulp and pour water into it. When the water dries up, wash the pulp and refill it with water. After some time, flowers and seeds will grow profusely downwards. Radish seeds should not be sown within a radius of three miles from where they were produced. Seeds should always be brought from outside the locality, otherwise the radish crop will be prone to disease.
There are many varieties of cardamom, such as aromatic cardamon (choto ellaichi or moranga elach), large cardamon (boro elach), true cardamon (eláchi), etc. This sweet spice is often used in preparing confectionery.
Cinnamon is a sweet spice with medicinal value which is often ground and used as a powder and can also be used to make essential oil.
Cumin (Mongrela, Kala Jiira)
Cumin is a common savoury spice which is usually ground into a powder and used directly in cooking. Cumin can be grown with potato as a blended crop in the irrigation furrow of a field.
Basil is a popular savoury herb which is often used in cooking. It also has medicinal value and is considered a sacred plant by some communities in India.
Basil is a moon affected herb, and its effect increases on the full moon (purnima). Moon affected plants should be planted in a location which provides maximum exposure to moonlight. Moon affected herbs do not generally like sunlight, so if it is possible they should be planted so that they get maximum moonlight but no sunlight.
Nutmeg (Jáyphal, Myristika Fragrans)
Nutmeg is a spicy fruit which is often dried and used in cooking sweets and breads. Its flowers are very beautiful.
Anise (Saonp, Mauri) Anise is known as “madhuri” in Saḿskrta and “mahuri” or “mauri” in Bengali. It is a sweet spice which has medicinal value.
Anise has two varieties:
It is also commonly grown as a companion plant with potato in the irrigation furrow.
Cloves are well-known as a savoury spice which aid digestion. Clove oil is commonly used for this purpose. Cloves should be planted as near as possible to a river, but care should be taken that they are not inundated with water.
Numerous plants have known medicinal value, but other plants have lesser known or unknown properties. More research should be done on all kinds of plants to discover whether or not they have medicinal value, and if they do, they should be utilized for the welfare of human beings.
Some common medicinal plants include:
Bringaraj yields an oil (tel) which is useful as hair oil and as a treatment for the mentally ill.
Sushuni shák has a sweet taste because it contains a great deal of potassium, but it also induces sleep. Sushunia Hill is near Bankura in Chatana Thana, and it looks as if it is sleeping. The oldest Bengali script is found on this hill. The inscription shows Raja Chandrakanta Verma donating a piece of land to a Brahmin.
Asiatic Pennywort (Brahmi Shák, Thankuni, Centella asiatica, L.)
Asiatic pennywort is good for the brain and helps to increase memory power. Medicine is made from the leaves. In Ayurveda it is considered to be a nerve tonic, and is used for the treatment of all kinds of nervous and mental disabilities.
Bahed́a (Terminalia Chebula)
Baheda is sometimes known as “belleric myrobalan” in English. Baheda is a medicinal fruit tree and is good for constipation.
Chinese Chaste Tree (Nishinda, Vitex Negundo, L.)
Chinese chaste tree is known as “bonáii” in Ráŕhi Bangla. It has great medicinal value and a bitter taste, so animals do not eat it.
Amŕa is a large fruit tree which can be used to make medicine for the skin, kidneys and lungs, and to prevent vomiting.
Kálmegh is a grass. It can be used to make medicine for diabetes, liver problems and stomach disorders.
Gandál is a climber. Medicine can be made from the leaves.
Basak is a bush and it can be used to make medicine for coughs and colds.
Mint (Pudiná, Rocanii)
Mint has some medicinal qualities, although it is better known as a sweet herb. In herbal medicine it is used as a digestive aid and is good for the stomach and intestines.
Scholars Leaves (Chátim)
Scholars leaves is also known as “the devils tree” (Alstonia scholaris). It can be used to treat fever.
Cinkona (Cinchona Calisaya)
Cinkona is a source of quinine and other anti-malarial medicines.
Giima can be used to make medicine for the stomach and liver and to treat dropsy. The small flowers are good for the brain when they are taken with the first morsel of rice. Giima is also good for treating male diseases.
A good medicine for tuberculosis can be prepared by powdering ashwagandha, bedila, gambhari (Gmelina arborea) and punar naba shák together. The powder should then be mixed with two spoons of goats milk and taken.
Bottle Gourd (Láu)
Bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria, Standl.) can be used to make a medicinal oil for treating the mentally ill.
Aloe (Ghrta Kumárii)
Aloe (Aloe vera, Liliaceae) is known as “ghrta kumárii” in Bengali and “musbal” in Arabic and Urdu. Musabbar is prepared by spreading aloe juice on a goat hide and drying it. Aloe is a medicine for the brain and is also used for treating ulcers, while the sap is widely used for treating burns, rashes and skin problems. Burns can sometimes be cured immediately by applying aloe, hence it is also called the “burn plant”.
Neem has many medicinal properties, and is particularly useful as a blood cleanser and purifier. It is good for all skin, teeth and gum problems, therefore it is a common ingredient in soap and toothpaste.
The neem tree has a fibrous root system. It makes a good riverside plant because it will check erosion. The air around the neem tree is good and can be used to balance the bad air around the imli tree.
Eucalyptus oil can be used to produce a medicinal vapor which is very helpful in the treatment of respiratory congestion.
The eucalyptus tree is a tap root tree, and therefore it should not be cultivated extensively in dry regions. It can, however, be used to dry up swampy areas. Oil, paper, sporting goods and other products are made from it.
Lemon juice is very helpful in treating acidity and purifying the body. Medicine can be prepared from lemon juice and skin.
Nagdona is a small plant which can be used for treating headaches.
Herbal medicine can be made from asparagus, as well as jam, jelly and marmalade (murraba), and it is good for the health.
Flowers are grown for their beauty, fragrance, essential oil, medicinal value and floral nectar, and some flower seeds can be eaten, used in cooking or processed to produce oil. For example, flowering plants like night jasmine (shephali or Nyctanthes arbortristis) and ghandharaj can be grown for their fragrant flowers, while sunflower has edible seeds and can be grown as an oil crop or roadside plant. Flowering trees such as bakphul (Sesbania grandifloria) can also be grown along roadsides or in beauty spots.
Some plants which have attractive or useful flowers include:
Rose is one of the most popular flowers in the world. It is grown throughout India, including Ánanda Nagar, although it is difficult to grow in a hot climate. Rose oil and essence are quite common. Roses need five requirements to grow properly – a dry environment, sunshine, cold, laterite soil and calcium.
Magnolia is common in India and the liquid extract often used for making scent (ittar), perfume, incense and other scented products.
Queen Crepe Myrtle (Járul)
Queen crepe myrtle is grown as a roadside plant at Ánanda Nagar. A violet extract used in dyeing can be made from the flower.
Safflower (Kusum, Carthamus tinctorius)
Safflower has a yellow-pink flower and thorns. It is a winter crop. Non-poisonous food colouring can be made from the petals, and sweet-scented edible oil can be made from the seeds. The colour extracts from aparajita (Clitoria tarnatea), night jasmine (Nyctanthes arbortristis) and safflower are non-poisonous. Research should be done on safflower to produce colour extract commercially, increase the flower production and the percentage of oil in the seeds, and improve the quality and range of colours in the flowers.
Poppy has many varieties and is grown for its flowers and seeds. Varieties of poppy may be cultivated in one or two rows around a wheat field. Poppy should not be cultivated with early boro paddy because if the water level in the paddy field suddenly rises, the poppy crop might be destroyed.
One variety of poppy is the source of opium. Opium poppy needs extremes of temperature to grow properly. In India opium poppy cultivation requires the prior approval of the government. Research on opium poppy and any other narcotic plant such as Cannabis indica (ganga), or their cultivation, should not be done on our integrated farming projects. Research on opium poppy should be conducted by the government.
Kaiṋcan is a small flowering tree which is often used as a boundary plant.
Shveta Karabii is a decorative flower plant which grows to a height of about feet. It is used as a boundary plant.
Some common trees include:
The banyan tree is sometimes known as “the pillar tree” in English because aerial roots which look like pillars grow from the branches down into the ground. When the aerial roots are fully grown, one banyan tree can look like a dense forest. No other plants can grow amongst the aerial roots of old banyan trees which often extend over a large area. The soft tip of the aerial root (juri) is a good medicine for blood dysentery, mucus dysentery and leukemia when it is ground with water that has been used to wash rice.
Banyan may be planted at the end of a slope, beside rivers or in extremely rocky areas. Banyan should be planted 20 feet from each other along the line where a slope ends and the sandy bank of a river begins. When banyan is planted in this way it helps check soil erosion, although Chinese banyan does not check soil erosion as well as Indian banyan. Between every two banyan trees, one Indian palmyra (tál) tree should be planted. The Indian banyan lives for 2000 to 6000 years, while the Indian palmyra lives for 120 years. The Indian palmyra also checks erosion. Banyan and Indian palmyra should be planted together on all integrated farming projects to prevent riverside erosion.
The method for planting banyan is as follows. Make a small pit and plant the banyan seedling in it. Water the plant regularly for one month, but when new leaves appear the watering can be discontinued. However, bonsai banyan and Chinese banyan require continued watering after the first month. If the seedling dies, replace it with a larger one.
Ámlá (Emblica Officinalis)
Ámlá bears a fruit which is similar to a plum. Oil can be pressed from the seed. Scented ámlá oil can be made by adding floral fragrances.
Acasia Babul (Gond)
Acasia babul is common in India. The sap can be mixed with other ingredients to produce glue. Lozenges can also be made from the juice after it has been refined.
Shiriish is a boundary plant which produces good quality wood.
Kusum (Oleosa Schleichera)
Kusum is sometimes referred to as “the lac tree” in English because it is a host to lac insects. It should not be confused with safflower, the kusum flower.
Arjuna (Terminalia Arjuna)
Arjuna can be used as a roadside tree. Tasar silk worms can be grown on it, and the wood is often used for furniture.
Indian Laburnum (Sondál, Cassia Fiftula)
The fruit of Indian laburum is called “banda lathi” in Bengali because it looks like a large lathi or stick. It can be used as a boundary plant.
