FODDER OATS IN THE INDIAN HIMALAYA

Bimal Misri

Regional Research Centre.

Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute,

CSK HPKV Campus, Palampur-176 062 (India)

Oat is an introduced crop in India. The exact time and place of its introduction cannot be ascertained with certainty. However, there are references to Oat cultivation in Ain –I-Akbari written by Abul Fazal, the court historian of Mughal king Akbar, in 1590. It is generally believed that large scale Oat cultivation started in India during the beginning of 19th century when the British established remount depots for the Indian Army. As far as extension of its cultivation in the Himalaya is concerned, it is comparatively recent. It was first introduced in the Jammu and Kashmir State by the then King, Maharaja Hari Singh (1925-1947) in his stud farms. The seeds were imported from Europe. During this period, cultivation of Oats remained confined to the King’s farms only and local farmers were not using Oats. Its introduction in the Himalayan region started earnestly in late seventies, after the establishment of an Agrostology wing of J&K Department of Agriculture in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh Agricultural University at Palampur and G.B. Pant Agricultural University at Pantnagar. Along with its introduction, organized research activities also started on Oats in the Himalayan region. These activities were further strengthened by extensive research on production technology and varietal development of Oats at the Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute (IGFRI) and Indian Agricultural University established in the plains. In these areas Berseem (Egyptian clover) became very popular but it could be cultivated only under irrigated conditions. To find an alternative forage crop for rainfed areas research was initiated on Oats and it is continuing. Until now a number of productive and nutritious varieties/cultivars of Oats have been released in India by various institutions. The release of any variety/ cultivar is preceded by multilocational trials throughout the country under the aegis of All India Co-ordinated Research Project on Forage Crops. Some of its testing centres are located in Himalayan places like Palampur, Srinagar and Almora. This at times leads to the identification of a variety suitable only for Himalayan regions.

In spite of extensive research and extension, availability of excellent varieties and easy cultivation, Oat has not become very popular in temperate Himalayan states like Himachal Pradesh and Uttranchal. It is only in Jammu and Kashmir that Oat has become extensively popular and has significantly ameliorated the economic conditions of the farmers, particularly the small and marginal farmers.

Introduction and Acceptability of Oats in the Indian Himalaya

The entire agricultural scenario in the Himalaya is beset with conflicts, paradoxes and inherent limitations of the natural resources. Land, the basic input is the greatest limitation. The continuous land fragmentation has led to an alarming proportion of small holdings. The status about the land holdings in the Indian Himalaya is presented in Table 1. The situation is worst in the state of Himachal Pradesh where 40 percent of farmers own a land holding of only 0.65 ha. At the same time the greatest paradox is that all small farmers rear animals to complement their earnings, but do not have enough land to produce fodder for their sustenance. The farmer’s bias for the cultivation of food crop in his small holding is well understood.

Table 1. Distribution of land holding (% of total) in the Indian Himalayas
Land holding size (ha) Northeastern Himalayas Western Himalayas Total Himalayas All India
Holding Area holding Area holding Area holding Area
<2 78.4 35.0 87.6 52.6 82.9 41.2 78.3 32.3
2-4 14.6 24.0 9.3 25.9 12.0 25.0 13.3 23.1
4-10 5.5 19.0 2.8 15.7 4.2 17.8 7.3 27.3
>10 1.5 22.2 0.3 5.8 0.9 16.0 1.1 17.5

Three temperate Himalayan states of India represent different altitudinal and latitudinal situations, thus the different climatic entities. The Himachal and Uttaranchal Himalaya represent the true temperate climate beyond 8,000 ft altitude where arable agriculture holds no promise; up to this altitude the days are sunny, temperatures are adequate for farming during winter. Rice- wheat; Rice - maize; Rice - Potato are some of the most favourite crop rotations and farmers do not deviate from this sequence. Consequently the area under forage crops has not increased above a level of 1% of total cultivated lands in the area for the last thirty years. As far as Kashmir is concerned, the true temperate conditions start in valley basins (average alt. 5000 ft). Severe winter, absolute lack of sunlight for more than two winter months and uncertainty of winter rains compel the farmers not to go in for a labour and resource intensive uncertain food crop. They have found the best answer in Oats – an easy crop which can help to get some output from the land which otherwise remained fallow during winter.

