Exploring the Insect World and Agriculture: A Closer Look at Biodiversity and Livelihoods

Exploring the Insect World and Agriculture: A Closer Look at Biodiversity and Livelihoods

Mr. Vinod Borse
May 04, 2024
Mr. Vinod Borse
Apr 04, 2024

The word insect derived from the Latin word ‘insectum’, meaning “cut into sections,” plays a crucial role in our ecosystem, particularly in agriculture and forest ecosystems. Insects have permeated human culture since ancient times, evident from depictions of honey bees in caves, Egyptian hieroglyphs and references of beetles and lac insects in the Mahabharata. These tiny creatures play multiple roles, serving as pollinators, predators and as a source of livelihood. Bees, in particular, stand out for their role in pollination and honey production. Traditional honey harvesting methods which are destructive, are being replaced by scientific approaches, ensuring sustainable practices that benefit both bees and beekeepers.

There are many saints in India of which almost all preach that every life on earth is precious and needs to be conserved and lived with. Saint Tukaram Maharaj, a saint had said “Wruksh walli amha soyari,” meaning the importance of co-existence of flora and fauna with human interventions and more diverse the nature, more healthier is the environment. Intensification of flora or crops leads to decrease in diversity. Decrease in diversity leads to loss of a healthy environment.

BAIF documented 700 plus species of lepidoptera insect species from different parts of the country and mostly from Maharashtra, Karnataka and Odisha states i.e. a few areas of Western Ghats and a few areas of Eastern Ghats. A few species were reported 100 years ago.  56 lepidopteran species associated with Alstonia scholaris were documented.

Insect documentation during the British era in India included most of the insect species and the first entomologist post was started in India.  Many volumes are available for reference studies.  In the year 1758, Carl Linnaeus published “Systema Nature”, J.C Fabricus classified the insect into 13 orders,   J.G. Koenig published a special account of termites of Thanjavur district, Dr. Kerr published an account of lac insect and lac insect genus named kerria lacca on his name.

These insects are extremely useful in creating a healthier environment. They are many types of pollinators, predators and parasites. Insect is useful for livelihood and they provide various services with pollination and natural control of insect being their most known services.

The first insect which comes in one’s mind is butterfly.  Second, bees. Bees are mostly honey producing and non-honey producing, social and Eusocial wasps. Apis dorsata, Apis cerana indica, Apis florea are commonly seen in the field. Stingless bees are also one of the honey producing bees two species of which are reported from India. Stingless bees are mostly small bees which visit diversified flowers at a single time. They collect nectar and pollen.  In a few parts, such bees are reared by farmers. They are mostly found in crevices of old houses and trees. Agricultural crops like brinjal and cilli cucumber are different gourds pollinated by Apis dorsata, Apis cerana indica, Apis florea,Tetragonula iridipennis, Xylocopa sp., Xyalocopa amethystina, Amegilla sp. Nomia westwoodi etc. Our study shows that Apis cerana indica visits more diverse crops and plants. Xyalocpa Sp. are also important in agriculture.

Apis dorsata – Commonly known as rock bee, this species is aggressive in nature having sting and attacks more serious than other bees.  A few people are traditional honey harvesters and in many areas, they use smoke in the night and cut whole honey hives which is a very unsafe practice. 

BAIF is teaching such honey bee practitioners a scientific honey harvesting method, as the hive contains a special structure where the honey is kept and can be harvested without damaging the entire colony. This practice will increase the colonies and population of Apis dorsata. As in scientifically honey harvesting practice, the hive is kept intact in the same position and only the stored honey is harvested and in due course of time, it is again filled by bees. The eggs and broods are safe in the colony.

Endemic plant species, such as Smithia purpurea and Senecio bombayensis, form crucial habitats for insects, highlighting the importance of conserving these unique ecosystems. However, modern agricultural practices, including use of herbicide cause loss of these endemic species. The intricate relationship between insects and farming communities underscores the need for sustainable agricultural practices which promote biodiversity.

Soil moisture is the most important parameter for increasing floral diversity and decrease in moisture results in loss of floral diversity. Soil moisture conservation is the most important criteria for a healthier environment. Under ecological restoration activities, soil moisture retention is the major task performed by BAIF.

However, modern agricultural practices marked by intensive pesticide use are more harmful to nature for insect populations. BAIF is working on holistic approaches that harness natural pest control mechanisms and enhance pollination services. Crop combination and natural control of pest insect enhance pollination services.

Sericulture, lac cultivation, honey bee keeping are examples of how insects contribute to livelihood and environmental sustainability. Sericulture is a homestead activity in many parts of the country but lac cultivation is possible only in some parts of the country such as subtropical regions with availability of host plants like Schleichera oleosa, Ziziphus mauritiana and Butea monosperma which result in successful lac cultivation. Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar are the major lac producing states. The intricate ecosystems of lac cultivation with predators and parasites coexisting, underscore the delicate balance of nature.

In Central India, farmers from Vidarbha region are involved in lac cultivation on Butea monosperma (ber), and Schleichera oleosa (kusum). Female lac insect has a greater role in lac cultivation than the male lac insect.  Lac cultivation is also a micro ecosystem with predator and parasite insects.  These predators also have some other parasites such as Bracon greeni Pristomerus sulci and Apanteles sp. etc found in lac cultivation.

While tussar silk, muga silk and other types of silk are generally produced in the Southern part of India and Northeast, in Maharashtra. Tussar silk production is in an open environment and sericulture, the Gynandromorph is also found in tussar silk. Lepidopterous insect voraciously feeds on the host plants and casts cocoons which are used in silk production. Xanthopimpla punctata is the parasite for tasar silk. She lays eggs over larva which are mature enough.  These mature larvae make cocoons and safely comes inside the developed cocoons and starts to grow inside the cocoons, feeds on the pupa inside and the adult Xanthopimpla sp. comes out of tussar silk cocoon.  This Xanthopimpla sp. is the most important parasite in agriculture which controls many lepidopterous insects from the cucurbits field. by parasitising the larvae. BAIF documented gynandromorph from Tasar moths.

Farmers are adopting innovative practices like creating flower strips along bunds, hedge rows of long-term nectar source crops and a few plants like Moringa oleifera, Citrus sp., Bergera koenigii, Pongamia pinnata, shrubs such as Celosia argentea and other nectar producing and attractive coloured flowers to attract pollinators and beneficial insects and birds.  These pollinators stay for a longer duration in the field as they also require food, water and shelter. Farmers are keeping soil moisture, dry wooden logs for buildings or constructing nests inside dry woods. Diversified cropping patterns not only enhance pollination but also a healthier agro-ecosystem.

Many solitary bees and wasps make houses in dry wooden cavities, collecting pollen and nectar to feed their young ones or larvae. These insects are pollinating different crops in the agriculture field. They are sowing crops in a 100–200-meter area for food production. Many species are making nest in the dry wood. Bee hotels can also be used by farmers to attract solitary bees and wasps to make nests in the agriculture field.

