Role of Pulses in Indian Agriculture

Pulses occupy an important place in Indian agriculture. In India, pulses are grown over an area of 23.8 million hectares with a total production of 18.6 million tonnes. The average yield of pulses in India is about 735 kg/hectare. The country need to produce 405 million tonnes of additional pulses for meeting the domestic requirement and this can be possible only if we develop high yielding, short duration, drought and insect pest resistance varieties of pulses. In the rainy season, pulses like green gram, black gram, pigeon pea and cow pea are the most important and leading pulse crops of India. Chick pea, lentil, lathyrus, field pea and kidney bean are the important pulse crops grown during winter season. However, green gram, black gram and cowpea are grown in both spring and rainy season. Pulses are generally grown in irrigated as well as rain fed area and belong to leguminaceae family. (Main growing areas of pulses in India are Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Rajasthan. Madhya Pradesh is the leading state in India in pulses, in1erms of cultivated area and productivity.

Factors Responsible for Low Yield of Pulses

  • Delayed sowings/plantings
  • Low seed rate resulting in poor crop stands
  • Poor weed management during crop growth
  • Inefficient irrigation and rain water management
  • Large scale monoculture and non-inclusion of pulses in cropping systems
  • Lack of consideration of previous cropping in the same field
  • Inadequate plant protection.
  • Non-availability of seeds of HYVs at affordable price and at the appropriate time
  • Lack of more efficient N using genotypes
  • Imbalanced use of fertilisers
  • Poor management for secondary and micronutrient, mainly 5, Zn, Mn, Fe and B.

India has already enjoyed five decades of post green revolution period. However, stable or declining pulses production created several problems like protein malnutrition and insecurity of quality food and higher pulses cost. Demand of pulses is much higher than its availability which leads to hike in the prices of pulses which is unaffordable to consumers particularly population living in rural, hilly and tribal areas. The projected requirement of pulses by the year 2030 is estimated at about 32 million tonnes. Pulses play a pivotal role in enhancing livelihood security, nutritional security, food security, soil health, farm profit and environmental sustainability. Thus pulses are premier crops cultivated in Indian subcontinent.

Indian population is predominantly vegetarian. Pulses and its products are a rich source of essential nutrients like protein, minerals and vitamins. Pulses can easily meet the protein requirement of a vegetarian diet. As diet of Indians is deficient in respect of quality and quantity of protein, mixing of pulses grains with other cereals enhances the nutritive value of the food. Pulses are also a cost effective alternate to ameliorate energy protein/ nutrient elements deficiency in the country: Several serious diseases in human beings can be prevented by regular intake of pulses.

India has only three per cent of the world’s land resources and five per cent of water resources. Yet, Indian agriculture system supports 18 per cent of the world population. Since resources, viz. land, water and energy are limited, scarce, costly and having competing demand for urbanization industrialization and meeting farming needs. Further: degrading of soil health is posing major concerns for’ agricultural sustainability. Low soil organic matter and imbalanced use of fertilisers are affecting pulse crops productivity. A deficient monsoon followed by a further dry spell for the past few years has affected pulses production. The production of pulses in India has remained insufficient making us dependent on imports. The demand for these food commodities is expected to increase in future substantially. India is the world’s largest producer, importer and consumer of pulses Our annual import bill for pulses is Rs 100,000 million. Thus, there is a great need for increasing production of pulses as par capita availability of pulses is only 37 g/day as against 54 g/day required to fulfil the protein requirement under changing climate scenario, more emphasis shall be given on achieving the target of 24 million tonnes of pulses production by 2020 so as to make the country self sufficient and reduce the burden of import bill substantially Further, pulse seed production hubs are being developed in various regions to ensure availability of quality seeds of pulses to farmers.

The per capita availability of pulses has progressively declined from 65 g/ day in 1961 to merely 39.4 g in 2011, whereas, availability of cereals has gone up from 399.7 to 423.5g. For a country that faces persistent protein inflation and has preference for vegetarian diet, pulses are the most economical source of vegetable protein higher consumption of pulses will help address the scourge of pervasive malnutrition caused by protein deficiency among large sections of the Indian population.

National Food Security Mission (NFSM) and Pulses

Government has started National Food Security Mission (NFSM) for food and nutritional security and for promotion of cultivation of pulses and other food have been grains. Recently more states covered under National Food Security Mission. Under National Food Security Mission pulses cultivation has been started in Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttrakhand and all the North East states. Salient points of National Food Security Mission are given below.

  1. Seven Crops Rice, Wheat, Pulses, Jute, Sugarcane, Cotton, Coarse Cereals covered under NFSM.
  2. Fifty per cent NFSM has been dedicated for development of pulses.
  3. Cultivation of pulses under NFSM has been started in J&K, HP, UK, and all North Eastern States.)

Pulses have the capability to protect the soil from wind and water erosion in arid in and semi arid tropics. The roots of pulse plant have Rhizobium nodules that work for nitrogen fixation in the soil. For better nitrogen fixation suitable species, A of Rhizobium should be applied for different pulse crops. Pulses are rich source of protein and can be easily grown under rice wheat cropping system in North West India. Pulses improves soil fertility by fixing atmospheric nitrogen and hence the farmers need to adopt this technology in the region.

Balanced Fertilisation

Balanced fertilizer use at the macro level in India is generally equated with a nutrient consumption ration of 4:2:1 (N: P205:K20′)

Use of bio fertilisers such as Rhizobium, Azospirillum, Phosphate salubilising bacteria (PSB) and Trichoderma also resulted in significant increase in all growth and yield parameters in pulse crops. Apart from this it has a potential role in saving of chemical fertilisers in pulse crops cultivation. Bio fertilisers such as PSB and mycorrhiza fungi significantly increases the yield and yield attributing characters and P content in shoot in pulse crop. Similarly, the growth attributes and nutrient uptake in pulse crops also increased due to application of Rhizobium, PSB Azotobacter and Azospirillum compared to control.

Processing, Packaging and Storage

Go overcome pulse crisis in future, emphasis! may be given on farm processing and value addition of pulses and storage facilities which are needed as pulses grain are easily damaged by insects and pests. Further, moisture percentage in the pulse grains should be brought down to or less after sun drying and water proof bags such as thick polyethylene bags should be used for packing and storage. These” bags should be heat sealed. In case of higher seed moisture, jute bags are recommended. Pulses seeds being hygroscopic in nature, absorb moisture from the atmosphere until the equilibrium is reached between the vapour pressure of seed and atmosphere. Therefore, efforts should be made that relative humidity in the seed storage is kept as low as possible and any chance of absorbing moisture by the seed from atmosphere is avoided.

Aeration during storage of seed is important, particularly when moisture content is low. Emphasis may also be given on pulses processing techniques, utilization centre and development of local markets for pulse produce. So that better harvest of pulses may improve the economy and living standard of small and marginal farmers.



Source of Role of Pulses in Indian Agriculture by Aditya Johari – author of Role of Pulses in Indian Agriculture article

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