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Forum global sur la sécurité alimentaire et la nutrition • Forum FSN

Re: Pulses are praised for their health, environmental and economic benefits. How can their full potential be tapped?

Bhubaneswor Dhakal

Dear FSN members and moderator

I hope this posting clarifies meaning and problems of “Exotic Poisoning” in agri-ecologies of pulses crops and address your curiosities. Exotic poisoning has affected farmers many ways. Three categories of them are explained here.

Category One 

Most small and subsistent farmers in developing societies follow mixed, intercropping, relay cropping and terrace edge cropping practices of pulses major crops. Rice, maize, millet and wheat crops are major crop in Nepal. Traditionally most pulse crop species could sustain in poor soil. Organic matter based mycorrhiza played crucial roles in the success of the crop species and varieties. Nowadays, farmers have practiced inorganic fertilizer to take high yield advantage of exotic varieties of the major crops. The major crops are chemical input responsive or demand high doses of the inorganic fertilizer and different growth stages. Crop research and community support agencies have strategically displaced the organic input based varieties. They have done little work to improve productivity of the varieties and make competitive to inorganic fertilizer and other input based varieties. Some pulse crop varieties and mycorrhiza evolve naturally and become endemic to certain ecological pocket. Application of the inorganic fertilizer in higher dose has destroyed the organic matter based mycorrhiza which has led to crop failure of indigenous varieties and hamper the traditional cropping systems. Farmers have not easy availability of or access to improved varieties of all crop species suitable in mountain regions with diverse agro-ecologies. Some of the farmers want to grow landraces for cultural, medical and taste reasons. Therefore, the promotion of chemical input responsive varieties of major crops and inorganic fertilizer poisoned agro-ecologies of some pulses crop varieties and resulted crop failure.

Category Two

The opportunity of evolving genetic properties to be adaptive or become endemic in particular ecological pocket areas has been destroyed by introduction of exotic varieties and practicing frequent replacement of seeds from external sources. It is not a right forum to discuss detail about it but loss of the opportunity is very critical issue for environmental, socially and economically vulnerable communities and mountain region.   

Category Three

Introduction of exotic varieties bring exotic pests which destroy ecological condition to sustain landraces. Considering growing behaviours the problem is most likely have occurred in pulses crops. But it is obvious in species such as vegetable crops. For example, development agencies (government and NGOs) introduced exotic early varieties of cucumber in rural communities without detail risk assessment from agro-ecological perspective. The varieties brought a pest seriously nasty for landraces. Now the pest wiped highly prolific and high yielding local varieties growing conventional season (July to November). The economic and social cost of from loss of the landraces is incomparable to with the benefit of the exotic varieties. Many communities are economically, socially (health perspective) and culturally suffering. The problem bring agencies have ignored the problem. Some critics often argued that foreign agencies strategically introduced this problem to destroy local varieties and create market for their seed.        

Category Four

Cross breeding of exotic varieties with genetically superior landraces can be described as a category of exotic poisoning.  

Thanks.

Bhubaneswor Dhakal