Inspite of all these limitations Oat has started to become a popular crop in Himachal Pradesh and Uttranchal states as well. As a result of extensive extension activities the farmers have started its cultivation. The area under its cultivation is gradually increasing as is evident from Table 2.

Table 2. Oat seed sales in Palampur during 2000-2001 and 2001- 2002 (kgs)
Agency 2000-2001 2001-2002
Walia Sees Store 380 400
Jain Seed Store 300 500
Deputy Director Agric. Dept. 10000 11050

The sale of Oat seed at Palampur is representative and the situation is almost identical at other places as well. During only one year an additional sale of 1270-kg seed was made. Assuming that the farmer used 100-kg seed/ha for sowing an additional area of 12.7 ha was brought under the cultivation of Oats. Besides, the local Agricultural University sells about 3,000 kgs of seed every year.

Oat cultivation in Kashmir- a success story

After its establishment, the Agrostology wing of the J&K Govt., Agriculture Department offered free Oat seed and fertilizer to the farmers in 1976. In spite of extensive extension activities the total take off of the seed was only 200 kgs. The efforts to popularize Oat cultivation, however, continued unabated. The major players were the Agriculture Department, Animal Husbandry Department and IGFRI Regional Research Centre. The local Agricultural University later joined these agencies.

About 80 percent of the cultivated fields in Kashmir used to remain barren during winters because of the severe cold conditions. The farmers would switch over to alternative professions during winter; and the making of Kashmiri handicrafts was a major winter profession of farmers. Large-scale demonstrations of Oat cultivation were laid out by the R&D agencies throughout the valley. These demonstrated to the farmers that it is an easy crop demanding almost no after care, post-sowing. This attracted the farmers and Oat cultivation received a boost. Looking at very high demand for the seed the Agriculture Department priced the seed after subsidizing it. The sale figures for Oat seed during the period 1996/97 – 2001/02 are given in Table 3. The subsidy continued until 1997-98.

During 1998-99 the Government withdrew the subsidy and started selling the seeds at landed cost. This had a significant impact on the sale of the seeds, which were considerably reduced.

Table 3. Oat seed sale figures in Kashmir 1996/97-2001/02.
Year Quantity (tons)
1996-97 118.31
1997-98 140.0
1998-99 32.13
1999-2000 77.52
2000-2001 15.65
2001-2002 62.25

Source: Director Agriculture Department, Srinagar (Kashmir)

However, this year onwards the farmers started growing their own seed and the sale by the Agriculture Department reduced considerably. During the 1999-2000 season the Department sold only 77.52 t of Oat seed. The seed sales correspond with the increase in area under Oat cultivation. During the past five years the area under Oat cultivation has increased from 12,507 ha to 18,000 ha. After the withdrawal of the subsidy sales of the seed reduced, but the area under its cultivation kept on registering a progressive increase as shown in Table 4. During the past five years a decline in the area under Oat cultivation took place only once in 1998-99 when the subsidy on the cost of seeds was withdrawn.

Cultivation of Oats on an area of 18,000 ha during a span of only 26 years can be described as a real success story and the credit for it, besides the R&D agencies, goes to this easy to cultivate and profitable crop.

Table 4. Increase in area under Oat cultivation in Kashmir Valley 1996/97- 2001/02 (ha)
1996-97 12,507
1997-98 15,320
1998-99 14,000
1999-2000 15,600
2000-2001 17,000
2001-2002 18,000

Source: Director Agriculture Department, Srinagar (Kashmir)

Research on Oats in the Himalaya

The initial evaluation and introduction of Oats started in Kashmir valley during the early eighties. Misri et al (1984) evaluated five cultivars developed by IGFRI at Srinagar. Cultivar Kent was used as a check or control. The results obtained are presented in Table 5.

 

Table 5. Performance of oat cultivars for different forage attributes under single cut system in Kashmir valley
S.no Cultivar Plant height (cm.) Tillers/m.

row

Leaf/stem ratio Forage Yield (t/ha)
Green Dry
1. JHO 801 91 120 0.491 11.80 2.89
2. JHO 802 79 102 0.701 9.13 2.54
3. JHO 810 87 145 0.421 28.73 6.99
4. JHO 815 84 99 0.549 18.93 4.91
5. JHO 819 99 107 0.519 13.66 2.77
6. Kent 102 108 0.615 192.3 47.6

Consequent upon the best performance of JHO 810, a multi-locational trail using this cultivar was laid out at three locations in the valley. In this multi-locational trial also JHO-810 performed best. The yield data obtained at three locations are given in Table 6.