Palásh is an important lac host.
Acasia Catechu (Khayer)
Acasia catechu is also known as “the cutch tree” in English. The gum should not be used for making lozenges, but is an ingredient for making glue. Kattha, one of the ingredients for making pán (betel leaf for chewing), can be made from it.
Screw Pine (Ketakii, Keorá, Pandanus)
Screw pine is known as “ketaki” in Saḿskrta and “keorá” in Hindi and Bengali. There are many varieties, such as ram ban kewada and naga ketaki. Both these varieties help to prevent soil erosion. The screw pine lives for 2000 years and grows well in rocky areas and along the banks of rivers. It likes moist air. Scent is made from the flowers and the wood is also useful.
Tál Kát́ál (Thai Ragam, Dalacca)
Tál Kát́ál is a palm which is useful as an intermittent boundary plant. The wood may be used to construct furniture.
The roots of tamarind are very fibrous. It is an important riverside tree because the fibrous roots help check erosion. However, the trees gives off bad air, so it should be planted with simul and neem, which give off good air, to balance this effect. The sour fruit is beneficial for the health and is widely used in cooking and confectionery. Tamarind is very popular in South India.
Indian Rosewood (Shál, Dalbergia Latifolia)
Indian rosewood can be used to produce wood, latex, floral nectar, tasar silk, oil, etc. The fruit and leaves are also useful. It is a common roadside tree.
Piyá Shál (Pterocarpus Marsupium)
Piyá shál is used to produce wood. Bees also like the flowers.
Garjan (Dipterocarpus Alatus)
Garjan is sometimes called “the mangrove tree”. It is a useful roadside plant, and is used to produce wood and oil.
Betel Nut (Supári)
Betel nut is a popular chewing nut in South Asia and particularly India. The nut is mixed with betel leaf, lime, etc. and chewed until the saliva turns red. It is a static stimulant and should not be eaten by those following a sentient diet. It is a plant of the palm group and requires a lot of rain or water, but it cannot tolerate waterlogging. It grows well on the slopes of Assam.
Betel leaf is a creeper which does not require tilling. Betel leaf should not be confused with betel nut.
Some varieties of betel leaf include:
Some examples of roadside planting combinations grown at Ánanda Nagar include:
Existing roadside plants should not be destroyed. As a fixed rule agave ahould be the fill-up plant in the case of all the road trees. Tál can also be planted along roadsides.
Above the gates of compounds an arch of creepers such as nayan paiṋjana (bouganvillea), madavilata and madhurilata should be planted. Seasonal plants that can be grown in sunny spots, on roof tops and beside roads include calendula, poppy, double zinnia, pansy, carnation and cosmos. These plants can be obtained from Holland and Belgium. Orchids should not be planted on roadside trees but anywhere else in beauty spots.
(1) Páyrá phasal. A minor crop grown in the same field as a main crop. The seeds for a “pigeon crop” are sown by casting them in the same way that one might cast grain to pigeons. –Eds.
Our system of integrated farming is designed to utilize every inch of land. Not only should the surface land be fully utilized, but the space under the surface, and even the space above the surface, should be used to the maximum. The surface, the sub- surface and the space above the surface is to be used 100%.
There are three main systems of cropping which will ensure the maximum utilization of land – mixed cropping, supplementary cropping and crop rotation.
In mixed cropping two or more crops are grown in a field at the same time. For example, potato, spices, brinjal, pumpkin and cauliflower are suitable for mixed cropping. Mixed cropping reduces soil erosion and the wastage of agricultural land, and makes better use of water. It also helps retain the fertility of the soil. For instance, legumes add nitrogen to the soil whereas maize consumes nitrogen, so these crops should be planted together. Well selected plant combinations maintain the fertility and structure of the soil.
In supplementary cropping there is one main crop and a minor crop to support it. This system is different from mixed cropping where all crops are major.
In crop rotation the soil is under cultivation for most of the year. In the Purulia district of West Bengal, many farmers grow only one crop of paddy a year. Through crop rotation four crops can be harvested in a year. In the rainy season no mixed crop can be grown with paddy, only small fish. Autumn paddy can be combined with big onions, summer paddy with radish, and spring paddy with small onions grown from seeds.
Cultivation should be done on the cooperative basis. Only cooperatives can support the expanding economic requirements of agriculture, like creating ponds, purchasing machinery, uniting local people to pressurise the government for irrigation facilities, etc. Through the cooperative system four crops of rice in a year can easily be grown from any plot of land.
MIXED CROPPING AND SUPPLEMENTARY CROPPING
Some examples of mixed cropping and supplementary cropping include the following:
Turmeric, ginger, pán and cauliflower can be grown among the sandalwood trees until they are seven years old. Cauliflower can be grown throughout the year.
Sesame can be grown as a mixed crop with peanut. Peanut grows its fruits under the ground, while sesame grows its fruits above the ground.
Linseed can be grown as a mixed crop with soybean. Soybean may be grown along with peanut, sesame or jute.
Cotton can be grown with sweet juice potato and sweet potato. Cotton can also be grown with brinjal and chilli.
Black gram can be grown with turmeric, sugar cane, green leafy vegetables, brinjal, green chilli and radish.
Mango can be grown as a roadside tree. Between two mangoes one palm should be planted – one mango, one palm, one mango, etc. Agave (sisal) can then be grown as a fill up plant between them.
Orange trees must be planted 15-20 feet apart. Between two orange trees there should be one coffee tree. Then between the orange and coffee trees there should be two tea plants approximately three feet apart from each other. Between these there should be ginger as a fill up. Each ginger plant should be two feet apart from each other. All the rows should be parallel in a grid formation.
There are no soil or rainfall considerations for oranges, but calcium must be present in the soil in sufficient quantity because it makes the fruit sweet. There are no soil considerations for tea either, but there should be a lot of rainfall which does not accumulate around the plant. Coffee can grow with less rainfall than tea, and it can grow in poor soil.
Suggested orange varieties include:
Suggested varieties of coffee trees include:
Wheat, poppy (ordinary poppy or opium poppy) and mustard can be grown as blended crops. Peas, lentils, khesári, etc. may be planted with wheat as well as poppy. If any of these plants occupy 10% of a wheat field, the yield of the wheat will be increased so that the production of wheat will be the same as when wheat occupied the whole field. Also, if wheat, peas and khesári are planted together, the production of wheat will be as much as when wheat was grown alone. Yellow mustard, red mustard and the rái variety of mustard may all be sown as mixed crops with wheat. The larger variety of lentil may be cultivated along with wheat as a winter crop after the land has been tilled.
When growing rainy season radish, miśt́i danta shák (a sweet green leafy vegetable) should be planted in between the radish plants. The seedlings of the radish should be planted with áus paddy. For this the soil should be wet, but not waterlogged.
The two main principles of crop rotation are: 1) maximum crops should be planted in the minimum period of time, and 2) maximum crops should be planted in the minimum space. These two principles are to be implemented without affecting the fertility of the soil.
An example of the first principle is reaping four crops of rice in a year where there was only one, two or three before. For instance:
1) In Vaeshákha transplanted áus or summer paddy can be planted and in Shrávańa it can be harvested.
2) In Shrávańa transplanted áman or rainy season paddy can be planted and in Kárttika it can be harvested.
3) In Kárttika early boro or autumn paddy can be planted and in Mágha it can be harvested.
4) In Mágha late boro or spring paddy can be planted and in Vaeshákha it can be harvested.
In central Ráŕh there are only four months of rain. For the rest of the year there is little or no rain, yet it is still possible to get four crops a year. For example, with áus paddy, radish should be planted between the rows of rice. With áman paddy, small fish but no crops should be cultivated. The fish maintain the water level in the field and can be caught by carnivorous humans or animals, or left in the field to fertilize the soil after the water has dried up. With early boro paddy, big onion and safflower as a boundary plant should be cultivated. With late boro paddy, onion seeds which produce onion bulbs should be planted as a subsidiary crop.
A special system is used to grow rice in two and a half or three months instead of four. Early in the year transplanted áus seedlings should be grown. Áus takes four months before it is ready for harvesting, so for the first four weeks the áus seedlings should be kept in a nursery, and for the remaining two and a half to three months they should be grown in the field. The period for áus is Vaeshákha, Jyeśthá Aśádha and Shrávana.
In between the áus seedlings radish can be grown. A good variety of oil which is a substitute for mustard oil can be produced from the seeds of radish. The radish should be of the summer variety. The leaves of radish are very good for the liver.
After áus, áman variety of paddy can be grown according to the same system used for áus – that is, one month in the nursery and two and a half to three months in the field. The áman paddy should be in the nursery while the áus crop is in the fields. The period for áman is Shrávańá, Bhádra, Áshvina and Kárttika. There cannot be any blended crop with áman, but instead pisciculture can be practised. During áman cultivation some fertilizer may be necessary, but whatever fertilizer is used should be non-poisonous, otherwise it will kill the fish.
In Ráŕh the soil is of a sticky nature so it does not allow water to seep underground. This type of soil is very good for áman cultivation. Ráŕh has the best soil for áman cultivation in the entire world.
After áman we have to cultivate the early variety of boro according to the same system. With boro, onion and garlic can be grown as blended crops between the seedlings. Around the boundary of the field, one line of safflower seeds can be grown. Oil which has medicinal value can be produced from the seeds of onion.
After early boro, late boro paddy should be cultivated following the same system. As a blended crop in between the seedings, transplanted onion can be grown. Onion is static so Ánanda Márgiis should not take it. However, onion leaves are mutative in the daytime, not at night, so householders can eat them.
So according to this crop rotation system, fields will be occupied for two and a half to three months each by four crops a year, totalling ten or eleven months. For the remaining period, the fields should be prepared for the next rotation. This is an example of how to get maximum crops in minimum period of time.
This type of paddy rotation system is best for sticky or clay soil. If the soil is half sandy half sticky alluvial soil, barely two paddy crops – áus and amam – can be grown. Wheat and mustard can be cultivated the rest of the year. Planting 20% mustard with wheat will increase the production of wheat by 150%. Peas or lentils can also be grown with the wheat.
