Problem and Prospect of Sugarcane Cultivation in Assam অসমত কুঁহিয়াৰ খেতিৰ সমস্যা আৰু প্ৰত্যাশা

~Dr B.C. Bordoloi ~Ms M. Begum

The total geographical area of Assam is 78,520 sq. km out of which Agriculture sector alone has occupied 54.11% of area. Agriculture and its allied activities played an important role in the socio- economic development of the state as this sector is the major contributor to the state economy as well as providing livelihood to a significant proportion of the population of the state. Although rice is the principal crop which dominates the cropping pattern of the state, sugarcane is one of the important commercial crops grown in Assam which contributes 1.36 percent of gross cropped area. Sugarcane is the raw material for the production of white sugar, jaggery (gur) and mollases. It is also used for chewing and extraction of juice for beverage purpose. The sugarcane cultivation plays a vital role towards socio-economic development in the rural areas by mobilizing rural resources and generating higher income and employment opportunities. A large number of agricultural labours are involved in sugarcane cultivation, harvesting and ancillary activities.
In Assam sugarcane is cultivated more or less in all the districts covering 28 thousand ha area producing 10.53 lakh tones with an average productivity of 36 tonn/ha which is very less as compared to national average. The lower productivity of the state is mainly due to monocropping of sugarcane in the same of piece of land year after year with minimal use of farm inputs. Use of poor quality planting material with neglected cultivation under abiotic stress leads to poor yield.
The main constraints which are responsible for low productivity are discussed below
A)Biotic & abiotic Stress: The crop is mainly grown under rain fed condition in the entire state. The erratic and uneven distribution of rainfall delayed the timely planting of crop and affected germination resulting in poor plant population. Moreover flood or water stagnation during the peak monsoon period also reduced the crop growth. Low light intensity due to cloudy weather during kharif season affected the crop growth. Due to hot humid condition weed infestation become severe in early growth stage which affected the crop yield.
B)Technological Constraints:
1)Sugarcane is a high labour intensive crop and shortage of labour during peak period of operation also affected the crop yield.
2)Lack of mechanization and other developed farm implements leads to high cost of cultivation.
3)Use of local cultivar and poor quality planting material is one of the major reasons for low yield.
4)Insufficient application of necessary farm inputs is another major factor for poor yield in the state. Indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizer and lack of knowledge about the rate and proper time of application of chemical fertilizer is the main constraint for poor yield.
5)Poor management practices: The scientific management practices such as timely earthing up, timely harvesting, weed management practices is generally not followed by the sugarcane farmers.
6)Non adoption of proper spacing and seed rate: Lack of maintaining proper spacing is also resulted in poor yield. Farmers generally followed closure spacing which resulted in poor tillering, growth and yield. Besides this, the recommended seed rate is not followed due to which proper plant population is not maintained and ultimately resulted in poor yield.
7)Poor maintenance of Ratoon: Sugarcane is a good ratoon crop. Once it is planted it remains in the same field for 3-4 years as ratoon crop. Management of ratoon crop is another problem for sugarcane growers. In Assam, sugarcane ratooning is followed up to 2-3 years and in many areas it’s a common practice. Ratoon occupies about 40-50% of total sugarcane area in Assam. Farmers are not aware about the scientific management practices for ratoon crop. The nitrogenous fertilizer dose is more in case of ratoon crop than the plant crop. An extra dose of 25% nitrogen is recommended but negligence to the crop such as no use of fertilizer and lack of other intercultural operation leads to poor yield. In almost all the places the ratoon crop receives neglected attention. Neglected cultivation makes the ratoon crop more prone to pests and diseases. The cane yield declines in successive ratoon crops which are common in most of the sugarcane growing areas.
8)Negligence in plant protection: Pest and disease is one of the major problems in sugarcane production. Among the different pests occurrence of woolly aphid, early top borer, top borer, stem borer, plassy borer are common. Attack of early shoot borer is found during the early stage of crop growth during March-April. Whereas attack of stem borer is found throughout the crop growth period but cause a major damage from June to September both in the early and later stage. Top shoot borer cause a major damage to the cane crop from the beginning of May up to the end of September. The borer cause severe damage to canes only in the early stages in June- July when nodes have not been formed. Different diseases such as red rot, grassy shoot, pokah boeng, leaf spot, mosaic disease, and wilt are found which infest the sugarcane. But the intensity of the diseases are varies from place to place, year to year.
