Basic Practices of Crop Production
Different activities in crop production are ploughing, sowing, applying fertilizers, harvesting and seed storage. All these activities collectively have an effect on the yield of crops.
1. Soil preparation
The most important aspect in agricultural process is to loosen the topsoil. The loosened soil helps in the growth of earthworm and soil microbes. These organisms add humus to the soil and are friendly to farmers. Plants absorb water, minerals, nutrients and air from the soil through their roots. Hence it is essential to prepare the soil in a proper way before starting the cultivation practice. The soil preparation methods are given below.
Ploughing or tilling is the process of loosening and turning the soil up and down to facilitate the availability of nutrients in the root zone of the cultivating crop.
The following are the few important agricultural implements generally used in the field preparation.
Plough is mainly used for tilling the soil, to add fertilisers to the crop, remove weeds and other waste materials from the field and also to turn the soil. A plough is made of wood and is drawn by a pair of bulls or horses. It contains a strong and a sharp triangular iron strip known as ploughshare. The main part of the plough is a long log of wood which is called plough shaft. The other end is attached to a beam which is placed on the bull’s neck.
It is a simple tool which is used to till the land, remove weeds and dig up soil. It has a long wooden rod with a bent iron plate at one end. The other end may be attached to an animal.
Cultivators are driven by tractor. Cultivators also kill weeds and dig up unwanted vegetation available in the field. Nowadays ploughing is done by tractor-driven cultivator. The use of cultivator saves labour and time.
Once the field is ploughed, the topsoil is quite loose. The levelling of soil is done with an implement called the leveller, which is a heavy wooden or iron plank. Levelling of the field also helps in uniform distribution of water during irrigation.
c. Basal Manuring
Manuring means adding manure to the soil. Manure contains many nutrients required for the growth of crop plants. To increase the fertility of the soil, we add manure to the soil even before sowing because it gets properly incorporated into the soil. Application of green manure and farmyard manure will always enhance the growth and yield of the crops.
2. Sowing of Seeds
This is the second step in crop production. Once the soil preparation is over, sowing of the seeds can be done. Sowing is the actual process of planting the seeds in the soil. The seeds that are sown have to be selected very carefully to have high quality. Various methods are followed for sowing the seeds.
a. Sowing by hand
The scattering of seeds by hand is the simplest method of sowing seeds. This is the most economical method of sowing seed.
b. Seed Drill
Seed drill is a modern method of sowing seeds. It is a better and more efficient method than sowing by hand. It is usually done by attaching iron drills to a tractor. Seed drills ensure that the seeds are planted at equal intervals and at the correct depth in the soil.
It is the placement of seed material in a furrow, pit or hole at predetermined spacing with a dibble, more commonly by hand. Soil around the hole is pressed with hand or leg for moist soil contact.
More to know
Transplanting is removal of an actively growing seedling from one place (usually nursery bed) and planting it in the main field for further growth till harvest. Transplanting makes use of pre-grown plants, seedlings or vegetative propagated clones.
3. Adding Manure and Fertilisers
The substances which are added to the soil in the form of nutrients to enhance the growth of plants are called manure and fertilisers. The term fertility refers to the inherent capacity of a soil to supply nutrients to crop plants in adequate amounts and in suitable proportions. These nutrients are essential for the growth of plants.
Manure is an organic substance obtained from the decomposition of plants or animal wastes. Farmers dump plant and animal waste in pits at open places and allow it to decompose. The decomposed matter is used as organic manure. Regular addition of organic manures helps to maintain the soil fertility, protecting them from wind and water erosion and preventing nutrient losses through runoff and leaching. This also increases water-holding capacity, soil aggregation, soil aeration and permeability.
Set up a compost pit within your school compound. Put all the organic wastes like food waste and plant leaf in your school campus, cover it with soil. Wait for three weeks and then you can use this as manure for the plants in your school.
Fertilizer is a substance which is added to the soil to improve plants’ growth and yield. Fertilizers are composed mainly of Urea, Ammonium sulphate, Super phosphate, Potash and NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium). The use of synthetic fertilizers has significantly improved the quantity of the food available today, although their long-term use is debated by environmentalists.
Water is important for the proper growth and development of plants. Plants absorb water from their surrounding with the help of the root system. The supply of water to crops at regular intervals is called irrigation . The time and frequency of irrigation varies from crop to crop, soil to soil and season to season. Fertilizers can also be applied through the irrigation. The various sources of irrigation are wells, tube wells, ponds, lakes, rivers, dams and canal. Effective irrigation is the controlled and uniform supply of water to crops, in the required amount at the right time with the minimum expenditure. Irrigation can be carried out by two different methods.
a. Traditional Methods
b. Modern Methods
a. Traditional Methods
In these methods, irrigation is done manually. Here, a farmer pulls out water from wells or canals by himself or using cattle and carries to farming fields. Pumps are also commonly used for lifting water from various sources. Diesel, biogas, electricity and solar energy are the few important sources of energy needed to run these pumps. The method of pulling water may vary from one place to other place.