Table 6. Performance of oat cultivars in Kashmir valley (1985-86)
Sl. No. Variety Manasbal Asham Kashmir Univ. Average
Gfy (t/ha)
JHO 801 15.4 19.8 10.8 15.6
JHO 802 22.6 21.2 19.5 17.3
JHO 810 29.6 26.2 22.3 28.6
JHO 815 16.9 25.3 17.9 20.9
JHO 819 20.4 18.9 17.2 19.0
Kent (Check) 15.8 14.9 12.2 17.8

Subsequently this cultivar was submitted to the state varietal evaluation committee for its release in Kashmir valley. The proforma giving details about various forage and related attributes of this cultivar are given in Table 7. The cultivar was named Bundel Sheet Jai-1.

Table 7. PROPOSAL FOR RELEASE OF FODDER OAT VARIETY (BUNDEL SHEET JAI –1) BY STATE EVALUATIONCOMMITTEE (J&K STATE)
1. Name of the Crop OAT (Avena sativa L.)
2. a) Name of the variety under which tested

b) Proposed name of the variety

‘ JHO – 810’

"BUNDEL SHEET JAI – 1"

3. Sponsored by Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute, Jhansi (U.P.)
4. Parentage with the details of its pedigree, adaptability, grain characters, disease and insect resistance etc. 'JHO-810' is derived from the cross (kent x IG-67-22)-11-19-3 through the pedigree method. It is specially suited for growing in the valley of Kashmir. It can be grown under apple orchards, also. It has amber grain colour. Seeds are plump and non-shattering. It is resistant to lodging and all diseases. No incidence of any insect pest has been found to occur on this variety in the Kashmir valley.
5. a ) Whether recommended by seminar/conference/workshop Identified to be superior for Kashmir valley during the group meeting of All India coordinated project for research on forage crops held at Jhansi 7-9 Sept. 1987.
b)If so, the recommandations with specific justifications for release of the variety the recommendations are: "For Kashmir valley, the strain 'JHO-810' recording 49.4 and 48.5 percent higher green and dry forage than the check variety 'kent' is identified as superior strain".
6. Specific area of its adaptation. Kashmir valley
7. Description of variety

a) Plant height

 

85-95 cm.

b) Distinguishing morophogical characters: Tiller no./m. row length = 145

Leaf/stem ratio = 0.421

Lemma colour = Cream

Lemma hairiness = Non – hairy

Awns = Weak

Growth habit =Erect

Panicle and shattering = equi – lateral

c) Maturity (in Kashmir): Seeding to flowery: 176 days

Seeding to seed maturity: 206 days

d) Reaction to major diseases: Resistant to all diseases under field conditions in Kashmir valley.
e) Reaction to major pests: Observed to be free from attack of all insect pests in field conditions of Kashmir valley.
f) Agronomic features 1. Resistant to lodging because of stiff stems and erect leaves.

2. Shattering resistant

3. Frost resistant

4. Fertilizer responsive

5. Optimum fertilizer requirement in Kashmir valley.

N = 90 kg/ha

P2O5 = 40kg/ha

K = as per soil requirement

6. Suitable for sowing in November after rice harvesting

7. Seed rate =100 kg/ha

8. Row to row distance: 25 cm

9.Cutting time for fodder: 50 % flowering in the month of May for maximum yield. However , it can be cut earlier as per need of fodder and left for regrowth.

g) Quality of produce Leaf: Stem ratio: 0.421

Crude protein%: 9.8%

Dry matter%: 23.8%

10) Yield data in regional/interregional/ district trials yearwise. The variety ‘JHO-810’ when tested at Manasbal, Asham, and Kashmir University locations, under three different soil conditions, during 1983-84, to 1985-86, produced 49.4 and 48.5 percent higher green and dry fodder yield, respectively than the standard check ‘kent’.

Besides IGFRI, Sher-I-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, Srinagar, Himachal Pradesh Agricultural University, Palampur, G.B.Pant Agricultural University, Ranichauri are some of the prominent institutions in the area which are busy with on-going research programmes on varietal development, production technology and extension of forage oat in the area.

References:

Misri,B., R.N.Choubey and S.K.Gupta. 1984. Performance of some new Oat strains for fodder production in Kashmir Himalaya. Oat Newsletter 35.