Two potato crops – one of 60 days or early potato and the second of 90 days or late potato – can be grown in a season. 60 day potato is produced for immediate consumption. It cannot be stored because it is not fully matured, but the 90 day crop can be stored. Both varieties can be dried, powdered and then stored. 60 day potato grows in the months of Áshvina and Kárttika, while 90 day potato or mature potato grows in the months of Agraháyańa, Pauśa and Mágha. With 90 day potato different types of spices can be grown, such as coriander, cumin and chandani. Cauliflower and pumpkin can also be grown. If potato is grown in the mounds of a ploughed field, brinjal can be grown in the furrows from cuttings, as it needs more water. The winter variety of chilli can also be grown.
The second principle of crop rotation is growing maximum crops in the minimum space. An example of this is as follows. Grow potato in mounds in rows with a cauliflower between each potato as a surface crop. The potatoes are root crops, so no competing root crop, such as peanut, should be grown at the same time. On the slopes of the mounds small spices like cumin can be planted. After one month when the potatoes have partly grown, canals for irrigation should be dug between the rows of potatoes. In the canals brinjal, cucumber and chilli can be planted. Cauliflower matures before potato. When it matures it can be cut, but the roots should be left in the soil so as not to disturb the potato crop.
Another example is wheat. 20% mustard can be planted with 80% wheat. Mustard grows leaves which can be used as a vegetable and seeds which can be pressed to produce oil. If mustard oil cake is put in water until it starts giving off a bad smell, and is then mixed with more water and spread on the fields, it makes a good fertilizer. Bees can also utilize the flowers to make excellent honey. In addition, on the border of the field two rows of garlic should be grown so that their spacing is in the configuration of equilateral triangles. In the middle of each triangle, one safflower seed should be sown to make another row of safflower flowers. So, four crops can be grown: wheat, mustard, garlic and safflower. Other crops also can be grown as blended crops.
For very infertile soil, barley rotation can be grown with a supplementary crop. For example, 20% of the area reserved for the barley crop can be planted with red mustard.
If one is going to cultivate sugar cane, banana or radish, the seeds, cuttings or roots should be brought from at least twelve miles away. However, they may come from the opposite bank of a river which is less than twelve miles away.
The brinjal plant should have thorns, as the thorny brinjal produces tasty brinjal. White brinjal should not be cultivated because it is static and makes the soil infertile.
When cultivating lentils, high quality manure should be used, and the best manure for this purpose is the oil cake of castor. Lentils crops should not be discontinued simply because they need good fertilizer, because they can be used to produce refined vegetable oil and lubricants. Linseed can also be used to manufacture refined vegetable oil and lubricants, as well as scented hair oil, linen cloth, etc. Linseed can be cultivated after lentils.
When there is a scant supply of water, a “pigeon crop”(1) of the rái variety of mustard can be grown. The mustard seeds should be spread out over the whole field while it is still wet after the rainy season, then the crop will grow through the dry season.
It is not economical to cultivate sugar cane in Bengal because it occupies the land for a whole year. Sugar beet should be grown instead, because three crops can be grown in a year. However, sugar beet cannot supply molasses, which is a very famous food in rural Bengal. Also, seeds cannot be produced from sugar beet due to the hot climate, so they have to be imported from outside the region. Research should be done to develop varieties of sugar beet which produce seeds in warm climates.
Some examples of crop rotation include the following:
Oil seeds can be planted according to the following system.
1) Aśáŕha, Shrávańa and Bhádra – peanut and rainy season sesame in the whole field.
2) Áshvina – half the field should be planted with red mustard and linseed, and the other half with yellow mustard and winter sesame. The soil should be properly tilled before the crops are sown. These crops take four months to mature.
3) Mágha, Phálguna, Caetra – peanut and late sargujá (an oil seed).
4) Vaeshákha, Jyaeśt́ha – maize and green gram.
Another oil seed rotation is as follows:
1) Caetra, Vaeshákha, Jyaeśt́ha – peanut with sesame and soybean.
2) Aśáŕha, Shrávańa, Bhádra – peanut and rainy season sesame or rainy season soybean.
3) Áshvina, Kárttika, Agraháyańa, Paośa – half the area should be planted in winter sesame with red mustard, and the other half with linseed and yellow mustard.
4) Mágha, Phálguna – sunflower should be planted for 65-80 days, the growing period of the crop, along with green gram.
Potato and Radish
Potato and radish crop rotation should be done according to the following system:
1) Áshvina to Agraháyańa – Early potato or 60 day potato.
The best system for preparing the field for potato is to plough the field sixteen times – twelve times by tractor and four times by power tiller. Fertilizers like NPK (nitrogen, potassium and phosphate) may be used, either 20:20:20 or 28:28:0 (and then add potash) about 500 kg per acre. Early potatoes are planted in rows twenty inches apart.
Between the potatoes there should be any variety of early radish. Radish does not have such wide roots. The main root comes down in such a way that it does not affect the potatoes. Along with these some small spices such as kalo zira, mongrela, fenugreek, five spices, cumin, small ajwain, celery, etc. may be planted. Ajwain is “jamani” in Saḿskrta, “jamain” in Urdu and “Trachyosparmum amni” in Latin.
In the irrigation canal between rows of potatoes, winter pumpkin, winter brinjal (Varanasi varieties), anise, coriander, cumin, and/or capsicum should be grown. The canal is not dug until the potatoes are one foot tall. First put water on the soil, then manure and then dig the canal.
Another crop rotation of early turnip and sugar beet can be planted with early potatoes. Varieties of cauliflower may also be planted, but they must spend the first month in a nursery, then two months in the field. They should be planted on the mound or hill along with the potatoes. The plants must be watered at least every 8-10 days in the initial stage of their growth. When they get bigger they do not need so much water. One month later, when the potato plants are one foot tall, an irrigation canal should be dug between the rows. The dirt from the canal should be placed on the mound around the plants growing there. This will preserve the soil and help the plants as well. In the irrigation canal, plant winter brinjal, early lettuce, tomato, palang shák (a green leafy vegetable), big onions, small onions and varieties of cabbage. There are only two varieties of lettuce, early and late. The lettuce should be harvested along with the potato.
The cauliflower is harvested after two months in the field. During this time the potato should be left one month more to spread its roots. Lettuce requires three months and should be harvested with potato. After cauliflower, the early cabbage should be ready in one month.
Then again the soil is tilled eight times – six by tractor and two by tiller, and the same ratio of NPK should be used, but in a lesser amount.
2) Agraháyańa to late Phálguna – Late potato or 90 day potato. The soil must be prepared by ploughing the field eight times – six by tractor and two by power tiller.
Plant radish, late brinjal and panar nava shák (or pusne, punanas, gajmije, gadmide or giima – all small green leafy vegetables. Giima is medicinal.) along with late potato which will be harvested in late Phálguna. In Phálguna ginger should also be planted with either sesame or soybeans.
Late potato may also be planted with late cauliflower and cabbage in between. In the irrigation canal plant late cabbage, late lettuce, winter brinjal, tomato, palang shák, garlic and capsicum. After these crops have grown, the soil should be ploughed eight times and NPK of 20:20:15 ratio should be used.
3) Caetra – Radish. Summer radish should be planted with summer shák (green leafy summer vegetables) in the middle. Lal ság may also be planted between the radish plants and is in the same family as summer shák. One or the other may be planted.
If one does not plan to plant again in Caetra, one may plant the following in the irrigation canal: winter pumpkin, winter brinjal, anise, coriander and jiira.
During early Caetra, ginger may be planted with sesame or soybean from Caetra to Aśádha. Following the summer radish planted in Caetra, rainy season radish can be planted from Aśádha to Bhádra. From late Aśádha to Bhádra, plant peanut and soybean or rainy season sesame.
4) Shrávańa – Shrávańa, peanut and early cauliflower should be planted together in rows. In the canal between the rows plant rainy season brinjal, rainy season green chilli and rainy season shák. Or in place of the peanut and cauliflower, plant sweet potato or sweet juice potato with radish, tomato and winter ladys finger.
Plough the soil eight times – six times with a tractor and two times with a power tiller. Cow dung and organic fertilizers can be used, but not NPK (nitrogen, potassium and phosphate) until the plants are about one foot tall and healthy.
If summer brinjal seedlings are transplanted in the month of Phálguna, they will give fruit from Vaeshákha to Bhádra. Between every two brinjal plants grow summer radish, summer notei shák and summer lal shák; summer varieties of creepers like cucumber, gourd, pumpkin and green chillies; and spinach and barbati beans.
The yield of the daisy variety of green chilli and the suryamukhi variety of chilli yield is the same, but the yield of the dhani lanka variety of chilli is much greater. However, the cultivation of dhani lanka is not commercially viable because although it is very hot, it is very small. Also, the plant grows very large, and this affects the growth of the intermittent plants.
Just as there may be one chilli between two brinjal plants, the reverse can also apply. That is, between two green chilli plants there may be one brinjal. But this type of intermittent brinjal plant should be snake-shaped and not round-shaped. The snake-shaped brinjal should be planted as an autumn crop and not as a summer crop. Between two brinjals or two green chillies there may be one ladys finger plant. In the summer two crops of ladys finger can be produced from Phálguna to Kárttika. Brinjal plants must be replaced every two years because at the end of this period their productivity declines.
The following system should be used for the crop rotation of summer vegetables:
1) Shrávańa, Bhádra, Áshvina, Kárttika. Plough the field eight times – six times by tractor and two times by power tiller. Plant transplanted autumn brinjal. Chilli may be grown between two autumn brinjals. The daisy variety of brinjal is better than the mukta keshi variety of brinjal. If any creeping vegetables are planted between two brinjals, they must be grown on a platform, otherwise the vegetable plants will be attacked by pests and insects.
