THE BROOM GRASS – An important cash crop

~Dr. Pradip Kr. Kakati
Sr. Scientist
~Dr. Ashutosh Roy
Chief Scientist
Regional Agril. Res. Station, AAU, Diphu

Broom grass or Tiger grass is a tall perennial grass of Poaceae family. Scientific name is Thysanolaena maxima, in Assamese it is called as Phool jharu. Inflorescences of these plants are used for making brooms which is called grass broom (as brooms made of plastic also available now a days). The grass brooms are eco-friendly and biodegradable. A grass broom is an important part in every Indian household. There is an old Indian proverb “By sweeping your home in the morning with grass brooms you also wipe out negative thoughts and energies”. Apart from broom making the plant also plays an important role in other aspects also. Its fibrous roots system binds the soil and helps to reduce soil erosion in hilly slopes. Shifting cultivation – slash and burn agriculture (Jhum) encourage degradation of forest cover over hilly slopes which tends to soil erosion and landslides. Broom grass can transform degraded lands in a patch of greenery within one year of time. The green leaves of the plant supplies fodder for cattle during lean period. Local tribes use broom sticks (stem) as wall building materials. Broom sticks are also tried as raw material in paper industry. In Northeast India broom grass grows wild in hilly areas, Karbi Anglong district is the highest producer of grass broom in India.
Soil and climate
Broom grass can be cultivated in a wide range of agro-climatic conditions – steep rocky mountain slopes to plain areas, sandy loam to clay loam soils. The crop is tolerant to drought situation and while it performs well in high rainfall conditions also, where there is no water logging in the hilly areas. Natural expansions of new areas take place by dissemination of seeds. Seeds are very light in weight which matures in broom grass plant during February – March and carried out by wind.
Method of propagation
Broom grass can be propagated artificially through seeds and rhizomes. The seeds can be collected from the matured inflorescence during February – March. Seeds cannot be sown directly in the main field. Seedlings are to be produced from seed in nursery beds. Generally nursery beds of 2m x 1m sizes are made where 10 g seeds broadcasted. Seeds are covered with thin layer of sand and watering is done to keep the seed bed moist. After 6 weeks the seedlings are either transplanted into a second seed bed or raised in polythene bags which were filled with a mixture of soil, sand and farmyard manure. The raised seedlings are to be planted in the main field with the onset of rainy season. Though broom grass can be planted through seed and rhizomes’ still then planting through rhizomes is easy and more successful method. The rhizomes are easy to transport to long distances for propagation. The rhizomes (roots along with culms) are collected by digging of roots from wild or cultivated broom grass plants after harvesting of brooms. The rhizomes cuts contain 2-3 culms with roots and buds.
Site selection and planting
Highlands with good drainage facilities are suitable for broom grass plantation. The broom grass cannot survive under water logging conditions. Jungles should be cut and burnt down. After proper cleaning of the field, pits of 30 cm3 are dug out. It is better to dug the pits atleast 1 month before planting of rhizomes. In each pit 5 kg FYM to be applied and mixed well with the soil. 20 g of 5% malathion dust to be mixed well in every pits to protect the rhizomes from the attack of termites. Planting distance 2m x 2m with a fertilizer dose of – urea 150 g, SSP 200 g and MoP 60 g per Tussock/hill was found to be optimum (Anon 2016-17). Total numbers of 2500 rhizome cuttings are required to cover 1 ha of field with the recommended spacing.
Mode of application of fertilizer to broom grass
A. Main crop
Half dose of urea and full dose of SSP and MoP are to be applied 7-10 days after planting of fresh rhizomes. Fertilizers are to be applied in ring method. Rings are dug atleast 1.5 ft away from the base of rhizomes where fertilizers are applied and covered with soil. Remaining half urea to be applied 3 months after the first application.
B. Ratton crop
Fertilizer dose and application procedure is same as in the main crop. After harvest of brooms, broom tussocks are cut with sharp knife at ground level. The first dose of fertilizer to be applied within 7-10 days and remaining fertilizers are to be applied atleast 3 months after the first application.
Variety
Farmers generally use their local varieties for cultivation of the crop.
Interculture
Broom grass plots should be keep free from weeds. Weeds are more predominant during early growth stage but later on they are suppress by broom plants. Some of the grassy weeds (thatch grass) and vines like Micania micrantha hamper the growth of broom grass plants. 2-3 weeding operations may be done depending upon the intensity of weeds.
Irrigation
Broom grass is mainly a rainfed crop but for proper establishment of freshly planted rhizomes, it is better to apply irrigation water if rainfall donnot occur for a long period of time.
Harvesting of Brooms
Brooms (Inflorescence) are harvested on maturity during winter season from January – March. The inflorescences along with culms are harvested by cutting above the ground. Harvested brooms are sun dried for a few days. For making brooms, along with inflorescence 1 – 1.5 ft long culms are kept. Brooms are made by bundling 30 – 35 inflorescences.
Economics
Broom grass is a perennial crop. A main crop can be followed by 4-5 ratton crops. Broom yield is lower in the first year crop and it goes on increasing upto 3rd year again it goes on decreasing in 4th and 5th year crop. Therefore after 5th year whole plantation should be dug out and new plantation should be done.
Table: Economics of broom cultivation (with the recommended package)
Year Broom Yield (q/ha) Gross income
(Rs./ha) Cost of cultivation
(Rs./ha) Net income
(Rs./ha) B:C ratio
2014 12.50 56250 53500 2750 1.051
2015 21.90 98550 18750 79800 5.256
2016 47.60 214200 23750 190450 9.018
[Source: Anon. report (2016-17), RARS, AAU, Diphu]

N.B: 1. Broom – partially dried inflorescence with culm of 1.5 ft length
2. Market price of broom grass @ 45/kg
3. Cost of cultivation during 1st year includes – jungle cutting, burning, cleaning, digging of pits, cost of planting material, planting cost etc. hence cost is more whereas during 2nd and 3rd year there is only maintenance cost hence cost is lower.

Weight of brooms (marketable size)
1. Weight of brooms (jharu) having 35 sticks – 300 g approx.
2. No. of brooms (jharu) per kg of broom – 3.33
3. No. of brooms (jharu) per quintal of broom – 333

Marketing of Broom grass
There is heavy demand for grass broom in Local, National and International market. In Assam there are several buyers of grass broom i.e Oink Agro. and Livestock Pvt. Ltd Diphu Karbi Anglong; Hindu Traders, Silchar. In Guwahati there are various wholesellers, dealers of grass broom where farmers can contact for selling their produce. In India almost in every state buyers and exporters of grass broom are available. Farmers can search for better price and buyers in the website www.exportersindia.com. Grass brooms from India are exported to Nepal, Yemen, Kuwait, Bangladesh and USA. In USA there is demand for Indian grass broom, which people purchase from Indian markets available in USA. Therefore marketing of grass broom is not a problem and farmer can go for increasing their production.
Reference
• Anon 2016. Annual Report (2016-17) RARS, AAU, Diphu, Karbi Anglong Assam p 33

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