Spineless Cactus in Hilly/Degraded Lands, and Grasspea in Winter Crop Fallows for Fodder, Food & Nutrition Security in Tribal Areas in Odisha
Ashutosh Sarker. (31/7/2019). Spineless Cactus in Hilly/Degraded Lands, and Grasspea in Winter Crop Fallows for Fodder, Food & Nutrition Security in Tribal Areas in Odisha.
ICARDA is exploring the potential of spineless cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica) as green fodder grown in degraded lands in India, in collaboration with IGFRI (Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute, Jhansi) with support from Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India. Cactus as a fodder crop addresses the widespread shortage of green fodder, particularly during the summer months when high temperatures, fodder and water scarcity threaten food security of livestock in many parts of the country. Cactus demonstrates great adaptive traits under harsh agro-climatic conditions in many dryland areas, including in large parts of India, and thrives where no other crops can grow. It is also an effective alternative to prevent soil erosion in barren degraded lands where no other green cover (plantations) survives. Cactus cladodes and fruits have human food and medicinal values. Several health and beauty products are also developed from it and it is being implemented on an industrial scale in China, Mexico, and Italy among many other countries. The Indian State of Odisha has 17.53 lakh ha of degraded land, and 1.95 lakh ha are being added every year. Land degradation is exacerbated due to the impacts of climate change and threatens agricultural productivity, water quality, bio diversity, sustainable development, and the living conditions of humans and animals. The Economic Survey of Odisha published in June 2019 reveals that the share of Net Sown Area has decreased from 36.12% in 2007-08 to 34.4% in 2017-18, while the area under fallow land has increased from 5.04% in 2007-08 to 6.76% in 2017-18. With this background, ICARDA and the Government of Odisha (Directorate of Soil Conservation and Watershed Development, Department of Agriculture and Farmers’ Empowerment) joined hands to increase the productivity of degraded hilly and wastelands and winter fallows. Towards this end, the initiative has been taken, in collaboration with different research and resource agencies to promote spineless cactus in degraded wastelands and grasspea in winter crop fallows.