2) Agraháyańa. In the month of Agraháyańa, the field may be used for cultivating boro paddy if there is enough water. Alternately, wheat may be sown. The prescribed time for sowing wheat is the end of Kárttika, Agraháyańa and up to the 7th of Pauśa, that is, the 21st of December. Or potato, pulses or winter mustard may be sown. Again, the land can be used for summer vegetables from the month of Phálguna.
If melons are to be grown instead, then the sowing period for both watermelon and musk melon is December, January, February and March. In such a case no winter crop can be cultivated. Melons need sandy soil.
Similar is the case with wax gourd or squat gourd. No other winter crop like wheat, or any other summer vegetable, should be cultivated in the same field as wax gourd. But it must be remembered that wax gourd requires alluvial soil or soil that is a bit sandy, just like melons and winter vegetables such as winter cucumber, winter gourd, etc.
There may be one pumpkin (chal kumŕá variety) between two brinjals in Phálguna or Shrávańa. A sweet made from the chal kumra variety of pumpkin is found mostly in Agra, and is called “petha,” or “murabha” in Bengali.
One quarter of the agricultural land is to be allotted for the following seeds:
These are all-season vegetables, except thorny gourd which is a rainy season crop.
In a field of creeping vegetables, one may grow rainy season sesame along with the above vegetables in the rainy season. One may also grow winter sesame or mustard – either rái, red mustard or yellow mustard – and in the summer season one may grow summer sesame. This will not affect the productivity of creeping vegetables.
All-season vegetables should be grown as follows:
1) Aśáŕha, Shrávańa, Bhádra, Áshvina:
1. Wax gourd – The cuttings of wax gourd are to be planted between Aśádha and Mágha. Fruits are produced throughout the year. Between every two wax gourds there may be one ladys finger of either the all-season or rainy season varieties, one all-season green chilli, and one radish of either the all-season or rainy season varieties. Even in the rainy season wax gourd can do without a platform.
2. Gourd – Gourd of different varieties like round bottle gourd, club bottle gourd, long bottle gourd and ghoti láu are to be planted. Between every two gourd plants there should be an intermittent plant as in 1. above. Gourds of the rainy-season variety must be grown with a platform.
3. Pumpkin – Pumpkin may be either of the rainy season or all-season varieties. Between two pumpkin plants there may be the intermittent crops mentioned in 1. above. Pumpkins of the rainy season variety require a platform.
4. Miscellaneous varieties – Intermittent plants should be according to 1. above. Miscellaneous creepers of the rainy season variety require a platform.
Small portions of the land allotted for all-season varieties of crops should be reserved for the bona lanka variety of chilli or sown with other varieties of chilli. The seeds are to be acquired from Shantipur and Kalna.
2) Kárttika, Agraháyańa, Paośa, Mágha:
1. Wax gourd – The wax gourd should remain undisturbed. Intermittent plants should be the same as those for the rainy season, but no rainy season varieties should be planted. Varieties should be either all-season varieties or winter wax gourd. Vegetable creepers growing in the winter season do not require a platform.
2. Gourd – Gourd should be either of the all-season or winter varieties. Winter gourd sown in winter does not require a platform.
3. Pumpkin – Pumpkin should be of the all-season or winter varieties. The intermittent plants should also be of the all-season or winter varieties. Winter gourd does not require a platform.
4. Miscellaneous creepers – They should also be of the all-season or winter varieties. They may or may not grow on a platform.
Intermittent plants should be of the all-season or winter varieties.
3) Phálguna, Caetra, Vaeshákha, Jyaeśt́ha. (Summer varieties):
1. The wax gourd should not be disturbed. Intermittent crops such as ladys finger, radish, and green chilli should be of the all-season or summer varieties.
2. Summer varieties of gourd do not require a platform. Intermittent crops should be of the all-season or summer varieties.
3. Summer pumpkin does not require a platform. Intermittent crops should be of the all-season or summer varieties.
Vegetable creepers of the summer variety may or may not need a platform. However, creepers of the rainy season variety do require a platform, except in the case of wax gourd, which does not need one in any season. Even during the rainy season, wax gourd does not require a platform.
1) Vaeshákha, Jyaeśt́ha – grow summer maize with green gram and peanut under the ground.
2) Aśáŕha, Shrávańa, Bhádra – grow high yielding sorghum and millet with soybean.
3) Áshvina, Kárttika, Agraháyańa – grow corn with soybean.
4) Paośa, Mágha, Phálguna, Caetra – grow barley, oats, rye or seasonal cotton for which November is the last sowing period. If the land becomes free during the second half of November, winter cotton may also be cultivated. It grows in three and a half months and has to be watered twice. If cotton is cultivated, sweet potato or sweet juice potato may be grown along with it.
The crop rotation of wheat should be as follows:
1) Early wheat should be planted in Kárttika and grown from Kárttika to Mágha.
1. Kárttika, Agraháyańa, Paośa, Mágha – plant wheat with either big lentils, big peas, yellow mustard or red mustard in a ratio of 9:1 wheat to other crops.
2. Phálguna, Caetra, Vaeshákha – grow peanut with sesame or soybean.
3. Jyaeśt́ha, Aśáŕha, Shrávańa – grow áus paddy with rainy season radish.
4. Bhádra, Áshvina – grow maize with green gram for two months.
2) Late wheat should be planted in Agraháyańa and grown from Agraháyańa to Phálguna.
1. Agraháyańa, Paośa, Mágha, Phálguna – plant wheat with big lentils, big peas or red mustard. Yellow mustard will not grow well in this season because insects will attack it.
2. Caetra, Vaeshákha, Jyaeśt́ha – grow ginger or peanut with sesame or soybean.
3. Áśáŕha, Shrávańa, Bhádra – grow late áus paddy with with rainy season radish.
4. Áshvina and Kárttika – grow maize and green gram.
The rái and yellow but not the red varieties of mustard, khesári, the small black variety of peas, Bengal gram and lentils (the small variety) can all be sown as “pigeon crops” with paddy. The rice is planted in Shrávańa, and then in the last week of Áshvina [[the “pigeon crop” is tossed into the field without tilling the soil or applying fertilizers.]] After the rice has been harvested, the “pigeon crop” remains in the field until maturity.
When “pigeon crops” are grown, only three instead of four paddy crops can be harvested in a year, but mixed crops can be cultivated. For example, cow pea may be planted with áus in the month of Aśádha. After the áus paddy has been harvested, the cow pea stands alone in the field because it has a maturing period of nine months. During this period a second associate crop should be sown, preferably a fibre crop. In such cases the field will not yield four crops of paddy in a year. Other crops such as green gram, radish, onion and in certain seasons pisciculture do not interfere with four paddy harvests in a year.
The system for reaping four crops of rice per year is as follows. All varieties of paddy should stay one month, or one and a half months in unusual circumstances, in the nursery, and two and a half or three months in the field after being transplanted as seedlings.
The following system should be used for planting paddy:
1) Half of Vaeshákha, Jyaeśt́ha, Aśáŕha and half of Shrávańa – áus paddy.
Plough the field six times in water by tractor. Plough four times in the first two days – two times the first day, two times the second day. Leave the field submerged in water for eight more days. Add organic fertilizers and compost. Plough again two more times. On the last ploughing use NPK (nitrogen, potassium and phosphate) fertilizers if appropriate.
While growing áus paddy, the soil should be wet but not waterlogged. Between every two áus plants, one rainy season radish should be sown. Radish may be sown in the áus field for the entire period. In a transplanted áus field, a “pigeon crop” of green gram may be sown. There should be no accumulation of water in the áus field – water should be able to move freely in and out of the field. Green gram is grown for the second two months. Of all the seasonal varieties of rice, áus paddy gives the lowest yield.
In the first week of Shrávańa the áus is harvested. Plough and fertilize the field again as above to prepare for the next crop.
2) Half of Shrávańa, Bhádra, Áshvina and half of Kárttika – áman paddy.
No mixed crops can be grown with áman paddy but pisciculture may be cultivated. These fish can be a good animal food for carnivores. Fish such as charamach, koira, guri and rai mach may be produced – that is, small fish, crabs and prawns. For the production of rui or larger fish, a big pond is needed.
During the production of áman paddy there should always be a lot of water in the field.
Of all the seasonal varieties of rice, áman paddy gives the highest yield. Its straw is also long and very useful in making mats and other products.
One month before the harvest in Áshvina, the seedlings of early boro paddy should be started. After the harvest, the field should again be prepared as above.
3) Half of Kárttika, Agraháyańa, Paośa and half of Mágha – early boro paddy.
There should always be water in the field until the time of harvesting. If there is less rain, big onions or garlic can be planted between two early boro paddy plants. These big onions are the sprouted small onion (chachi piaz or sachi piaz) of the previous period. If there is more rain, pisciculture may be cultivated in the early boro field. In the first week of Mágha, the early boro paddy should be harvested.
Special care must be taken to acquire a big onion type which is a winter crop as they need less water. Green gram requires less water than onions. No “pigeon crop” can be grown with áman paddy because there is too much water in the field. Also, at this time the big onion seeds are not ready and the small onions cannot be planted under so much water. Care must be taken to ensure that the variety of onion used in the early boro field is the type that always remains above water. Onions need water, being 67% water themselves, but they cannot be inundated.
If irrigation water is not available after áman paddy, then the boro paddy should not be sown, but “pigeon crops” may be sown.
Except for áman paddy, there can be “pigeon crops” in every season. After the harvest, the field should again be prepared and fertilizers applied as above.
Boro paddy gives a medium yield compared to the other seasonal varieties of rice. The straw is fairly long, but animals do not like it. Green gram can be grown as a “pigeon crop” in the second two months of the early boro or late boro rotations.
4) Half of Mágha, Phálguna, Caetra and half of Vaeshákha – late boro paddy.
Late boro is transplanted by the 15th of Mágha. Between every two boro plants, one small onion (chachi piaz) should be planted. Small onion is obtained from the seeds of big onion (boro piaz). Small onion takes four to five months to grow and should be developed in the nursery for the first one or two months before being transplanted. Seeds from the big onions are used to produce small onions, and the onion tubers (kalik) from small onions are used to produce big onions. Big onions are used both as a vegetable and for seed production. If the big onions are to be harvested for marketing, then the stalk should be twisted down while it is green and about to flower. If this is done the onion grows to its maximum size.
