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Diversity of Traditional Grain Legumes of Himalayan Region of Uttarakhand: A Review
Importance of legume
The legumes or pulses belong to the family Fabaceae, sub-family Papilionaceae. Legume crops include important grain, pasture and agro-forestry species and play significant role in providing agricultural, food, nutritional and livelihood security to the hill farmers. Legume crops are used for human, animal consumption, cultivated as ornamental crops, living fences and wind breaks. It is also used as fuel-woods, timber, paper production, oil production, sources of chemicals and medicines (Lewis et al., 2005). Legumes consumed as food grain and vegetable (leaves and pods) are valued for their nutrient-rich products (Dixon and Sumner, 2003). In India, frequency of pulses consumption is much higher than any other source of protein, which indicates the importance of pulses in their daily food habits. About 89% persons consume pulses at least once a week, while only 35.4% persons consume fish or chicken/meat at least once a week (IIPS, ORC Macro, 2007). Its stems, leaves, mature and immature pods and seeds can be used as animal feed due to its high-protein content (Asif et al., 2013). All cultivated legumes directly supply biologically fixed nitrogen and indirect source of manure based nitrogen inputs to maintain soil productivity (Giller and Cadisch, 1995). Peoples et al., 2009 reported that a well developed nodulated root system with effective Rhizobia produced about 30 to 40 kg of N per tonne of biomass produced. In rotation with cereals, legumes provide a source of slow-release nitrogen that contributes to sustainable cropping systems. The improvement in the production of these crops will therefore contribute substantially to better human nutrition and soil health (Popelka et al., 2004).
Legume cropping in Himalayan region of Uttarakhand
In hilly region of Uttarakhand farmers practiced low input agriculture spend almost nothing on improved seed, organic fertilizer, irrigation and pest control measures etc. The cropping pattern in Himalayan region is built around three crop growing seasons viz. Chaumas or Baskat/Kharif (Rainy Season) (Mid-June to October), Hyund or Sheetkal /Rabi (Winter Season) (November to February) and Purior Kharso /Jayad (March-Mid-June). In Uttarakhand most of the agricultural land under the rainfed condition (85%) and only about 15% area irrigated (Maikhuri et al., 1996). In irrigated land wheat and paddy are the major crops and in rainfed condition various traditional crops like Mandua (Finger millet), Cholai (Amaranth), Kuttu/Ugal (Buckwheat), Cheena (Proso millet), Jwar/Bajur (Sorghum), Bhangjeera (Perilla) and various legume crops Rajma (Kidney bean), Lobia (Black-eyed peas), Bhatt (Black Soybean), Gehat (Horse Gram), Naurangi (Cowpea), Urad (Black Gram) and Mung (Green Gram), Arhar/Tur (Pigeonpea), Masoor (Lentil) are cultivated and hence they play a vital role in conserving crop diversity in hilly region of Uttarakhand (Table 2).
In irrigated condition farmers take 2 to 3 crops per year. Most of the grain legumes are cultivated under rainfed condition. Indigenous cropping system involves the sowing of legumes as mixed crop with traditional non-legumes like Jhangora (Barnyard millet), Mandua (Finger millet), Cholai (Amaranth), Kuttu/Ugal (Buckwheat), Cheena (Proso millet) etc. into a single terraced field. This system of sowing of mixture of multiple crop seeds into a single terraced field during in the kharif/chaumasa or monsoon season is locally known as “Barahnaja”. The term indicates that about 10-12 crops are grown together into a single terraced field which enables the farmers to supply different kinds of foods, maintaining crop biodiversity, restore soil fertility (by the use of leguminous plants), reduces the infection of pests and pathogen and to obtain maximum and diverse yield on per unit area basis (Ghosh and Dhyani, 2004).