Find out the irrigation system followed in your area. Also, debate on the advantages and disadvantages of modern irrigation systems like sprinkler system and drip system.
The main advantage of this method is that it is cheaper. But its efficiency is poor because of the uneven distribution of water. It also leads to heavy water loss.
b. Modern Methods
The modern irrigation methods help to overcome the problems exist in the traditional methods. It also facilitates the even distribution of moisture in the field.
The modern methods involve two systems. They are:
* Sprinkler system
* Drip system
A sprinkler system sprinkles water over the crop and helps in an even distribution of water. This method is much advisable in areas facing water scarcity. Here a pump which generates pressure is connected to pipes, and water is sprinkled through the fine nozzles of pipes.
In drip system, water is released drop by drop exactly at the root zone using a hose or pipe.
This method is considered as the effective one in regions where the availability of water is less.
The global population is expected to be 9 billion by the year 2050. But, agriculture activities alone utilize 70% of the availablefresh water resources. So, efficient and sustainable water use is needed for our own generation and future generations. Drip irrigation is a better solution for economical use of water.
In an agriculture field, many other undesirable plants may grow naturally along with the main crop. These undesirable plants are called weeds. The removal of weeds is called weeding. Weeding is an important process because weeds compete with the crop plants for the nutrients, sunlight, water, space and other resources. It results in the under nourishment of crops and leads to low yield. It is mandatory to remove seeds from the field to achieve the expected yield. Farmers adopt many ways to remove weeds and control their growth. Some of them are explained below.
This is the most common method in which weeds are destroyed physically. Hand pulling or weeding with the help of weeding hoe is the oldest and most efficient method for controlling weeds.
It is one of the practical methods of destroying weeds of all categories. Weeds are buried in the soil and also exposed to sun heat by deep ploughing.
In this method, proper rotation of crops is followed for controlling crop associated and parasitic weeds.
Deep ploughing after harvest of rabi crop and exposing underground parts of weeds to strong sunlight during summer months is useful for destroying many annual and perennial weeds.
Biological weed control
In this method, bio agents like insects and pathogens are used to control weeds. The objectives of biological control are not eradication, but reduction and regulation of the weed population.
Chemical methods are very effective in certain cases and have great scope in weed control. The chemicals used for killing the weeds or inhibiting their growth are called herbicides. These chemicals are mixed with water and sprayed over the crops.
There are over 30000 species of weeds around the world. Out of these 18000 species cause serious losses to crops. The continuous useof the same method leads to building up of tolerant species. Therefore, a suitable combination of different methods of weed control should be practiced.
Integrated weed management
Integrated weed management combines different agronomic practices and herbicides use to manage weeds, so that the reliance on any one weed control technique is reduced. Mechanical, biological, cultural and chemical methods are included in integrated weed managements.
6. Harvesting of Crops
The process of cutting and gathering a crop is called harvesting. Different methods are used for harvesting.
This is the major method of harvesting in India. Certain crops are harvested without using tools. Crops like ground nut, green gram, black gram and horse gram can be harvested by uprooting with hand, provided soil moisture is adequate for hand pulling.
Harvesting in our country is generally done by employing the labours with the help of farm instruments like sickle. This method is laborious and time-consuming one and it is suitable for small-sized farms only.
This harvesting method is used in large sized agriculture fields.
The term harvesting also includes the immediate post-harvest practices such as threshing and winnowing.
The process of separating the grains from their chaffs or pods is threshing. After threshing, we must separate the grains from the chaffs. Winnowing is the process of separating the grains.
7. Storage of food grains
Storage is an important aspect of post-harvest technology, because the crop is seasonally produced but consumed through out the year. Therefore, supply of the produce has to be maintained by proper storage. Before storing, harvested grains should be made free from moisture. Any moisture in the stored grins will lead to the growth of microorganism. So they need to be dried in the sun before storing. Food grains are collected in gunny bags and then stored in godowns. Silos and grains are used for the storage of grains on large scale.
Chemical vapours are sprayed to minimize pest and insects in godowns. This is called fumigation. The stored grains are inspected from time to time to make sure that they are free from diseases and pests. In our country, grains are stored on a large scale in government-owned godowns. The different categories of agricultural produce needing storage are food grains, oil seeds, seeds and fodder.
Food Corporation of India (FCI) was set up on 14th January 1965 at Chennai with the objective of distribution of food grains throughout the country for Public Distribution System (PDS) and maintaining a satisfactory level of operational and buffer stocks of food grains to ensure national food security. Its capital is in New Delhi now.
Visit a food storage godown in your area and know about the methods followed to preserve the food. Also discuss in the class room about the importance of preserving and protecting food grains.