Kusum flower can be planted as a boundary plant around the late boro field and can also be harvested. If there is enough water, pisciculture may be practiced with late boro and hot small onions.
All paddy requires clay soil. Where there is water in the field, care must be taken to ensure that the heads of the paddy stalks are not submerged.
The land between banana plants must not remain vacant. The following crops can be planted:
1) Áśáŕha to Kárttika – turmeric and black gram.
2) Agraháyańa to Mágha – sweet potato or sweet juice potato and winter chilli or winter brinjal. The seedlings should be quite big.
3) Phálguna to Jyaeśt́ha – peanut or ginger under the ground and sesame or soybean above the ground.
The crop rotation for spices should be as follows:
1) Second half of Phálguna, Caetra, Vaeshákha and Jyaeśt́ha – ginger with soybean.
2) Aśáŕha, Shrávańa, Bhádra, Áshvina and half of Kárttika – turmeric and black gram.
3) Late Kárttika, Agraháyańa, Paośa, Mágha – late potato with candani and fenugreek on the mound (with the potatoes) and coriander, anise, and jiira in the canal. Dry and big winter chilli should also be grown in the canal. Big seedlings should be grown so that the plants flower within fifteen days after planting. For one week after planting, the seedlings should be covered with shade to avoid direct sunlight, but in the night they should not be covered.
Sugar crops include the following:
1)Sugar cane – Sugar cane is of Indian origin and comes within the grass group. It is a medium-sized grass. The percentage of sugar produced differs from one variety to another. Traditionally, sugar cane is planted just before winter, but this system is a bit defective. The best season for planting is the early spring in the month of Phálguna. The cuttings must be brought from at least twenty kilometres away, otherwise they will be prone to pests and disease.
If sugar cane is grown, it should be planted along with late boro paddy. In the month of Jyaeśt́ha, after harvesting boro paddy, the plants should be bundled up with the leaves of the sugar cane. The place between two sugar cane plants may be utilized either for green gram, which grows in sixty days, peanuts, or maize of the taller variety. In the month of Aśádha, after removing the grass, the vacancy between two sugar cane plants may be utilized for growing turmeric. Turmeric requires half sunlight and half shade. It will grow well in sugar cane fields. In the month of Kárttika, after harvesting the turmeric, if a place remains between two sugar canes, it may be utilized for producing sweet potato or sweet juice potato.
2) Sugar beet – Sugar beet is an all-season crop, but in India it is grown only in the winter season between Áshvina and Phálguna. It may be grown along with potato between two potato plants on the upper portion of the valley, that is, on the mound. The lower portion of the mound may be utilized for growing winter spices. Sugar beet may be produced both with early potato (Áshvina to Agraháyańa) or late potato (Pauśa to Phálguna).
3) Sweet potatoes – The space between sweet potatoes can be used to cultivate soybeans, cabbage and winter brinjal. The early variety of sweet potato can be grown from Áshvina to Agraháyańa, and the late variety from Pauśa to Phálguna. Green chilli may also be grown, but green chilli is three year crop. In the first year there is a good crop, in the second year there is a medium crop, and in the third year there is a very low crop. For example, if in the first year the production is taken as 100%, in the second year it will be reduced to 40% and in the third year to only 10% to 15%. So it is best that after the second year the old plants are replaced. Cauliflower should not be planted along with the creeping crops. It requires direct sunlight and the creepers will cover it. Cabbage, because it needs less direct sunlight, can be grown along with the creeping tuber vegetables.
After harvesting late sweet potato, select varieties of arum, along with summer creepers like pumpkin, gourd, bitter gourd, water gourd, cucumber, musk melon, watermelon, spinach, etc. should be planted. From Aśáŕha to Bhádra, the land may be utilized for áus paddy, maize, jute, rainy season brinjal or spinach, rainy season chilli, rainy season beans and rainy season creeping vegetables like pumpkin, gourd, etc. A platform must be used in case of such vegetables. In the winter or summer, a platform may or may not be used.
The crop rotation for sugar crops should be as follows:
1) Áshvina to Agraháyańa – The early variety of sweet potato or sweet juice potato.
2) Paośa to Phálguń – The late variety of sweet potato or sweet juice potato.
3) Caetra to Jyaeśt́ha – Arum associated with summer creeper.
4) Áśáŕha to Bhádra – Áus paddy, maize, jute rainy season brinjal and rainy season creeping vegetables.
The crop rotation for jute should be as follows:
1) Vaeshákha – The jute seeds are sown in a seed bed.
2) Áśáŕha – The seedlings of jute and the seedlings of áus paddy are transplanted. They will both be harvested in Shrávańa.
3) After this autumn maize can be planted (a two-month crop) along with soybean or radish. Maize and soybean are both harvested in the end of Áshvina. Radish would be left in the field a little longer before harvesting.
4) Winter crops are planted later, and include wheat, winter vegetables and linseed. Linseed is harvested at the end of winter, in Phálguna. After growing linseed, dhaiṋca must be sown for two months and then plowed into the soil as green manure because linseed takes so much out of the soil. In Vaeshákha, jute and áus paddy can start again.
To ensure the maximum utilization of every inch of land, there is also a system of planting in the boundary areas of all schools, farms, orchards, homes, etc., as well as beside all roads. For example, trees with spreading branches, like most fruit trees and even some timber trees, should be planted all around the perimeter of such places at fixed distances. Palm trees, which grow straight up, should be planted in between the fruit trees, as they do not block the sun light from the fruit trees. Between the fruit trees and the palm trees, filler plants should be planted. Three examples of small filler plants are edible anthurium, a root crop; permanent cotton, a shrub; and arrowroot, a root crop. If the soil is deep and good, plant anthurium. If the soil is stony and poor, plant permanent cotton. If the soil is of medium quality, then plant arrowroot. In between all these there is still space for associate plants to the filler plants. With anthurium plant Chinese mini-grape; with permanent cotton plant ghee kavla, a vegetable; and with arrowroot plant wild mini bitter gourd. The boundary wall should also be topped with wire, then it is also quite possible to plant wire plants, in series, as in the lakeside plantations. Where trees are planted around the boundary of agricultural land, care should be taken so that they do not shade the crops from the sun.
Some examples of boundary plants grown in Ánanda Nagar include:
There is no fixed rule for fill-up plants on boundaries in compounds. Sisal makes a good boundary, roadside and riverside plant, and it is the usual fill-gap on roadsides and many boundaries. It also helps to prevent erosion.
So a well integrated system of the blending of crops has many benefits. There is the maximum utilization of land because the space below the surface, on the surface and above the surface is fully used. Properly selected crop combinations also increase productivity, and regions which produce only one or two paddy crops in a year can harvest four paddy crops as well as other associated crops in a year. Through scientific crop rotation which does not adversely affect the productivity of the soil, maximum crops can be planted in the minimum period of time, and maximum crops can be planted in the minimum space. The space around buildings and fields can be used to grow boundary plants, and any convenient space can also be used to grow fill-up and fill-gap plants. Poor farmers will be benefited if they adopt such a system, and so will society.
Amongst all the types of culture of the physical stratum, agriculture is the best. We must encourage and develop agriculture.
(1) Páyrá phasal. A minor crop grown in the same field as a main crop. The seeds for a “pigeon crop” are sown by casting them in the same way that one might cast grain to pigeons. –Eds.
A few hundred years ago, many of the desert regions that we see in different parts of the world today were full of trees and wildlife. Due to tree felling by local people and commercial interests, and the depletion of the subterranean water, the deserts have spread.
Many problems occur with the disappearance of trees. First, the carbon dioxide content in the air rises as there are fewer plants to absorb the carbon dioxide which is constantly being expired into the atmosphere. This results in changes in the atmosphere and the environment, causing climatic warming. If there is a rise of only a few feet in the level of the oceans, many major cities in the world, including Calcutta, could be flooded. In addition, as the catchment areas are destroyed, rivers reduce their flow of water or dry up. Also, the area around the rivers is transformed into a desert, as in the case of the Nile and the Ganges. Finally, the organic processes in the soil are halted. The micro-organisms die, and so do the worms, while the organic matter breaks down and ceases to retain water. Hence, the soil making process is stopped.
Central Ráŕh was full of lush flora, wildlife and large rivers three thousand years ago. Even thirty years ago there were many trees and dense forests in the region. Now there are hardly any trees, few wild animals, and the rivers have almost dried up. For eight months of the year, the region is dry. The soil is hard and barren, contains few worms or micro-organisms and little organic material, which acts like a sponge to retain the rainwater. The annual rains wash away much of the topsoil that still exists, hence the remaining soil has become coarse and sandy. As a result, the whole region is subjected to flash floods and severe soil erosion.
To transform this depleted and undernourished environment, a massive, scientific afforestation programme has to be launched. Such a programme should have a two-phased approach:
1) In the first phase, fast growing trees which grow to their full height in six months to two years and provide valuable green cover should be planted. Ten types of trees can be used: 1. cassuarina 2. sisir (Albezzia lebbeck) 3. sisoo (Dalbergia) 4. bakphul (Sesbania grandiflora) 5. large screwpine (Pandanus andamanensium) 6. drumstick (Moringa oleifera) 7. red sandalwood (Santalum album) 8. agave (sisal, Agave americana) 9. Diospyros discolor, and 10. chámal (Eterocarpus chaplasa, Roxb.), a wild variety of jackfruit found in north east India.
2) In the second phase, slow growing trees like teak, which also provides green cover and can be harvested after 30 years or so, should be planted. The fast growing trees can be cut after three years, providing an additional source of income for local people. If this approach is followed, the ecological balance in the area will be restored very quickly.
In addition to this approach, some selected plants need to be grown in desert regions to check the process of desertification. For example, in dry, sandy areas we can grow jojoba which produces seeds that yield oil which can be substituted for diesel oil. Different cactii, Acacia catechu or Acacia arabica can also be grown. Afforestation is the only solution to desertification.