For hilly farmer’s cultivation of traditional legume crops play an important role in providing agricultural, nutritional and livelihood security. It is considered as an integral part of traditional cropping system for building up the soil fertility. Cultivation practices of legumes are easy and do not require much inputs, labour and attention like another crops. Production potential of legume crops is directly depends on the climatic condition in hilly region of Uttarakhand. Due to less water requirement legume crops are well suited to rainfed condition in comparison with another cereal and oilseed crops. These Himalayan traditional legume crops have high ecological, economic potential and thrive well in adverse environmental conditional with low external inputs (Maikhuri et al., 1996). There are many land races of traditional legume crops as described by various authors mentioned in Table 3.
These traditional legume crops are also play an important role in cultural and traditional life of the local communities of Himalayan region of Uttarakhand. These traditional legume crops are used for preparing the traditional dishes viz. fana, bhatwani, chainsa etc. during marriages, festivals and other auspicious occasions (Table 4). These traditional legume crops are grown for their taste, odour, colour, nutritional values and for their medicinal and soil fertility enhancement characteristics.
Genetic erosion of traditional legume crops
Due to low external inputs and less water requirement traditional legume crops are well suited to rainfed condition of Himalayan region of Uttarakhand but during past few decades due to climatic, cultural and socio-economic changes in local farming communities area under cultivation of pulses is continuously declining which ultimately affects productivity potential of traditional legume crops. Farmers in hilly regions experience low productivity potential and resource use efficiency due to short growing season, small land holdings, moisture stress, poor soil conditions, remoteness, inaccessibility, poor production, post-production management, lack of market development and entrepreneurship. All these natural and socio-economic constraints have led to under-utilization of resource bases in the hills. Maikhuri et al., 2001 also reported a variety of changes in traditional Himalayan agro-ecosystem due to increased population pressure, lack of innovative agricultural technology and environment conservation policies for Himalayan region. Due to change in food habit and increasing market forces a shift from traditional to modern, intensive agriculture system has been observed in Himalayan region (Palni et al., 1998). All these factors are together responsible for loss in traditional legumes crop diversity in hilly region. Maikhuri et al., 1997 also reported that being as an important component of hill agricultural system and economy, legume production showed a stagnancy or decline since past few decades. Decline in legume crop diversity is a collective consequence of following various factors:
• Weather uncertainties/climate change is the major reason for decline in legume crop cultivation. Being as a rainfed crop, the production of pulses much affected by adverse climatic condition as compared to cereals. So the farmers in hilly region give more emphasis to paddy cultivation in irrigated/rainfed land.
• Yield potential of traditional legume crops is very low as compared to improved cereals varieties and also in adverse climatic condition farmers get about 3 to 4 times higher yield from cereal crops than the traditional legume crops.
• Changes in food habits is the another main cause for decline in legume crop cultivation. Due to changed food habits, consumption of traditional legume crops is considered as a sign of backwardness which leads to a decline in interest towards traditional legume crop cultivation. Maikhuri et al., 2001 also reported the replacement of Macrotyloma uniflorum (Horse Gram by kidney bean, wheat and potato owing to changed food habits and increased market demand for potato and kidney bean.
• Traditional legume crops are much susceptible to abiotic constraints like water logging and frost as compared to cereals.
• Traditional legume crops are much susceptible to biotic stress like pest, diseases and wild animals as compared to cereals and it is also one of the important reasons to decline in traditional legume cultivation in hilly region.
• Unavailability of seeds of suitable improved high yielding cultivars for hilly region of Uttarakhand.
• Lack of improved production technology for pulse production in small/marginal undulated land holdings in hilly region.
• Low profitability.
• Unavailability of market linkages and entrepreneurship.
• Lack of post-production management for traditional legume crops.