9)High weed problem: Weed is also an obstacle for sugarcane growers in Assam which infest both plant as well as ratoon crop. The main predominant weed species in sugarcane are Borreria articularis (L.f.) will, Ageratum houstonium L, Setaria palmifolia, Calocasia spp, Dicanthium annalutum, Melochia corchorifolia L. Anoxopus compresus, Convolvulus arvensis L, Sida rhombifolia, Brachiaria remosa, Cyperus pilosus L, Commelina spp. Weeds compete with the Sugarcane crop for the applied fertilizers, water and sunshine and hence crop growth suffers.
10)Water stagnation: Water stagnation in standing crop field is another problem in certain areas during the peak monsoon period. In char areas of Kamrup, Lakhimpur, Dhemaji, Majuli sugarcane is grown .This land is adjacent to river bank undulated with various soil type carrying silt and sand deposited due to frequently changing water current. The stagnation generally occurs in last week of July and continues until the end of September. In those undulated areas sugarcane is grown where water stagnant occurs for few days. Since the crop remains water logged for few days this affects the crop growth, yield and quality of sugarcane products.
C)Social constraints:
1)Capital deficiency: commercial capital, i.e., loan from banks or other credit agencies are not easily accessible to farmers in Assam.
2)Fragmented land holding.
Prospect of sugarcane cultivation in Assam
Varieties play integral part in contributing cane productivity. The farmers are still cultivating the some old poor yielding varieties with minimum sucrose content. Those varieties are to be replacing by some new high yielding variety with high sucrose content. The Sugarcane Research Station under Assam Agricultural University has developed eight high yielding varieties with high sucrose content viz. Doria, Kolong, Borak, Luhit, Kapileepar, Dhansiri, Nambor, Doiyang. These are mainly suitable for our soil and climatic condition. Among these variety Nambor and Kapileepar can withstand water stagnation for some period of time during its crop growth stage without reducing cane productivity. Therefore these two varieties are mainly suitable for those areas where there is a chance of water stagnation in crop growth stage. In Assam sugarcane is mainly grown in spring season although the yield of autumn planted sugarcane is more as compared to spring planted sugarcane. Variety Doiyang is mainly advocated for autumn planting, therefore those areas where there is a potentiality to grow sugarcane in autumn season they must go for this variety. Besides this, farmers are still following the traditional method of sugarcane cultivation due to which some farmers are not getting the expected yield, even though they are using modern high yielding varieties. To reduce the gap between the research station and farmers’ fields and to create awareness among farmers the extension functionaries must involved by giving dedicated services. Moreover the demonstration programme must be taken and farmers’ participation in those programmes is also needed. Besides this to reduce the cost of cultivation, mechanized cultivation of sugarcane must be followed along with mechanical crushing of sugarcane to reduce the man power. The production cost of sugarcane is high as compared to other crops. Therefore those farmers which are unable to cultivate sugarcane due to shortage of capital must be supported by credit by the bank or the govt. For sustaining crop productivity some productive cropping systems must be followed instead of following mono cropping year over year in the same piece of land by considering the soil health also. For timely planting of crop irrigation facility must be followed wherever possible instead of depending on rain fed cultivation. In Assam sugarcane is mainly used for preparation of jaggery which use is confined in making of traditional food products. Therefore to increase the demand of jaggery it must be involved in bakery products replacing sugar. In Assam many bakery units are there, if the units use jaggery in some of their products instead of sugar, then the demand of jaggery will be increased. Farmers are not following the hygienic method of jaggery preparation and also they are not following proper packaging technique due to which their products fetches very low price. Besides this, there is a problem of marketing the products as there is no definite market place for selling the products. Farmers’ sale their products in local market only. So, there is a great scope of marketing the products in distance place through proper marketing channel. Sugarcane Research station under AAU has developed some products such as liquid jaggery, cane juice, gur chocklate besides jaggery. So there is scope of developing some skilled farmer for preparation of these products. Moreover proper storage technique must be developed for storage of jaggery so that they can sale their products whenever the demands of the products are high.
Sugarcane is a high value cash crop and it has a tremendous scope in industrial sector of Assam. Besides this it has great industrial value for production of biofuel such as ethanol. For that variety with fiber content must be developed by research station in future. After closure of sugar mill in Assam the area under this crop has declined day by day. Therefore to promote this crop government intervention is also needed.

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~Dr B.C. Bordoloi, Chief Scientist, Sugarcane Research Station, Buralikson;
~Ms M. Begum, Sugarcane Research Station, Buralikson

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