Artificial Ponds and Lakes
For afforestation programmes to be successful, surface water must be conserved. This can best be accomplished by increasing the water capacity of existing storage systems and building new systems. The cheapest and easiest method of creating new water storage systems is to construct small-scale ponds and lakes.
Where should artificial ponds and lakes be located? In the rainy season observe where the surface water flows – its currents and directions – and where the rivulets created from the rain water converge together. The point of convergence is the ideal location for a lake. The bigger the catchment area, the bigger the number of rivulets, so the bigger the pond or lake.
How should an artificial lake be constructed? If there is no modern machinery, a rectangular area should be selected in the middle of the proposed site and line after line of earth dug out. The soil should be deposited around the periphery to form the slopes and ridges of the banks. The lake should be only five feet deep to avoid accidents and drowning. A boundary wall topped with angled irons which are connected with wire should be constructed to keep animals out. Along the wall, wire plants may be grown, and inside the wall palm trees can be planted. On the flat areas, surface plants may be cultivated. The lake can be any shape. Underground culverts or channels may also be constructed so that water from the surrounding countryside can flow through the culverts into the lake. There should also be name plates beside each lake which specify the opening hours, the depth of the lake and any other prescribed details. People should only be permitted to swim and fish in some specified lakes, while boating should be allowed on larger lakes.
To prevent water seeping out immediately after the lake has been constructed, earth from the beds of other lakes can be spread across the lake floor. Alternatively, the earth on the bottom of the lake can be mixed with calcium, although this may harm the aquatic plants and fish. If sealing the lake is not urgent, nature will perform this task. After the lake has contained water for some time, a fine layer of clay will naturally form on the bed of the lake, sealing the bottom and preventing the water from seeping away.
In central Ráŕh most of the rain water is lost as there is very little organic material in the soil to retain it. To conserve the water, many small ponds and lakes should be conctructed. If this is done, the surface water can be stored and used for drinking and irrigation. Within a short time the environment will be totally transformed and the ecological balance will be restored.
There are five categories of small-scale lakes:
Five types of plants should be used around lakes: slope plants, boundary plants, wire plants, aquatic plants and surface plants. These types can be summarised as follows:
1) Slope plants – includes pineapple, asparagus, aloe vera, brinjal and chilli. All of these plants conserve water and check soil erosion, and can also provide an income for local people. Slope plants should always be planted in symmetrical horizontal lines and never in vertical lines, as this allows the water to flow away and encourages soil erosion. Along with pineapple, asparagus and aloe vera, brinjal and chilli should be planted as per the seasonal order. For example, in the summer season, green leafy summer vegetables, small bitter gourd and summer round brinjal of the makada variety can be planted. In the rainy season, caladium, chilli and rainy season brinjal which is not exactly round can be planted. In the winter season winter red chilli should be planted. This variety of chilli can be dried, packed in bags and sold when the market price is high. It is utilized as a cooking spice. Large, white autumn brinjal can also be planted.
Should the slopes beside lakes be terraced? Terraces prevent the run off of surface water and soil erosion. As a general rule, all sloping land should be terraced as far as possible. While it may not always be possible to terrace small slopes, large hills and sloping agricultural land should always be terraced. The mounds and furrows on sloping land must be dug perpendicular, not parallel, to the slope. Where a gentle slope ends and a steep slope commences, both slopes should be terraced, but the terracing on the steep slope should be constructed high up the slope so that soil erosion and the rapid flow of water is checked. Roads which go through sloping terrain should be constructed so that the water runs off in a regulated way without damaging the land.
Where the boundary line of a slope touches a river, just above the extreme lowest portion of the slope, a row of banyan and palmyra trees should be planted alternately. Where the slope starts, custard apples, guavas etc. should be planted. Between two custard apples and guavas, agave should be planted in the same row, not in separate rows. This system will help to check the soil erosion around the base of a steep slope and also protect the banks of the river.
One row of either East Indies or West Indies pineapple can also be planted on the boundary line of any slope between shál and Indian olive, between shaid and cinnamon, or between shál and himalayana devadaru. Also, one row of pineapple can be planted on the boundary line of a slope where it touches a field. The pineapples may or may not bear fruit if there is scanty rainfall, but they will definately check soil erosion. The West Indies variety requires less rainfall than the East Indies variety.
2) Boundary plants – includes palm trees and the creepers of flowers, vegetables and fruits. Palm trees should be planted around lakes according to their water capacity. For example, coconut trees should be planted around A category lakes, palmyra around B category lakes, betel nut palms around C category lakes, date palms around D category lakes, and tall banana trees around E category lakes.
Creepers should also be grown along with the trees. Coconut trees should be combined with black pepper creepers; palmyra with jasmine creepers; betel nut with lavender; and date with the following medicinal creepers: 1. malehmal – diirgha lata, 2. harjora, 3. ananta mula, 4. ishanmula, 5. shveta makal, 6. gulaiṋca lata, 7. jayanti lata, 8. shveta kuce, 9. rakta kuce, 10. rakta kambel, 11. choi, and 12. black pepper. Only one type of creeper should be planted by each lake.
3) Wire plants – a brick wall should be built around each lake and topped by angle irons and wire. The fence will keep out large animals and prevent people from having accidents. Along the wire the following plants should be grown – creeping vegetables such as beans, bottle gourd, squash and pumpkin; flowers such as aparajita, morning glory and moonflowers; and fruits such as melon, passion fruit, grape, etc.
4) Aquatic plants – are of two types: thorny and non-thorny. The thorny aquatic plants include the lotus, makhana and Victoria regina. The lotus produces vegetables and provides organic matter to the water. Makhana seeds are very nutritious and can be sold at a good price. Victoria regina can be grown in beauty spots. All these plants are known for their beauty. Non-thorny aquatic plants include the water lily and the water chestnut. The water lily has edible seeds as well as floral nectar, and the water chestnut provides edible roots which can be used as a vegetable or a fruit which is good for the stomach. Aquatic plants can generate income for local people. Thorny and non-thorny aquatic plants should not be grown together.
5) Surface plants – should be grown on the flat land surrounding the lake. Anything can be here according to the local preference and the condition of the soil. Banyan (Ficus benghalenses), bo tree (Ficus religiosa), Acacia catechu, Acacia arabica as well as thorny and dry climate trees can be grown in rocky areas. Lotus, makhana, water lily, water chestnuts, pineapple and bitter date palm grow very well in or beside ponds and lakes. If these plants are cultivated properly, they will be very productive.
All lakes should be treated as beauty spots. Pineapple, asparagus and aloe vera should be planted on the slopes, along with different types of brinjal and chilli. Different varieties of slope and aquatic plants should also be planted in and around the lakes so that each lake has its own particular charm and beauty according to its size and location.
Pisciculture should also be developed in ponds and lakes. The fish help to keep the water clean and the level constant because their breathing creates water and carbon dioxide. The fish inhale oxygen along with water vapour from the atmosphere as well as dissolved oxygen from the water. They synthesize water which is exhaled into the lake. This helps to keep the water in the lake at a constant level. If many fish live in a lake, hundreds and even thousands of gallons of water will be added to the size of the lake in the course of time. Each lake should also have an attached bird sanctuary, because the fish provide food for the birds.
The recommended depth of small-scale artificial lakes is five feet. If the lake is located in a hot dry climate with high levels of evaporation, the depth should be increased to ten feet.
Fish without gills, like prawns, chingry and tortoises can survive with thorny aquatic plants, but some other fish cannot, so thorny and non-thorny aquatic plants should be grown seperately. Fish that are good for pisiculture include small fish, crabs and prawns, like charamach, koira, guri and rai mach.
Riverside plantations are important for preventing floods, conserving water, regulating the flow of water in rivers, and keeping soil moist and fertile. Some examples of plants which are useful riverside trees include banyan, date palm, neem or margosa, tamarind, simul, imli and fruit trees. If horticulture is developed along the banks of rivers, the rivers will never dry up.
Most trees with tap root systems do not alleviate riverside erosion, but eucalyptus is an exception. Trees with tap roots draw water from deep under the ground. Many tap root trees growing in an area can lower the water table and deprive other plants of water, and this can be an additional factor in the creation of desert conditions. For example, eucalyptus trees have contributed to the sparse, arid conditions in Australia. Eucalyptus trees are suitable for planting in marshy areas to help dry them out and are useful for preventing grass fires, but they are not recommended as part of a reforestation programme. As eucalyptus helps check riverside erosion, it can also be a useful riverside tree, but it should always be planted in association with other trees. An example of a riverside plantation is neem, tamarind, simul and eucalyptus. Between each of these trees, palmyra and date palm should be planted alternately. A second example is imli, neem and simul in either of two configurations – imli, neem, imli, etc. or imli, simul, imli, etc. Imli is a good riverside plant because it retains water and checks soil erosion. It has an extremely fibrous root system.
Fibrous roots gather water near the surface and benefit neighbouring plants and trees. Many banyan trees have been planted along the seven rivers in Ánanda Nagar for this reason. Previously, only one river ran throughout the year at Ánanda Nagar, but now all seven rivers flow almost all year round, right up to mid-March. The dry season starts in October and extends to June. Riverside plantations have shown tremendous positive effects within only one year at Ánanda Nagar.
The rivers in Ánanda Nagar are: 1) Dakśińa (southern); 2) Uttara (northern); 3) Kunti (mother of the Pandava brothers), previously called Kopia, meaning angry, because of flash floods; 4) Alkánanda, meaning the river coming from heaven, and previously called Alkusi (which often gave lots of trouble due to flash floods and the subsequent damage this caused); 5) Guaki, which is loop-shaped, and is actually the confluence of the Dakśińa and Uttara; 6) Parágati; and 7) Mandákinii. India used to be called the land of the seven rivers, and now Ánanda Nagar is the land of the seven rivers.
Trees which should be planted along the rivers at Ánanda Nagar are the indigenous neem, bakayan neem or gudra neem, eucalyptus, tamarind and simul. Tea gardens can also be planted along the river banks. Patal may be grown on the banks of the streams in Purulia district.