Strategies for conservation and management of traditional legume crops
There is need to develop a suitable strategies and management practices to increase the area, production and productivity per unit area, strengthening the distribution facilities for produce and availability of market for conservation of traditional legume crops. For timely production, out-sourcing and distribution of pulses, a long-term strategy needs to be worked out to meet the deficit in the demand and supply of pulses in the state. For this a policy has been proposed by State Agriculture Department, Uttarakhand in 2001. Policy much focused on to increase the research experimental trial on traditional legume crops viz. Urd (black gram), Mung (green gram), Bhatt (soybean)/ Kala bhatt (wild soybean ), Rains (Adzuki bean), Naurangi (Rice bean) and Gehat (horse gram) and to develop scientific crop cultivation and management practices to increase productivity and decrease the cost of production of white soybean. The only short coming of this policy is that much emphasis was given on scientific cultivation of white soybean as compared to other traditional legume crops. There is needed to take more steps towards enhancing the production of other traditional legume crops of Uttarakhand. To enhance the production potential and to conserve the traditional legume crop diversity following steps should be considered:
• There is a strong need to reorient crop-specific and region-specific research approaches and cultivation practices along with the changing socioeconomic, agro-ecological and climatic conditions.
• At village level attempts should be made that the farmers continued the farming of traditional legume crops in remote isolated, marginal and waste land which may help in conservation of traditional legume crop diversity.
• Diversification in existing cropping system through the introduction of traditional legumes as intercrops and catch crops will be helpful to meet out the needs of farming family as well as to improve livelihood.
• In-depth research need to be focused on yield enhancement of traditional legume crops in rainfall deficit areas with specific strategies to maximize the use of available water.
• Yield improvements in traditional legume crops can be done by developing and introducing new varieties having traits like high yield, resistant to drought and disease-pest, increased water and nutrient use efficiency.
• There is an urgent need to motivate and changing the mindset of the farmers by facilitating the platforms to demonstrate the benefits of traditional pulse cultivation to farmers as less remunerative, tasty, rich in nutrition and also possesses medicinal properties as compared to cereal crops.
• There is need of placing of innovative marketing strategies to ensure that farmers are able to get remunerative prices for their produce and also find the possibility of marketing of traditional legume crops to be explored by proper campaigning in urban market.
• For strengthening the resource and infrastructural base, there is need to make regular funds availability to pulse growing farmers and government must incorporate the traditional legume crops in public distribution systems (PDS), which will increase the interest of the people towards these crops.
• At village or community level small co-operatives/contract farming of pulses must be adopted from where collection, processing of raw pulses from a particular area and direct approach to market is need to be encouraged to provide supplementary employment and additional income to farmers/villagers.
• Traditional legumes are important parts of the daily diet in hilly region, so an innovative approach to develop a new taste for the consumers by blending and value addition etc. to make the product more attractive and to meet out the nutritional security of the state population.
• Hill agriculture is women folk based, so empowering them through technical training, development of leadership and organization skills can led to successful outcomes from implemented strategies.
• Reviving the Dal milling industry and providing value addition at the farm gate by the installation of improved small dal mills and allied accessories at village level.
• In-situ conservation in their natural habitat is the most appropriate measure for conservation of traditional legume biodiversity in Himalayan region of Uttarakhand (Nautiyal et al., 2005).
• Collection, screening, genetic cataloguing, conservation and use of important traditional legumes through conventional and molecular mean need to be undertaken.
• Production of seeds of traditional legume crops in such a participatory mode to ensure that quality seed is easily available to the farmers.
• Standardization of organic farming package and practices for various traditional pulse crops.
• Weather and pest forecasting system need to be strengthened to warn the farmers prior to incidence of diseases and pests to traditional legume crops in the region.
• Rural connectivity, transportation and other infrastructure need to be strengthened so that the farmers are easily able to sell their produce to nearby market.
• State extension system need to be strengthened to train and educate the farmers about the various farmers friendly government schemes such as Fasal Bima Yojna, Kisan Credit Card etc.
• The state government needs to take a policy decision to modify the present land tenure system and launch the various schemes to the banking sector to make the easy credit availability to small and marginal farmers.
There is considerable potential to increase the area sown to grain legumes and to improve their yields in Finland.
Conflict of interest:
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