Diversified cropping pattern adaptation leads to a healthier environment and as a source of nutritive food. While maintaining the diverse cropping pattern, a few patches of strips of colourful flowers like yellow, orange and violet blue are used. These flowers attract most of the pollinators with nectar, Crotalaria juncea and other Crotalaria sp.  also attracts more pollinators in the field by providing nectar and pollen, for maintaining the pollinators in the agriculture filed for longer duration.  Such crops are useful while these have their own benefits rather than pollinators support. Based on traditional knowledge, farmers were earlier maintaining a diverse cropping pattern in which  multiple crops were cultivated as perennial crops or long duration crops such as oil seed crops like Linum usitatissimum (Flax seed), Foeniculum sp.(Fennel seed), Cuminum Sp. (cumin seeds), Carthamus tinctorius L (Safflower), Brassica sp. (Mustard), Seasamum indicumL., Cajanus cajan, etc. These are the most useful floral diversity combinations.  With different crops, this flora attracts the pollinator as well as predators. This flora produces nectar and pollen grains, for longer duration and many of these diverse crops have medicinal properties. Pollinators are important in agriculture as the pollinators mediate pollination, increase the quantity as well as quality of food as revealed by many studies.

BAIF developed butterfly gardens initiatives to serve as educational hubs, with focus on awareness about the vital role insects play in our ecosystem. Knowledge sharing with the new generation results in multiple host plants planted in such a way that the butterflies can be attracted towards it for laying eggs over larval host plant and nectar host plants. The butterfly population lay eggs and start the life cycle in the garden, egg-larva, pupa, and adult. These butterfly gardens are playing a major role in educating and enhancing the awareness of children and the community.

As indicators of environmental quality, insects offer valuable insights into the state of our ecosystems, water availability and soil moisture as they are mostly dependent on the floral diversity. Some insects are host specific, monophagous, some are polyphagous and a few flora are grown only in particular places and particular temperature and humidity. Hence, the insect is also growing over flora and having a bearing on the quality of environment.

 In some regions, insects even find their way onto our plates, with tribal communities incorporating them into their diets. This practice highlights the symbiotic relationship between humans and insects . Edible insects exist in a few areas in India where people use insects as food – ants’ eggs, wasp nests and broods of honey bees.

Mr. Vinod Borse (Entomologist)

Senior project officer
BAIF livelihoods, Maharashtra

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eDost – A Social Entrepreneur and Empowerment Model

eDost – A Social Entrepreneur and Empowerment Model

Ms. Pooja Majgankar
Mar 14, 2024
Ms. Pooja Majgankar
Mar 14, 2024

eDost, a women-centric programme initiated to address the existing digital divide and empower women in rural areas, holds great promise in bridging the gap between urban and rural communities in terms of internet accessibility and digital services. The initiative aligns with the broader Digital India Initiative, ensuring that the benefits of technology and the internet reach even the remotest villages.

 

The dual objectives of the programme – bringing digital services to the doorsteps of villagers and empowering women by providing livelihood opportunities – contribute significantly to inclusive development. By focusing on women, eDost recognizes the importance of gender inclusivity in the age of DigitAll, acknowledging the crucial role of women in the socio-economic development of communities.

 

Door-to-door delivery of digital services recognizes the need to make these services easily accessible, especially in areas where traditional infrastructure may be lacking. Through eDost, women can become active participants in the digital economy, contributing not only to their personal development but also to the overall growth of their communities.

 

Moreover, integrating aspects of skill development and entrepreneurship within the programme can enhance its impact. By equipping women with digital skills, eDost can pave the way for them to explore various opportunities such as online entrepreneurship, remote work, and participation in e-commerce platforms.

 

eDost has the potential to become a transformative initiative that not only addresses the digital divide but also empowers women in rural India. By fostering inclusivity and providing the necessary tools and education, this programme can contribute significantly to the vision of a digitally empowered and gender-inclusive society.

 

The journey of eDost in Pathardi village showcases a remarkable transformation in overcoming challenges and bringing digital services to a community previously deprived of mobile networks and internet access. The success story highlights the positive impact of the programme, especially in empowering women and creating a trusted network for financial services.

 

The observation that predominantly, it was the men in the village who owned hi-tech phones and women were unfamiliar with smartphones and the internet emphasized the need for targeted interventions. By identifying a semi-literate woman, preferably a daughter-in-law from the village and equipping her with a smartphone, eDost adopted an inclusive and strategic approach. This decision not only addressed the gender gap but also leveraged the potential of a local community member to act as a bridge between technology and the villagers.

 

The first and foremost step was to impart training to the selected eDost on the use of a mobile and how to conduct financial transactions through a fintech mobile application. This reflected the importance of digital literacy in enabling individuals to harness the benefits of technology. The initial challenge of gaining the confidence of the villagers in accepting digital financial services was expected, but the perseverance of the eDost and the gradual development of trust among the villagers demonstrated the effectiveness of the programme.

 

The paradigm shift whereby villagers proactively approach the eDost for financial services instead of traveling to nearby towns, not only saved time and resources but also indicated a growing reliance on digital services facilitated by the eDost. The programme has become a trusted source for financial transactions, demonstrating the potential for further expansion of services and influencing a larger number of people while responding to the demands of the villagers. The inclusion of essential services such as DTH recharge, bill payments and various e-governance services highlights the efficacy of the programme in transforming into am as an adaptable and comprehensive solution for the villagers.

 

With the inclusion of essential services such as PAN Card, Aadhaar Card, Train and Bus reservations, eShram card, Soil Card, Vaccination Certificates, Voter ID, Land record and Driving License, eDost has become a one-stop solution for various digital needs while reducing the need for villagers to travel to urban centres to avail these services.

 

The sustainability of the programme is ensured by a nominal service charge being levied for the services provided by the eDost which creates a source of sustainable livelihood as well as ensures value for the service being provided. This economic aspect is crucial for the viability and success of such an initiative.

 

The geographical expansion of the eDost programme into various parts of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and Odisha indicates its positive reception and scalability. The presence of over 100 eDosts actively providing digital services at the doorsteps of villagers signifies the potential for replication in other areas and tailored to suit the specific needs of diverse regions.

The eDost programme serve as a model by showcasing the transformative potential of grassroots-level initiatives in bringing about positive change through technology and digital empowerment. The role of eDost cadre as local digital service providers is evidently impactful, extending beyond the provision of digital services. Their contribution to the financial independence of women, support for education and overall positive influence on family dynamics underscores the broader societal benefits of the programme in the following ways:

 

1. Financial Independence and Empowerment: The eDost cadre is not only providing essential digital services but also creating economic opportunities for themselves. This financial independence is crucial for women empowerment and gender equality. By actively participating in the digital economy, these women are breaking traditional gender roles and contributing meaningfully to their households.