Land and water hyacinths originated in Brazil. Mr. Lee, the Divisional Commissioner of Dhaka, and his wife visited Brazil. Mrs. Lee liked the water hyacinths and brought them to the Divisional Commissioners house in Dhaka. From there they spread into the Durhi Ganga. Within ten years they spread to Bengal, and within fifty years to Uttar Pradesh. Now they have spread throughout the whole of India. In Bengali they are called “kachuri patra” and in Hindi “jalakumbhi”. Water hyacinths are good for producing bio-gas. Lily ponds should be located far from rivers.
So, lakeside and riverside plantations stop soil erosion, nourish the top soil and assist in providing a steady supply of water throughout the year. This method of plantation should be adopted everywhere.
At the beginning of this earth, there was absolute silence – there were no living beings or even plants. This condition continued for hundreds of millions of years, until the earth was properly formed. Then a phase came when rain and storms started, and by a gradual process, life emerged. As a result of the rain, carbon atoms got infused with vital energy (práńa shakti). Carbon atoms along with protoplasmic clash and cohesion formed this vital energy.
Water was an essential factor in the evolution of the planet, and now it is most essential for the survival of human beings, animals, plants and the planet as a whole. If it does not rain anywhere on earth for only one year, all life on the planet will be destroyed. This is because all creatures – from the smallest organisms to the largest animals – need water. If there is no water, first the small creatures will die, then the ecological balance of the planet will be lost. Next, human beings will also die, and soon the earth will become a barren wasteland.
Global Water Crisis
In the near future there will be a severe crisis in many parts of the world. Many large rivers like the Ganga, the Jamuna and the Thames are already very polluted. People cannot drink this water, and if they even wash their hands in it they can become infected. The only solution is to rely on rainwater. We must collect the rainwater, develop the science of making artificial rain through helium or any other process, and bring the clouds which rain over the ocean onto the land. Constructing more deep tube wells is not the answer. Rather, we must catch the rainwater where it falls. Many ponds, canals, dams, lakes and reservoirs should be immediately constructed to catch the rainwater and store it for drinking water. This is the only way out of the water crisis that will confront humanity in the very near future.
In the physical sphere there are two types of calamities – natural calamities and those caused by human beings. Today most calamities are caused by human beings, but sometimes natural calamities like typhoons, floods, droughts, earthquakes, etc., also occur. Although different types of calamities may confront humanity, doomsday will never happen. The very idea of doomsday is based on dogma.
The calamities caused by human beings are mainly of two types. First, many calamities are caused by the bifurcation and trifurcation of society. The bifurcation of society is exemplified by the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians and the recent war between North and South Vietnam. The division of India into India, Pakistan and Bangladesh is an example of the trifurcation of society.
Calamities are also caused by the destruction of the environment and the indiscriminate exploitation of subterranean resources such as coal, oil and water. One of the greatest causes of environmental destruction is deforestation. Due to deforestation, the rain clouds coming from the Bay of Bengal travel all the way across India and rain on the Arabian Sea. That is, clouds which once rained on Magadh now rain on the Arabian Sea. Consequently, the water level in the Arabian Sea is gradually rising and the Bay of Bengal is becoming more salty. The result is that the water level around the coast of India is rising, the land area of the Indian subcontinent is decreasing and soil erosion is increasing. Approximately two-thirds of the surface of the globe is water and one-third is land, but due to deforestation the water portion is increasing and the land portion is decreasing.
Another cause of environmental destruction is the exploitation of subterranean resources. Deep cavities have been formed in the earth after extracting subterranean resources, and these cavities should be properly filled. In some countries it is the practice to use sand to fill the cavities created by mining underground coal. If these cavities are left unfilled, the surrounding regions are more likely to experience earthquakes than other areas. Moreover, the unfilled cavities can severely weaken the surface structure of the earth, causing whole regions to collapse.
In some Arab countries, huge amounts of money have been made by extracting oil from under the ground. Several years ago the leaders of these countries realized that the supply of oil would not last forever, so they started to think about the future of their countries after the supply of oil was exhausted. They became concerned that the level of the water-table was falling and the sizes of the deserts were increasing. To solve this problem, they decided to import soil and sweet water to create dense forests. Now the trees that they planted are eight to ten years old, and last year it was reported that they experienced floods for the first time. Many of the local people had never seen floods before, and young children even cried in alarm at the sight of the rain!
The exploitation of subterranean water reserves is contributing to desertification in many parts of the world, and as the subterranean water level recedes, the soil near the surface dries out and plants wither and die. This has already happened in many parts of Rajasthan. Afforestation is the only solution to desertification. Human beings have suffered from water scarcity and drought in the past, and this problem will continue unless proper care is taken in the future. If deforestation and the indiscriminate exploitation of subterranean water reserves continue, it is likely that many parts of the world will face severe water shortages from 1993 to at least the year 2000. The only way to avoid such a catastrophe is to immediately implement a decentralized approach to water conservation.
The Causes of Drought
Why do droughts occur? What are the most important causes of drought? There are three main causes. The first is the wanton destruction of plants or indiscriminate deforestation, the second is low pressure systems over oceans and big seas, and the third is sudden changes in the angular movement of the sun and other celestial bodies like comets, nebulae and galaxies.
Deforestation causes drought because it prevents the plants from nourishing the earth. The fibrous roots of plants absorb and hold considerable amounts of water which is slowly released into the soil. In the paddy fields of Bengal, for example, during the dry season water will trickle down the channels beside the fields. Where does the water come from? It is released from the roots of the standing crops. But when the paddy and the associate crops are harvested, the supply of water dries up. Deforestation is caused by human beings, and it is within their power to solve this problem through their own efforts.
The second and third causes are presently beyond human control. In the future, with the development of the meteorological and marine sciences, human beings will be able to partially influence and overcome the second cause, but not fully. The third cause can only be controlled by Supreme Consciousness. However, if human beings follow the path of positive microvita and have the grace of Supreme Consciousness, they can also control the third cause.
How do the sudden changes in the angular movement of celestial bodies cause drought? The paths of some comets are predetermined and astronomers can ascertain their arrival dates and possible effects on the earth, but there are other comets that appear suddenly without warning. When there is the sudden appearance of powerful celestial bodies or a sudden change in their angle of rotation, their gravitational pull may disturb the seasons and the natural order of creation. For example, as a result of the strong gravitational pull of a powerful comet or meteor, clouds may not be formed. This phenomenon is called bakudashá in Sanskrit.
Certain deviations of celestial bodies like meteors, comets and satellites take place due to the concentration of a huge number of positive and negative microvita. Movement in universal space is subject to the movement of positive and negative microvita, and this also affects life on earth.
The angularity of the movement of celestial bodies also affects the minds of human beings. Suppose you are outside enjoying a cool breeze on a calm full moon night. A soothing, painless feeling will arise in your mind. But if the feeling continues, the nerve cells in your body may become dull, and if the experience of dullness goes beyond a certain limit, your thinking power may be impaired, even causing some psychic ailment. This occurs because the ecological balance within the human structure is lost.
Say a certain incident took place in your life at the age of eight. Now we know that there is nothing identical in this universe, only similarities. If similar circumstances reoccur after a gap of say eight years, a similar incident could take place when you are sixteen. You have to ensure that people are not put into an environment which is similar to one that caused them pain and suffering in the past, as this may adversely affect their progress in the spiritual sphere. This also applies to the physical and psychic spheres.
Human movement is movement towards ecological equipoise – towards the supreme synthesis. In the inner world, balance must be maintained as this leads to spiritual progress. Ecological order is not only for the earth but for the entire universe, and it must be maintained both within and without. The angular displacement of any celestial body may affect the human mind as well as the physical universe, so balance must be maintained between the internal and external spheres. In all aspects of human life this subtle balance must be maintained. This is ecological balance.
The Defects of Well Irrigation
I have already said that constructing more deep tube wells is not the solution to the water crisis. What are the drawbacks of well irrigation? Well irrigation causes the level of the water-table to drop, while the continuous use of well irrigation dries up the subterranean flow of water. Initially the effects of continuous well irrigation may not be easy to perceive, but eventually a fertile region will be transformed into a desert. In fact, if the subterranean water level stays at above twenty to twenty-five feet, the surface vegetation will not be affected, but if it drops below fifty feet, the surface of the earth will become a barren wasteland.
The negative effects of well irrigation include the following:
1) Neighbouring shallow wells dry up creating the problem of lack of drinking water.
2) Trees, orchards and large plants do not get sufficient subterranean water so they wither and die. Green countryside will become a desert after thirty to forty-five years of intensive well irrigation.
3) In some deep tube wells enemy elements – that is, elements which are harmful to the soil such as heavy minerals and mineral salts – get mixed with the water, causing problems such as salinity. As a result, the land eventually becomes infertile and unfit for cultivation. When the flow of well water stops, irrigation tanks supplied by these wells also dry up.
Well irrigation should be used only as a temporary measure because of the devastating effects it can have on the surrounding environment. Alternative methods of irrigation include river irrigation, irrigation from reservoirs, dams and small ponds, shift irrigation and lift irrigation. Irrigation water is like the apex of a spinning top. Without it, agriculture is not possible.
The Best Methods of Irrigation
The best method of irrigation is the conservation of surface water through a system of ponds, canals, dams, lakes and reservoirs.
Take the example of Ráŕh and Orissa. The potentialities of this region have not yet been fully developed and utilized. The major portion of the wealth is subterranean, and these treasures should be properly harnessed, but practically nothing has been done in this respect. The surface potentialities should also be properly developed, but these too have been neglected.
How should the surface water potentiality in this region be utilized? The rainfall in this area is very meagre – rain only falls part of the year, and the rest of the year it is dry. Well irrigation is underdeveloped, and there is hardly any lift or shift irrigation. Sixty-five percent of the land is rocky and sandy, and traditionally only coarse grain is grown there. So in Ráŕh we have to do two things – construct many new small-scale ponds, dams and lakes, and undertake large-scale afforestation on the banks of all water systems.
