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Potential of lentil intercropping in sugarcane.

Byline: Dr. Shakeel Ahmad Anjum, Dr. Ehsanullah, Muhammad Aamer Watoo, Dr. Imran Khan and Mohsin Nawaz

DUE TO increased production of cereal and vegetables, sugarcane cultivation is now gradually being pushed to low-lying marginal lands prone to water-logging, flooding, drought and salinity stresses. The sustainability of long duration sugarcane crop is now at threat. Farmers are now showing almost rational attitude towards selecting enterprise. Every farmer wants to get return from their investment within shortage time.

Sugarcane is a long duration crop and requires 12-16 months to mature. So, it is difficult for the growers' especially poor growers to wait such a long time to get economic return from sugarcane. Intercropping one or more crops with sugarcane is a healthy approach of getting additional farm income besides the principle sugarcane crop. As sugarcane is planted at adequate row spacing and this inter-rows space practically remains vacant in early growth stage which extends nearly four months where suitable short duration winter crops may be grown as intercrop that increase total yield, higher monitory return, and greater resource utilization and fulfils the diversified need of the farmers. Intercropping in sugarcane with various short duration crops like lentil, cabbage, potato, mug bean etc. has been proven profitable in comparison to growing sugarcane as sole crop. It is reported that 50 to 80 per cent of rain fed crops are planted as intercrops with sugarcane in many developing countries.

The lentil (Lens culinaris) is an edible pulse. It is a bushy annual plant of the legume family, known for its lens-shaped seeds. It is about 40 cm (16 in) tall, and the seeds grow in pods, usually with two seeds in each. Lentils are relatively tolerant to drought, and are grown throughout the world. The FAO reported that the world production of lentils for calendar year 2009 was 3.917 million metric tons, primarily coming from Canada, India, Turkey and Australia. About a quarter of the worldwide production of lentils is from India, most of which is consumed in the domestic market. Canada is the largest export producer of lentils in the world and Saskatchewan is the most important producing region in Canada.

In North Eastern planes of India ,Western Terai of Nepal, and a large area of Bangladesh, lentil is intercropped successfully with autumn autumn sugarcane-lentil inter cropping is revealed high cane equivalent yield than sugarcane alone. In this system, sugarcane is planted in first week of October, and two rows of lentil may be sown 30cm apart between two rows of sugarcane. Since lentil is a legume crop there is no need for applying nitrogen fertilizer. The lentil crop may be harvested by the end of March or first week of April. Fertilizer is applied to sugarcane after lentil harvest. This system provides 1500-1600kg/ha additional lentil yield with no adverse effect on cane yield. Nevertheless, experiments results showed that intercropping lentil with sugarcane were much more profitable than sole sugarcane cultivation. It is very rational that farmers will always go for profitable enterprises.

Proper steps should be taken in this regard to find out the reasons and to make proper solutions of it with a view to increase the area under intercropping practices. Financial support as subsidies could be given to farmers whom are interested for intercropping practices. It might increase interest of farmers to go for intercropping practices in a large scale. Increasing area of intercropping especially vegetables, pulses, oil-seed and spices crops with sugarcane will meet not only the growing demand of said crops but also to increase income and benefit of farmers per unit area and thus help to retain farmers in sugarcane production. It is revealed from the study that intercropping with sugarcane is highly profitable than sole sugarcane production.
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Author:Anjum, Shakeel Ahmad; Ehsanullah; Watoo, Muhammad Aamer
Publication:Technology Times
Date:Jul 26, 2015
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