 

2. Education and Skill Transfer: The fact that these women are contributing to the education of their children highlights a positive cycle of empowerment as education is a key driver for social and economic progress. Their role in educating other women in the village in financial and digital literacy indicates the impact of the programme in creating a multiplier effect by spreading knowledge and skills within the community.

 

3. Community Building and Trust: The eDost cadre, by residing within the community, establishes a foundation of trust essential for the success and sustainability of digital initiatives. As these women gain the trust of the villagers through consistent and reliable services, it fosters a sense of community and shared responsibility.

 

4. Opportunities for eCommerce and Insurance Companies: The presence of the eDost cadre in remote villages creates an infrastructure that eCommerce and insurance companies can leverage. These local agents can act as intermediaries, facilitating transactions and bridging the gap between digital platforms and rural customers. eCommerce companies can use these local agents to establish last-mile connectivity, ensuring the delivery of goods and services to the most remote areas. Insurance companies can tap this network to cover rural populations and make insurance products more accessible and tailored to local needs.

 

In conclusion, the eDost cadre plays a pivotal role in transforming rural communities by not only providing digital services but also contributing to the socio-economic fabric of the villages while contributing to a more inclusive and digitally connected Rural India.

Ms. Pooja Majgankar

 Programme Manager
BAIF Development Research Foundation, Pune

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Gir Cow – The Heart of Gujarat:  Conservation Efforts of BAIF

Gir Cow – The Heart of Gujarat: Conservation Efforts of BAIF

Ms. Tejashree Shirsath-Kalbhor
Feb 22, 2024
Ms. Tejashree Shirsath-Kalbhor
Feb 22, 2024

Amidst the scenic Gir forest dotting Saurashtra region of Gujarat, India, lies a treasure — the Gir cow. This local breed known for its unique qualities, plays a significant role in the farming system of this region. Join us as we dive into the world of the Gir cow, exploring its distinct features, historical significance and its role in sustaining livelihoods.

Intoduction:

The Gir cow hails from the Gir hills and the forested areas of Kathiawar and hence the name. Saurashtra region includes Junagadh, Bhavnagar, Rajkot and Amreli districts. The Gir cow is also known as Bhodali, Desan, Gujarati, Kathiawari, Sorthi and Surti across different sections of its breeding habitat.

Origin and Heritage:

The Gir cow, scientifically known as Bos indicus, finds its roots in the Gir forest of Gujarat. This historic breed has been a companion to farmers for centuries, playing a crucial role in the agricultural landscape of the region. Its adaptation to the hot and humid climate, marked by a distinct hump and pendulous ears, reflects the flexibility that has been improved over generations… Its presence in the agricultural practices of the region dates back to several centuries. The breed has played an essential role in sustaining communities, providing not only nourishment but also contributing to the economy through dairy.

Gir Communities:

Behind this iconic breed lies the dedicated communities of livestock keepers who have safeguarded the legacy of this breed for generations and which also reveals the rich cultural traditions and the importance of preserving and promoting sustainable practices for the well-being of the communities and the cherished Gir breed. These communities are Maldhari, Bhrawad (Gaderia), Rabari, Ahir, Jaat, Barda Dungar, Sumara, Sama – Muslim, Charan and Kathiawadi who have discovered their integrated connection with the valued Gir cow.

Breeding Practices:

Gir breeding practices are steeped in tradition, with focus on maintaining the purity of the breed. Gir breeders wisely select parent cows and bulls, considering their family and physical traits. This careful matchmaking ensures that the distinctive features of the Gir cow are passed on through generations.

Management practices:

The Gir cow, a symbol of India’s rich agricultural heritage, demands careful attention and thoughtful management to thrive in various environments. As keepers of this royal breed, farmers and caretakers play an essential role in ensuring the comfort and efficiency of Gir cows. In this note, we will explore key management practices that contribute to the health, comfort, and overall achievements of Gir cows. Management practises involve Quality Nutrition, comfortable Housing, Healthcare and Record keeping.

Gir Morphometric characteristics:

This indigenous breed has distinctive morphometric characteristics that contribute to its uniqueness including the features of the head, characteristics of the eyes, hump size, skin coat colour, skin types, body size, udder attributes, teat placement, horn characteristics, tail features and type of hump.

Milk Production:

A true leader in the dairy world, the Gir cow is famous for its high milk yield. The milk, rich in butterfat, forms the foundation for the production of ghee and other dairy products. This quality has elevated the breed to a major player in the dairy industry. Renowned for its adaptability, the Gir cow sparkles in tropical climates. Its ability to withstand heat stress and resist diseases makes it a valuable asset for farmers facing environmental challenges. Milk yield per lactation is a critical parameter in assessing the productivity of Gir cows. The average yield of 2110 kg reflects a moderate to high production capacity. The range from 800 to 3300 kg underscores the variability in individual cow performance, emphasizing the need for tailored nutrition and management practices to optimize milk production. Milk fat percentage is an important element of the quality of dairy products. The average fat content of 4.6% positions Gir cow milk favourably for the production of high-quality dairy products. The range from 3.9% to 5.1% indicates a steady and appealing fat, contributing to the nutritional value and market appeal of Gir cow milk.

Conservation Efforts of BAIF:

Recognizing the importance of preserving this genetic treasure, BAIF has made significant efforts to conserve and promote the Gir breed through Indigenous Breed Improvement Programme (IBIP) and Enhanced Genetics Project (EGP). Conservation initiatives aim to maintain the purity of the breed, ensuring its continued existence for future generations. On-going conservation efforts ensure that future generations can benefit from the invaluable genetic traits of the Gir breed, securing its place in the agricultural heritage of India.

 

In the agricultural scenario of the country, the Gir cow stands as a testament to the cooperative connection amongst humans and livestock. Its adaptive nature, rich history and immense contribution to dairy farming make it a breed worth cherishing. As we navigate the challenges of modern agriculture, the Gir cow serves as a reminder to the need to preserve our agricultural heritage and embrace sustainable practices for the future. The Gir breed has gained popularity not only in India but also in other parts of the world due to its desirable characteristics. It is important in the context of livestock diversity and contributes significantly to the agricultural economy, particularly in dairy farming.

The journey does not end here. There is a need to continue efforts in collecting various insights into Gir cow and thereby contributing to conservation initiatives for Gir breed for livestock management.

 

Stay tuned with us for more updates…

Ms. Tejashree Shirsath-Kalbhor

Senior Information Technology Officer
Animal Genetics & Breeding Department
BAIF Development Research Foundation
Central Research Station, Uruli kanchan, Pune

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Evolution of Livestock Data Capture: BAIF’s Journey with Data Logger Devices

Evolution of Livestock Data Capture: BAIF’s Journey with Data Logger Devices

Mr. Yuvraj Gaundare
Jan 16, 2024
Mr. Yuvraj Gaundare
Jan 16, 2024

Introduction:

BAIF is committed to improving the lives of the underprivileged across 14 states in India. To ensure efficient outreach of services to the farmers, a strong monitoring plan, efficient data collection systems, and advanced data analysis tools are necessary for ensuring accurate recording of field data with focus on precision.