Ráŕh has undulating land, so large-scale reservoirs cannot be easily constructed, but many small lakes and ponds can be built. Large, deep reservoirs will not be as beneficial as small-scale ponds and should not be encouraged. Moreover, large reservoirs rely on lift and shift irrigation to supply water to a system of canals. In such a system the water pressure will fall because as the water travels along the canals leading from the reservoirs to the fields, the canals will be obstructed by the hilly terrain. So, if there is a big investment in reservoirs, the money will be wasted. Instead, many small ponds and dams can be constructed with the same investment. If many small-scale dams are constructed at a cost of about one hundred thousand rupees each, this investment will give a return of hundreds of millions of rupees.
In a system of small-scale ponds and dams, any surplus water in the canals leading to the fields can be rechannelled back to a main water source to avoid wastage. Water will only be carried a little distance in a small-scale canal system, so most of the time the surrounding fields will be properly irrigated. Sometimes however, as in the rainy season, surplus water will be created which should be rechannelled back to the water source or used further downstream. Such a system will also help check flooding in the rainy season and avoid damage to the small-scale dams constructed along the rivers. Farmers should take care that they do not use excessive non-organic fertilizers, because the chemicals will pollute the water system and have a harmful effect on humans, animals, fish, plants and the environment. Organic fertilizers are preferable to non-organic fertilizers.
What is the method to irrigate a rain-shadow region? When the rain clouds move from the sea and strike high mountains on the land there is rain. The part of the mountain range which faces the sea gets ample rain, whereas the region on the other side of the range facing inland gets little rain. The region which gets ample rain is the rain-front area, while the region which gets little rain is the rain-shadow area. The entire Telengana region is a rain-shadow area, and so is the Pune region of Maharashtra.
How can the Pune region be irrigated? There are two main methods. One is to pump water up the coastal side of the mountain range so that it can run down the inland rivers, and the other is to dig a tunnel through the mountains from the rain-front area to the rain-shadow area. The second method of irrigation is far cheaper. A well constructed tunnel should last about 150 years.
There are three types of rivers – ice fed, rain fed and subterranean fed. Ice fed rivers cause flooding when there is an increase in the temperature, whereas rain fed and subterranean fed rivers only cause seasonal flooding when there is heavy rain. However, an increase in the temperature can dry them up.
Are the rivers in Ráŕh perennial or seasonal? Are they ice fed or rain fed, or do they get water from subterranean sources due to the high level of the artesian water? Many rain fed rivers are only supplied with water in the rainy season and not in other seasons. The rivers in central Ráŕh are rain fed but they are also supplied with artesian water. We should not depend only on rain fed rivers, because while they may accumulate water in the rainy season, in other seasons they may dry up. And even if rain fed rivers are also fed by subterranean sources which supply water throughout the year, there should still be every effort to conserve the surface water.
There are four categories of rivers – small rivulets, rivulets, rivers and big rivers.
Rivers also have three stages – the hill, plain and delta stages. Some rivers, however, do not have their delta stage in the ocean because they expire before reaching the sea. Take the example of the topography of Mithila and Magadh. In Mithila in the rainy season, sufficient water passes through rivers such as the Bagmati, Gandak and Koshi. The hill stage of these rivers is in Nepal, the plain stage is in Mithila, and the delta stage is in Bengal. The plains of Mithila contain very soft soil, which is why these rivers always change their course. No rivers have their delta stage in Mithila. To tame these rivers, the cooperation of Nepal and Bengal is required.
In Magadh, unlike Mithila, the hill and delta stages of the rivers are in Magadh, except for the Suvarnareka, which flows just on the border line between southern Magadh and northern Chattisgarh. The Koel River should be tamed through cooperation between Magadh and Kaoshal. In fact, Magadh and Kaoshal share many common problems.
In controlling or taming rivers, powerful boards of experts should be established which contain representatives of all three stages. This will ensure the successful implementation of river projects. Under international law no country should be allowed to use water according to its own wish. The hill stage must consult with the plain stage and the plain stage must consult with the delta stage. Nepal, for example, must consult with the plain and delta stages of its rivers which flow through India. If there is want of cooperation among the three, the river water coming from the hills or blocked at the delta may submerge a large area of plain land. Magadh is in a relatively convenient position as both the hill and plain stages of its rivers are in Magadh.
The banks of all water systems should be covered by dense forests. The science behind this is that the roots of the trees retain water. When the water-table subsides, the roots of the trees slowly release water. Hence, a pond surrounded by trees will never run dry. The foliage of the trees also minimizes evaporation. Besides this, the leaves of the trees have very small pores which attract clouds, so the trees help to increase the rainfall. Only one hundred years ago there were large rain forests in Ráŕh, and at that time in the Manbhum district the rainfall was seventy to eighty inches per year. Now it is hardly forty to forty-five inches.
A scientific programme of afforestation should include two aspects. In the first phase fast growing trees should be planted. Trees which grow to their full height in six months to two years and provide dense green cover should be selected. In the second phase, trees which take longer to grow but also provide dense green cover should be planted. This approach will quickly restore the ecological balance of a region.
Afforestation must be carried out both intensively and extensively. The best approach is to plant both fast growing and slow growing trees together. Planting only slow growing trees is uneconomic because we will have to wait thirty, fifty, seventy or one hundred years to get the desired result. And planting only fast growing trees will not provide any long term benefits. So both intensive and extensive afforestation should be done immediately. After reaching maturity, the trees can be selectively cut and sold.
Afforestation should be carried out on the banks of ponds, canals, dams, lakes, rivers and reservoirs. For example, babula [Acasia arabica Willd.] or kheyer [Acasia catechu Willd.] should be planted. In between these trees we can plant bukphul [Sesbania grandiflora Pers.], and in between these, Indian rosewood. The reason for this is that bukphul grows very fast and within five years it will be a tall tree, but babula takes a little longer to grow. Indian rosewood grows very slowly but it lives a long time. Thus, first bukphul will grow fast and attract rain which will help the other trees to grow. When it has fully matured after five or seven years it can be cut, and by this stage we will have a dense forest of Indian rosewood trees.
These trees are very useful in other respects also. For example, bukphul leaves increase the milk supply in cows, while thread can be produced from the leaves and stem. Indian rosewood trees increase the rainfall and hold water in their roots. The flowers provide a plentiful supply of honey, the leaves can be used to make plates, the sap is used to produce gum for the incense industry, and the tree may be used in sericulture to produce tasar silk. The seeds are also edible and are taken by poor people, while the honey has medicinal use and economic value, so it can earn foreign exchange as an export commodity. Piyasal [Pterocarpus marsupium Roxb.] can also be planted in between Indian rosewood trees if need be. In this way, step by step, we have to proceed.
Scientific crop management is also an essential aspect of water conservation. For example, a field of barley requires less water to grow than a field of vegetables. If there are two fields side by side, one of barley and the other of vegetables, the vegetable crop will consume only seventy-five percent of the water normally used to irrigate it. If the other twenty-five percent is allowed to run off to the barley crop, that water will be sufficient to irrigate the barley. The barley crop will not require any special irrigation facilities.
Fruit trees can store a large amount of water in their roots, so they should be planted along river banks and near paddy fields to help conserve water. After the paddy harvest at Ánanda Nagar, for example, the water flows into the two rivulets – the Alkananda and the Paragati – leaving the fields dry. After a short time the rivulets also dry up as their supply of seepage water from the fields stops. To solve this problem, fruit trees should be planted beside the rivulets. The water stored in the roots of the fruit trees will keep the soil moist and fertile. Care should be taken so that the branches of the fruit trees do not block the sunlight from the crops. If this system is followed, when the paddy is cut and the fields are drained of water, the rivulets will remain flowing. If fruit trees are planted along the banks of a river, it will always retain water.
Foolish human beings, however, have cut down all the trees along the river banks, so now many rivers have dried up. Who would believe that 150 years ago large boats used to travel along the Mayuraksi Rriver in Bengal? Today it is a small river, and in the rainy season small boats only ply along it. The forests around the river have all gone. The forest trees contain water in their root systems and release it in a controlled way which enables the rivers to flow regularly. Now you understand the utility of the forests. Adjacent to the Mayuraksi River is the Katasu village where I once saw a fossilized mast of a ship. This proves that at one time large ships used to travel along the river. I have also seen the same thing along the Damodar River. Due to deforestation, these rivers are now drying up, and consequently there is less rainfall.
The inner spirit of our water conservation programme is that the amount of existing surface water should be immediately doubled. But it is preferable if it is increased tenfold. This can best be done by a decentralized approach to water management which increases the depth, the area, or both, of water storage systems. The first step is to increase the depth of those ponds, tanks, dams, lakes, rivers and reservoirs which are already being used for storing water. The second step is to increase the area of these storage facilities, while the third step is to increase the plantations around them. How can these plantations be increased by a factor of ten? By increasing the number of rows of plants around each water storage system five times, and by reducing the distance between each plant by half. In addition to this, many new small-scale ponds, tanks, dams, lakes and reservoirs should also be constructed. As a general rule, surface water should always be utilized in preference to subterranean water.
You must prepare yourselves. The sphere of knowledge, the span of knowledge and the expansion of knowledge starts with the self. Humanity is waiting for you. You know what you are and what the world expects from you. You have to solve all the problems in the world today. You should prepare detailed plans and programmes and act accordingly. You must be the vanguard.
The months in the Bengali calendar and their approximate English equivalents are as follows:
1) Vaeshákha – mid April to mid May
2) Jyaeśt́ha – mid May to mid June
3) Aśádha – mid June to mid July
4) Shrávańa – mid July to mid August
5) Bhádra – mid August to mid September
6) Áshvina – mid September to mid October
7) Kárttika – mid October to mid November
8) Agrahayańa – mid November to mid December
9) Pauśa – mid December to mid January
10) Mágha – mid January to mid February
11) Phálguna – mid February to mid March
12) Caetra – mid March to mid April
The Bengali calendar is based on the cycles of the moon. Detailed research needs to be done to make all calendars more accurate. This will make farming more scientific and increase productivity.