Assured marketing of moong holds promise : The Tribune India

Baldev Singh Dhillon

and Raj Kumar

PUNJAB has made tremendous progress in agriculture since the mid-1960s as a result of technological developments and the government’s policies aimed at achieving national food security; the paddy-wheat cropping system has emerged as the predominant one. This has created challenges, of which the depletion of underground water resources is the most serious one. This is mainly due to the expansion of paddy cultivation, a water-guzzling crop, from 2.27 lakh hectaresz (ha) in 1960-61 to 31.45 lakh ha in 2021-22. There is an urgent need to diversify the cropping system by replacing some area under paddy with less water-requiring crops, besides promoting water conservation measures.

Crop Diversification

Sources: Statistical Abstract of Punjab; Department of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare, Punjab; Department of Agronomy, PAU; and the authors’ calculations.

Note: Water requirement (5,600 m3/acre) is of paddy PR121, the most popular variety. PR126 and Pusa44, other popular varieties need 5,000 and 6,400 m3/acre of water, respectively. The profitability is, however, calculated using the average yield of Parmal in Punjab.

The Punjab Government recently announced policy measures in this direction, including assured procurement of moong at the minimum support price (MSP). Besides having less water requirement than parmal, moong has large domestic demand. Also, moong cultivation can fix atmospheric nitrogen and thereby improve soil fertility.

Moong is traditionally cultivated during the sauni (kharif) season (sown during the second fortnight of July). The crop matures in about 72 days. With the development of short-duration varieties, namely PAU G65 and Pusa Baisakhi (which mature in about 65 days), moong cultivation started during the summer season (sown from March 20 to April 10) in the 1970s. With time, its sowing period got extended and as per PAU, late sowing [designated as summer (L)] can be done up to the third week of April, though some farmers sow it after harvesting wheat. The improved varieties now available for summer-sowing mature in 61-62 days. As a result of the government’s decision, the area under moong is expected to increase in all these seasons. Further, it will promote summer and summer (L) moong cultivation involving three-crop rotations.

The main aim of this initiative is to replace some area under parmal with moong. Moong may also replace some area under other kharif crops such as maize, arhar, mash and groundnut, which (except maize) have too small an area to deserve any consideration. This initiative is not going to have any effect on cotton cultivation as the crop pays more than sauni moong. Also, summer/summer (L) moong cannot be raised before cotton-sowing.

The water requirement was computed considering the number of irrigations and the depth of irrigation. In practice, however, irrigation water application is greatly affected by the time, distribution and amount of rainfall. Paddy has distinctly higher water requirement than other crops. Sauni moong has the lowest requirement.

As expected, both water requirement and profitability are distinctly higher in the case of cropping systems involving parmal, and of three-crop rotations compared to two-crop rotations. Further, it is evident that:

(1) None of the non-parmal cropping systems, even three-crop ones, have profitability higher than the most common parmal-wheat rotation.

(2) The profitability of parmal-wheat is Rs 57,995/acre. Next best non-parmal cropping systems are those involving summer (L) moong [sauni moong-wheat-summer (L) moong, Rs 49,873/acre; and maize-wheat-summer (L) moong, Rs 46,680/acre].

(3) Though two summer (L) moong-based cropping systems [sauni moong-wheat-summer (L) moong and maize-wheat-summer (L) moong] seem most profitable as per present considerations, these may not become popular because summer (L) moong is prone to losses in yield and quality due to pest attacks during flowering, high temperature and early pre-monsoon/monsoon showers. In comparison, summer moong gives a more stable performance. Further, the cropping systems involving sauni moong have lower water requirement as well as higher profitability than those based on maize, indicating that on both accounts sauni moong should be preferred over maize. But moong continues to grow vegetatively when there is excessive rain and thereby, maturity is delayed and yield is adversely affected, and if there is scanty rainfall, there is severe incidence of insect-pests (thrip). In comparison, maize is a stable crop.

(4) The initiative will expand the area under summer/summer(L) moong crops, and may boost potato and pea cultivation. Potato seed produced in Punjab is known to be of good quality and is preferred in other states in the country. Frozen pea is an important vegetable within and outside the country.

Farmers may be tempted to give more importance to profitability than water-saving. Thus, they may adopt three-crop rotations involving parmal rather than other crops. This will lead to substantially higher water requirement (1,200-1,680m3/acre considering PR121) over that of parmal-wheat. Thus, ensuring MSP for moong may lead to higher water demand rather than water-saving. However, the farmers may bring more area under short-duration varieties. In case PR121 and Pusa 44 are replaced by PR 126 (the shortest-duration variety available at present), even then, water requirement will be higher by 6,00-1,080 m3/acre than that of parmal-wheat.

The analysis shows that ensuring MSP will expand summer and summer(L) moong cultivation, but sauni moong may not replace area under paddy. The area under summer/summer (L) moong increased from 54,500 acres during 2020-21 to 1,29,100 acres during 2021-22 and production rose from 21,300 tonnes to 65,000 tonnes during this period. However, there is no decrease in area under paddy. Apparently, to enable sauni moong to replace parmal, besides enhancing MSP, its yield potential needs to be enhanced. To do so, the route of extending the crop duration, which is generally positively correlated with grain yield, may be explored.

It needs to be driven home that the initiative of procuring moong produce at MSP has been taken to save water. This can be achieved only by adopting non-parmal rotations, which will also result in savings on electricity consumption. The government may consider linking the provision of MSP to the produce of summer/summer (L) moong crop with the replacement of parmal cultivation by sauni moong or some other kharif crop, such as maize, to meet the challenge of an impending water crisis in the next 20 years or so.

BS Dhillon is former VC and Raj Kumar is Principal Extension Scientist (Agri Economics), PAU

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