 

Realising the need to improve its data collection and analysis systems, BAIF began its transition from traditional book-keeping system to modern electronic databases and introduced Data Logger devices in its field operations in the year 2005.

First Model: Tackling the Initial Hurdles

The initial model developed with the technical support of MDL Solution Ltd, aimed to capture reproduction data in selected Cattle Development Centres of Maharashtra. However, the following challenges were observed:

  1. Bulky Device
  2. Limited scope of operation
  3. Code-based entry and display
  4. Not user-friendly
  5. Short battery backup
  6. Difficulty in handling

Second Model: Progress in Efficiency

Building on the lessons learned, the second model had the following benefits:

  1. Smaller in size, the device was made more compact and portable.
  2. In-built Battery
  3. Increased Data Handling Capacity

However, challenges like display issues and limited data storage persisted.

 Third Model (PALM Mobile): Embracing Mobility

BAIF attempted to capture livestock reproduction data using a smartphone Palm Treo 680 model in its satellite form.

Features:

  • Data Download Facility: Streamlined data transfer processes.
  • Convenient Handling: A more user-friendly and portable device.
  • Flexibility: Improved flexibility compared to previous models.

Challenges:

  • Frequent power adapter failure
  • High cost of replacement after warranty expiry

Switching Over to Windows Phones: Embracing Progress

The experience gained from PALM mobile and subsequent unavailability of devices and service backup of PALM mobile as well as easy accessibility with affordable price of Windows smart phones led to the switchover to Windows-based software for capturing the data.

Fourth Model: Windows Phones

Windows phones First Generation was developed to examine Windows-based software – a suitable device with affordable price, HTC model P-3452 with Microsoft windows and mobile operating system 6.1/6.5 was selected during the initial project period. This model was able to ensure systematic data recording without any need to validate the data once it is warehoused in servers. The software used an architecture in which all the scenarios and processes were simulated to an object model. This model used to replicate the real-life scenario thereby ensuring that the data entered was pre-revalidated.

 

On the other hand, it gave intelligent responses and pre-emptive appointments and responses for possible scenarios. The system behaved like an interactive assistant at various levels like Centre In-charge, Area office, State office and Central office. As the technology became more advanced in the field of mobile computing, windows mobile 6.1/6.5 operating system was phased out by Microsoft being replaced with windows phone 7.1/7.8/8.0/8.1 Hence, the next generation of software application was developed with data, feature and functional continuity with previous generation software (Windows mobile 6.1/6.5).

First Generation:

Device: HTC model P-3452 with Microsoft Windows Mobile OS 6.1/6.5.

Validation and Intelligence: Systematic data recording with pre-validation and intelligent responses.

Second Generation:

Technological Advancement: Evolving with Windows Phone 7.1/7.8/8.0/8.1.

Continuity: Maintained data, feature and functional continuity from the previous generation.

Switching over to Android Phones

Following the phase-out of Windows phones after 2016-17, BAIF recognized the need to adapt and transition to Android smartphones. This shift marked a strategic move towards modernization, enabling a more streamlined and efficient approach towards livestock reproduction data collection. Acceptance of the online-offline model, BAIF introduced the “Godhan Seva” Android App specifically designed for Artificial Insemination Technicians (AITs). This innovative app, powered by TCS-DFI® (Tata Consultancy Services – Digital Farming Initiative), not only facilitated seamless data collection but also empowered AITs with a user-friendly platform.  The application also had a multi-language support. The transition to Android smartphones and the integration of the “Godhan Seva” app exemplify BAIF’s commitment to staying at the forefront of technological advancements for enhanced livestock management. More than 1200+ BAIF Artificial Insemination (AI) Technicians are using this application in the field and around 40+ lakh Artificial Insemination data is available since the past 6-7 years in digital form. Various research publications and articles have been published based on data collected through such modern technology in national and international journals.

Systematic representation of the current livestock data collection system

The systematic representation of the current livestock data collection at BAIF involves incorporation of additional add-on modules on body measurement, performance recording, disease and vaccination thereby reflecting a refined and comprehensive approach towards data management. This signifies a strategic enhancement in our data collection system, designed to capture a more detailed picture of livestock-related information. These add-on modules serve as supplementary components, addressing specific aspects of livestock data that may require specialized attention.

Dashboards and Reports for data visualization and monitoring

Various dashboards and reports have been precisely developed to facilitate effective data monitoring and downloading by the supervisory staff. These tools serve as integral components of our streamlined approach, providing real-time insights and comprehensive overviews of the collected data. The dashboards offer a visual representation of key metrics, enabling rapid and informed decision-making.

Future scope: A platform independent software solutions

 Currently, our focus is on developing a platform-independent software solution to ensure the adaptability of livestock data collection software solution across various devices. This strategic initiative is geared to enable deployment on a wide range of platforms, including Android phones and tablets, iOS devices, Windows phones and tablets, PCs, and desktop computers. By creating a software solution compatible with diverse operating systems and devices, we are striving to enhance accessibility and flexibility, allowing AITs to seamlessly utilize our application on their preferred devices. This approach reflects our commitment to provide a user-friendly and universally accessible tool for livestock reproduction data management across diverse technological ecosystems.

Conclusion

 In our relentless pursuit of efficiency and accuracy, BAIF’s experience with data logger equipment is a testament to our commitment to innovation in livestock reproduction data management. The evolving technology landscape serves as a catalyst for our continued dedication to inventing and implementing superior solutions. As we navigate the dynamic currents of technological advancement, our resolve to remain at the forefront of progress remains unwavering.  However, the journey does not end here.  We have to continue our efforts to adapt our methods to new possibilities and contribute to the ongoing transformation in livestock management. So stay tuned with us…

Mr. Yuvraj Gaundare

Thematic Program Executive
BAIF Development Research Foundation
Central Research Station, Uruli kanchan, Pune

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Soil Health Management

Soil Health Management

Dr. Sagar Jadhav
Dec 05, 2023
Dr. Sagar Jadhav
Dec 05, 2023

India is an agricultural country. Hence, the economy of India is dependent on the agriculture sector. Agriculture and farmers have assumed unique positions in Indian society. The population is increasing day by day and along with the increasing population, the comforts and conveniences of people i.e. buildings, roads, settlements, industries and dams are also increasing rapidly. Therefore, the amount of arable land is gradually decreasing. The challenge is to satisfy the hunger of the growing population from the limited agricultural area. After independence, Green Revolution emerged and our traditional farming system started changing into a modern farming system.

To obtain more yield, we started cultivating hybrids and improved varieties of crops which gave maximum yield initially. But as crop production increased, so did the uptake of nutrients from the soil. This resulted in deficiency of different nutrients in the field and the amount of organic carbon in the field also decreased. We started using chemical fertilizers to overcome the deficiency of nutrients in the soil. Due to the balanced use of primary and secondary micronutrients, we were successful in increasing the productivity and quality of crops.

Chemical fertilizers have given us tremendous benefits. In the last 50 years, farmers have been using excessive amounts of chemical fertilizers in an unbalanced way in an attempt to obtain more production. Therefore, it started having an adverse effect on the availability of nutrients. For example, if the phosphorus content in the soil was high, micronutrients like zinc and iron in the soil were not available to the crops even though they were in the soil. Therefore, it is important to balance the nutrients with the right fertilizers to compensate for the nutrient deficiency in the soil.

Many farmers believe that the more water they give to crops like sugarcane, the higher will be the yield. Thus, farmers continue to water the crop even when it is not needed. As a result, the soil loses its nutrients. Some farmers dig wells and borewells in the fields and use the groundwater for irrigation. The amount of salt in such water is high. Due to the excessive use of such water in agriculture, the soils become saline and over time, these soils are converted into unproductive soil. Therefore, it is necessary to plan the watering of the agricultural field.

New hybrid varieties of crops have come into the market which enable farmers to receive maximum output from agriculture.  However, these crops are also attacked by various diseases and pests. Farmer can manage these diseases and pests by traditional, physical, mechanical, biological and chemical methods. In recent years, farmers are also in a hurry to receive quick yields and returns. To achieve this, they make excessive use of different chemicals which is much more than the recommended use. Thus, due to over-use of chemicals, the chemical residues accumulate in the soil and destroy soil beneficial microorganisms and degrade the quality of the soil.

To increase the area under cultivation, we have started clearing forests and establishing agriculture and thereby changing the landscape created by nature. As a result, the fertile soil layer on the surface of the land has started moving from one place to another. This is what we call soil erosion. Soil erosion adversely affects agricultural land. The fertile layer of the soil is lost, while in some places, the soil on the hill slopes is eroded and the materials such as mud, soil, stones, sand, etc., flow along with the flow of water and spread on the fertile land rendering the fertile land useless. In some places, there are problems of flooding, while in some places there is division of land. Soil erosion in this manner adversely affects soil health.

The UN General Assembly launched 2015 as the “International Year of Soils” under the theme “Soils: A Foundation for Family Farming” which aimed to create awareness in civil society and decision-makers about the fundamental role of soils in human life. Similarly, we are celebrating December 5, 2023 as “World Soil Day” under the theme “Soil and Water: A Source of Life”. The main purpose is to raise awareness of the importance and relationship between soil and water in achieving sustainable and resilient agrifood systems.

BAIF’s Initiatives on Soil Health Management:

 

  1. As more capital is required in modern agriculture, soil and water testing is extremely important. Regular soil and water testing is the key to planned and profitable farming. Under its Pro-Soil Project, BAIF Development Research Foundation undertook soil testing and distribution of soil health cards among the farmers in various land-based programmes followed by technical guidance by BAIFs Agricultural experts on soil test-based nutrient management to ensure balanced use of fertilizers based on the needs of the crops.

2. To prevent the top fertile layer of soil from being washed away with rain water, the hill slope soil was protected by adopting water-centric livelihoods for land degradation neutrality and soil carbon enrichment. Till date, BAIF has developed 789 watersheds covering 3,72,109 hectares area which has raised the groundwater table and green cover, improved micro-climate and increased agricultural productivity by 35 to 40 %. The estimated carbon sequestration/offset achieved through BAIFs initiatives on natural resources management, silvopasture, soil health improvement and efficient water use is about 1,00,000 t C per year.

3. To reduce the soil disturbance BAIF promoted direct seeded rice technology on 1102 ha in Andhra Pradesh and Bihar and zero tillage cultivation practices on wheat demonstrated on 3532 ha in Bihar.

4. With increased organic carbon content in soil, BAIF promoted green manuring activity with Dhaincha, Sunhemp and Navadhanya on 1000 ha at Prakasam, Palnadu and Eluru districts of Andhra Pradesh. To improve the organic carbon content in soil and alternative solutions for crop residue management BAIF promoted Biochar, vermicompost, farm yard manures, city compost, biodigester, bio-prom and decomposers in Maharashtra, Odisha, Telangana, Karnataka and Uttarakhand.

5. Generally, 33 % of the total area in any village, district or state should be under forest cover. To convert the uncultivated land into productive assets and increase the tree cover outside the forest, BAIF has been implementing the Agri-Horti-Forestry (Wadi) programme and has planted fruit and forestry trees on 89,000 ha. The BAIF Wadi model has been scaled up in 25 states with the support of NABARD. Two million tons of total estimated carbon has been sequestered through the wadi programme.

6. To reduce the production cost of farmers and to reduce the excess use of chemicals in agriculture, BAIF established 10 Drums, Jeevamrut, Bijamrit and Dashparni Neem Ark and Vermiwash units at the village level and guided the farmers on its preparation and application.

7. BAIF has promoted integrated pest management, bio-fertilizers and bio-pesticides under various projects.

8. To end mono-cropping system, BAIF has promoted and introduced alternative crops at farmers’ fields and maintained a crop rotation system.

9. To increase nutrient use efficiency BAIF demonstrated and promoted Briquettes technology in rice crops with 157 farmers at Bhor, Welhe, Rajgurunagar and Jawhar in Maharashtra.

10. To increase water use efficiency and avoid excess use of irrigation water, BAIF has promoted Drip and Sprinkler irrigation systems. This has ensured conservation of 90 % of water and prevented soluble elements of our soil from being washed away.

Dr. Sagar Jadhav

Senior Research Officer
BAIF Development Research Foundation, Pune

Sanvadini – An Outbound Call Centre, Digital Advisory for Farmers

Sanvadini – An Outbound Call Centre, Digital Advisory for Farmers

Dr. Lata Sharma
Nov 20, 2023
Dr. Lata Sharma
Nov 20, 2023

Introduction

In India, livestock is the primary source of income for landless farmers supplemented with agriculture. However, a majority of the dairy farmers have poor or no access to information apart from lack of access to extension and veterinary services, education and training facilities. There are also very few call centres catering to the needs of dairy farmers.

Challenges faced by dairy farmers

 Despite a wide range of reform initiatives in agricultural and livestock extension in India in the past few decades, the coverage, access to and quality of information provided to marginalized and poor farmers is unevenly distributed. This hinders the growth of the dairy enterprise or business resulting in loss of interest of farmers in this enterprise. Hence, there is a need to establish call centres to cater to the needs of the farmers on various critical aspects such as breeding, housing, health and feeding of animals for achieving higher production with a smaller number of animals.  Some of the challenges faced by dairy farmers are:

  • Shortage of feed/fodder. Growing trend of high breed animals is creating a huge demand for good quality feed and fodder to cater to the dietary requirement of milking animals and use of feed pre-mixes.
  • Hygiene conditions.
  • Health issues of animals.
  • Lack of awareness and training of dairy farmers
  • Supply Chain. Absence of requisite infrastructure such as chilling plants and bulk coolers to prevent contamination and spoilage at the village level.
  • Poor returns on investment
  • Growing shortage and cost of labour. Farmers welcome farm mechanisation in order to handle the situation.
  • Growing consumer awareness and shifting lifestyle are forcing processors to move towards product innovation and thereby a growing demand for high quality equipment and various food ingredients.

The other concerns of dairy farmers are competition, cost of production and productivity of animals. Demand for high-quality dairy products is increasing, as is production in many emerging countries.

On account of a growing middle class, rising prosperity, changing food habits and level of awareness, the demand for milk and milk products is increasing at a rapid pace in the Indian market. A lot of innovation is taking place at the consumer end and thus the demand for new technology, machinery, packaging solutions, food diagnostics and food ingredients is increasing.

Keeping all the challenges and current marketing demand in the mind, it is necessary to educate dairy farmers to ensure higher milk production with a smaller number of animals and to create awareness about animal rearing for ensuring breeding of healthy animals.

The National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) launched a call centre – Pashu Mitra for dairy farmers to address their queries on animal health, nutrition and productivity. BAIF too launched a farmers’ Call Centre – Sanvadini in the year 2015 particularly for BAIF participant farmers to provide support to farmers through dialogues over the telephone.

This outbound Call Centre was started to provide advisories to farmers involved in Dairy husbandry activities.  Rural women with farming background have been appointed as Operators or Communicators who call the farmers to provide valuable information and to satisfy their queries on dairy cattle management.

Major Objectives of Sanvadini

 The main objectives of Sanvadini are:

  • To provide technical guidance, input support and extension services such as veterinary care, breeding, supply of balanced ration and feed supplements, fodder seed, fodder crops and training to dairy farmers through experts.
  • To identify farmer problems and ensure proactive discussions and solutions and their demand for various services.
  • Calls can lead to wider application of services and dissemination of inputs, improve the quality of milk and thereby increase farm income significantly.
  • Generate a database of dairy farmers, which can further be used for various surveys, market studies and development planning.

Impact

 In the last 8 years, more than 200,000 farmers have been covered through Sanvadini which has successfully provided ready solutions to farmers’ problems over telephone calls. If the communicator is unable to respond to various queries raised by the farmers, the call is escalated to the Subject Matter Specialists who answers the call and responds to the farmers’ needs.  The response from the farmers has been very encouraging as they are getting advisories and updates on various critical issues in the dairy sector. Thus, today almost 10-12 percent calls are inbound calls, as against a totally outbound call centre form when it was launched.

There is a need to start more of such centres for not only helping the farmers in animal rearing and management but also for educating them about management of high yielding animals, technical guidance, advisories and input services. Such kind of centres will certainly help dairy farmers in operating dairy enterprise successfully.

The Call Centre is technically backed with a Customer Relations Management software integrated with cloud telephony, making it easy to replicate it in other States; farmers and calling data are managed centrally.   Expansion or creation of more of such call centres will help to overcome the language barrier, as the advisories can be provided in local languages.

The Contact Number of Sanvadini is 02248914067

Dr. Lata Sharma

Senior Project Officer
BAIF, CRS, Uruli Kanchan, Pune

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Biotechnology – In-Vitro-Fertilization (IVF) – A way to multiply superior germplasm in Livestock

Biotechnology – In-Vitro-Fertilization (IVF) – A way to multiply superior germplasm in Livestock

Mr. Prasad D. Deshpande
Nov 03, 2023
Mr. Prasad D. Deshpande
Nov 03, 2023

In-vitro fertilization (IVF) is a biotechnological technique widely used in livestock. IVF in livestock offers several advantages, particularly in the multiplication of superior germplasm, which refers to the genetic material of animals that exhibit desirable traits such as high milk production, disease resistance, or other economically important characteristics.

The clinical and technological advances executed for a long time in animal duplication have resulted in the development of a variety of tools commonly referred to as Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART). The primary focus of these tools is to maximize the number of offspring from genetically superior animals and disseminate germplasm to breeders’ and farmer’s doorstep. Furthermore, ART allows for the effective utilization of donors with anatomical disabilities and sub-fertile conditions, for shielding the germplasm of threatened species and home breeds and transmission. The major advances in In Vitro Embryo Production (IVEP) today seek to improve overall performance at all procedural stages viz. ovarian stimulation, oocyte recovery, maturation, fertilization, embryo development, embryo freezing, embryo transfer and pregnancy establishment.

The native breeders are interested in conserving their native breeds for genetic assurance in the future. The conservation includes preservation along with upgradation of the genetic potential and management of a breed for use in the future. The powerful control of livestock assets consists of identification, characterization, evaluation, documentation and conservation.

BAIF established the IVF laboratory in 2018 with the project entitled, “Conservation and Multiplication of Superior Germplasm in Cattle by OPU-IVF Technology” under the Rashtriya Gokul Mission (RGM), National Mission on Bovine Productivity (NMBP), Government of India. Indigenous breeds such as Dangi, Deoni, Gaolao, Gir, Red Kandhari, and Sahiwal donors were selected based on the Minimum Standard Protocol set by the Government of India.

Farmers and animal breeders are utilizing BAIF’s IVF-Embryo transfer (ET) facility to multiply embryos from genetically superior animals. It enables rapid dissemination of desirable traits in the population. For those who are interested in producing desired sexed calves, during IVF only, sex-sorted semen is used. Nowadays, breeders are also trying to ensure genetic improvement in their herds, leading to higher productivity and profitability. As there is less transportation of live animals, it reduces the risks of disease transmission.

The desirable approach is to take up genetic development as well as conservation. Establishment of regional gene banks and participation of breeders, communities, gaushalas, NGOs and different applicable stakeholders are essential in the conservation programme.

Mr. Prasad D. Deshpande

Senior Thematic Program Executive
BAIF, CRS, Uruli Kanchan, Pune

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Traditional practices for newly registered Kathani cattle breed

Traditional practices for newly registered Kathani cattle breed

Dr. R. L. Bhagat
Oct 20, 2023
Dr. R. L. Bhagat
Oct 20, 2023

Introduction:

During November 2017 to March 2020, the National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources (NBAGR), Karnal, Haryana, conducted a survey with the support of BAIF for evaluation and characterization of lesser-known cattle population from Vidarbha region of Maharashtra.  The breed registration application was submitted to NBAGR and based on the recommendation of the Animal Husbandry Commissioner, Maharashtra state, these lesser known cattle population known as Kathani cattle, were registered as the 51st cattle breed  and the second registered cattle breed from Vidarbha after Gaolao breed.

Breeding area:

The Kathani cattle, found mainly in Gadchiroli, Gondia, and Chandrapur districts were surveyed. The breeding area is highlighted in the map below.

Feed and fodder resources:

It was observed that Tanis (after harvest leftover of paddy), Kadaba (dry jowar), Kutar (leftover of soybean, mung, wheat, cowpea, chickpea, pigeon pea and black gram) and grasses were the major fodder available for the Kathani breed. As mono cropping (paddy, soybean, tur, chickpea) based on rain-fed irrigation was practiced, in the absence of green fodder, Kukus (crushed home-made rice bran), kukus pani, kukus dana, kukus dhep and kukus pith were provided to the animals as concentrate feed.

Traditional Practices:

Dongi: The laboratory proximate feed and fodder analysis revealed that Kathani animals were being reared on very low nutritive value content fodder. Inspite of feed and fodder deficiency, the farmers refrained from providing commercial mineral supplement to their animals. However, stale food, curry and hand washed water were stored in a vessel made of either wood, stone or cement concrete and locally known as ‘Dongi’ with a capacity of 8 to 10 litres and mixed with some quantity of kukus and fed to working bullocks and milking cows the next day in the morning.

Grazing of Animals in groups: The unique practice of group grazing was followed for Kathani cattle which was attributed to the availability of open grazing land especially in forest areas and work force for grazing the animals which led to a zero-input system and whatever was earned from animals like limited milk and manure and bullock power for agriculture resulted in surplus income for the cattle owners.

Aakhar / Gohan:  A common place – Aakhar / Gohan where all the animals collect prior to grazing generally owned by the Gram Panchayat or belonging to the forest department measures one to one and a half acres and accommodates 80 to 100 animals of different age groups and are found in every village. The cow herder locally known as Gayaki waits for one and a half to two hours in this Aakhar till all the animals gather. The cow herder maintains a record of the cattle owner and the number of animals he is taking for grazing. The farmers start bringing their animals from 7 am onwards and remain up to 10 am. During this time, dung defecated by the animals becomes the property of the cow herder along with the responsibility of general cleaning of the place. The dung collected is sold as manure to interested farmers.  After grazing in the evening time, when the animals return, they directly go to their respective owner’s house.

Gayaki:  The cow herder (Gayaki) is generally illiterate or has received education only up to the 2nd or 3rd standard. One Gayaki takes 50 to 60 animals for common grazing and if the number of animals increases, then more than one person is involved to take care of the animals. The animal owner has to pay a certain fee per month for grazing of adult animals while suckling calves and animals below one year of age are not charged. Along with this token amount, in some parts, paddy is also given to the Gayaki.  In his absence, he arranges for a substitute cow herder.  The cow herder is rewarded (Bojara) in cash or kind and some token amount is also paid during festivals such as Deepawali. The Gayaki visits every owner and collects this Bojara once a year. They have to walk on an average 8 to 10 km behind the animals depending on the availability of grazing land and drinking water for the animals. If during grazing, any incident such as natural service, delivery, attack by wild animals and cases of animals going missing occurs, it is his responsibility to inform the cattle owner. This source of livelihood lasts only 10 months in a year from June to March and in the months of April and May, animals cannot be grazed as agricultural fields are left fallow.

Constraints of Gayakis: During discussions with some of the cow herders (Gayakis) engaged in this business for more than nine to ten years, it was realized that declining grazing land compels them to walk more distance behind the animals, fear of attack by wild animals such as tiger, wolf and bear, sudden abnormal behavior of animals which makes it difficult to control them, irregular payment from cattle owners, free of cost rearing of animals below one year of age, scarcity of drinking water for animals especially in summer resulting in covering a longer distance in search of water and difficulty in getting a substitute during illness were some of the serious constraints.

Constraints of animal owners: Animal owners also have their own constraints as in the absence of cow herder as the youth of today are not interested in this unreliable source of livelihood, they are forced to reduce the size of their herd and with low economic value of non-descript animals, their cash flow is poor and hence, they are unable to ensure regular payment of the Gayakis on time apart from rain-fed mono cropping pattern resulting in fodder shortage,  lower market value of animals subsequent to the ban on animal slaughter and animal race.

Alternatives: The cattle owners in every village have formed 1 or 2 groups to take care of their animals. Four to six cattle owners form a group with 60 to 80 animals and every day, two owners take care of all the animals for two days and for the next two days, two other owners function as Gayakis.

Gedaga / Badaga: The normal age of the animal when they are put to agriculture work for the first time is around 3.5 to 4 years. A wooden two-piece ‘T’ shaped structure called Gedaga or Badaga in the local language is fitted on the neck of a bull calf who will serve as a bullock in the future. This helps to train such calves as psychologically he realized that he has to carry a load of such type. The weight of the Gedaga is around 5 to 7 kg and made from palas tree (Butea monosperma). This Gedaga is kept on the neck of the animals for 15 days which generates a feeling of yoke for the calf.  Farmers find this technique easy to train bulls for agriculture work.

Dr. R. L. Bhagat

Senior Thematic Program Executive
BAIF, CRS, Uruli Kanchan, Pune

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Embryo Transfer – A tool for genetic improvement in cattle and buffaloes

Embryo Transfer – A tool for genetic improvement in cattle and buffaloes

Dr. Hemant Kadam
Oct 05, 2023
Dr. Hemant Kadam
Oct 05, 2023

The foundation of any livestock development programme rests with the presence of a scientifically sound and systematic genetic improvement programme aimed at improving the genetic composition and productivity. Selection of genetically superior animals, multiplication and harvesting of superior breeding material and dissemination to millions of livestock owners who depend on livestock solely or partially for their income and livelihood are the ultimate goals of the programme.

India is bestowed with valuable livestock wealth especially good milch cattle and buffalo breeds such as Sahiwal, Gir, Red Sindhi, Murrah, Mehsana and Jaffarabadi respectively.

Embryo transfer technology provides an opportunity to disseminate the genetics of proven elite females and their maximisation than could have been achieved by natural way.

Ovum Pick Up (OPU), In Vitro Embryo Production (IVEP) and Embryo Transfer (ET) programmes have resulted in increased selection intensity, reduced generation intervals and increased genetic gains in livestock. OPU, IVF and ET technologies are now used in countries like Brazil, USA and Canada to produce highly productive animals from top producing cows and proven bulls for sustainable dairy industry. These two technologies also help in the development of herds of genetically valuable females or males. All these Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ARTs) have proven to be very useful research tools.

Under Indian conditions, Multiple Ovulation and Embryo Transfer (MOET) work was started around 1990s in sporadic institutes for production of elite dairy animals. Since last 4-5 years, Ovum Pick Up and In vitro Embryo Production (OPU-IVEP) have emerged as replacements to in vivo embryo production technique. It is envisaged that use of this technology to multiply the superior bovine germplasm can change the face of the dairy industry in India. India ranks first in milk production with a variety of cattle and buffalo breeds, which gives tremendous scope for sustainable increase in embryo production in the near future. Presently, these techniques can be used for production of elite bulls and bull mothers, creation of replacement herd, establishment of nucleus herd, breed conservation and rapid propagation of elite animals.

BAIF established its Embryo Transfer laboratory in the year 2001 and from 2018 onwards, BAIF started work in OPU-IVF by establishing an ultra-modern IVF laboratory. This technology is being used to its fullest extent at BAIF’s Bull Mother Farm and at farmers doorstep for production of animals with better genetics.

BAIF has undertaken embryo transfer technology in Sahiwal, Gir, Ongole, Dangi, HF Pure, Jersey Pure and cross bred animals as well as in buffaloes resulting in the birth of excellent male and female animals. Use of sexed sorted semen along with IVF is a useful tool for production of animals with desired sex. These animals are contributing to increased productivity and conservation of good genetics.

The success of the embryo transfer programme depends on the quality of the embryo, recipient selection, technical procedures followed for embryo production and skill of the ET experts. Hence, embryo transfer is a composite technology that requires expertise in many areas. As optimal utilization and results will reduce costs further, the technique has to be made more economical and affordable for Indian dairy farmers under field conditions.

Dr. Hemant Kadam

Sr. Thematic Program Executive
In-Charge, Bull Mother Farm & IVF- ET Activity
BAIF Central Research Station, Uruli Kanchan, Pune 412 202

Spineless Cactus – An Amazing Species for Arid and Semi-Arid Regions of India

Spineless Cactus – An Amazing Species for Arid and Semi-Arid Regions of India

Dr. Vitthal Kauthale
Sep 18, 2023
Dr. Vitthal Kauthale
Sep 18, 2023

Introduction : Almost 53.4 per cent of India’s land area comprises of arid and semi-arid regions. The climato-vegetational   condition of the arid and semi-arid zones indicates a very extreme temperature, very low and erratic precipitation, high wind speed, high evapotranspiration, scarcity of water, low content of organic matter and presence of soluble salt in the soil leading to very low productivity of agricultural crops and poor availability of natural resources of the area, which affects the livelihood of the local community. To address this critical issue, scientists across the world have been scouting for suitable crop species that can not only grow in hostile agro-climatic conditions but also provide food, fodder and other economic benefits.

Opuntia ficus-indica species known as cactus pear, is a climate-resilient smart crop, which has been introduced in recent times in India.  It has multiple uses especially for our farmers in arid or rainfed regions. It is tolerant to drought, high temperature and frost and is adaptive to a hot arid environment because of xerophytic characters, enabling the plants to survive prolonged periods of drought. It is a multipurpose plant species which is easy to establish. Cactus cladodes are rich in minerals like Ca, Mg, Na, P and K and have moderate protein and fibre content. Cactus contains high percentage of water (85- 90 per cent) and hence when fed to livestock, the water requirement of animals is reduced by 40 to 50 per cent. Cactus can generate carbon sequestration of 30 T CO2e/ha/year under sub-optimal growing conditions. Being a multipurpose crop with use as food, fodder, fuel, fertilizer and fashion, cactus achieves some of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This has made this plant a climate-smart crop and an integral aspect of agricultural economy in arid and semi-arid regions of India as well as the world.

Uses of Cactus: Cactus has capacity to produce good biomass throughout the year using minimum water. Cactus and its fruits are now becoming a source of agro-foods available in more than 50 products i.e. marmalades, juices, nectars, candies, frozen pulp, alcoholic beverages, pickles, sauces, shampoos, soaps and lotions. Cactus plant has medicinal uses such as an antacid, arterial sclerosis, anti-cholesterolic, prostatis and hyperglycemia. It has proven potential for diversification and improving livelihood for sustainability in dry lands of India. Cactus is a good species for soil and water conservation, rangeland and marginal land rehabilitation and crop land management. Against the backdrop of ongoing climate change, prolonged droughts, land degradation and desertification, this hardy crop demonstrates significant social, environmental and socio-economic benefits.

The adaptation trials at BAIF campuses in Wagholi, Maharashtra, Lakkihalli, Karnataka, Nanodara, Gujarat and Barmer, Rajasthan has highlighted the adaptability and suitability of cactus in prevailing soil and climatic conditions and also demonstrated the potential of cactus as a source of fodder for animals. Currently, 3.20 ha cactus plantations are being maintained on various campuses and planting material is being supplied to various agencies.

BAIF has developed e-learning module, video clipping, booklet, brochure as suitable training and extension material for promotion of cactus and also published research papers in International Journals and popular articles on cactus cultivation in the local print media.

BAIF’s Research and Development work on Cactus: BAIF Development Research Foundation initiated a comprehensive project on Cactus with NABARD support in 2015. BAIF has standardized the nursery techniques and tissue culture protocol for mass multiplication, production technology, protocol for feeding cactus to livestock and financial viability of cactus cultivation and nursery development at BAIF’s Central Research Station, Urulikanchan, Pune. A cactus arboretum with more than 100 accessions has been established and evaluated for adaptability, growth, yield and nutritional performance.

The research outcomes of this project have been transferred to farmers’ fields in arid and semi-arid areas of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka. More than 800 field demonstrations have been developed on farmers’ fields and the growth and yield performance monitored periodically. The farmers are currently utilising cactus cladodes for feeding their goat, sheep, cattle and buffaloes. These plantations are also acting as decentralised nurseries for supply of planting material. BAIF have also supplied more than one lakh cladodes to Krishi Vigyan Kendra, State Agriculture University, Government Seed farms and NGOs to promote cactus as a fodder for livestock.

Cactus-fresh biomass yield ranges from 20 to 35 tons/ha at two years of plant growth and largely depends on the soil type and management practices adopted by the farmers. The subsequent increase in biomass yield was also noticed over a period of plant growth.  Cactus feeding trials were undertaken in small and large ruminants and it revealed high palatability in goats as well as in milking cows. The results indicated that 3-4 kg of cactus was voluntarily consumed by adult goats whereas 7-8 kg of cactus were consumed by milking cows per day along with roughages. Hence, cactus has replaced 25 percent of green fodder. The average daily gain in body weight and overall growth were observed to be satisfactory during the feeding of cactus.

Cactus for fruits : Some of the fruit type accessions have been identified among the available germplasm collections in cactus arboretum at BAIF, Urulikanchan. Besides fruit yield, quality parameters including colour, taste, sugar content and nutritional properties of the fruits are being studied to identify the best accession for further multiplication and exploration for commercial fruit production as well as value added product development.

Cactus for Bio leather and Biogas/ Bioenergy : For exploring cactus as bio leather, collaborative research with CSIR-National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology (NIIST), Trivandrum and M/S Streekaya Services Pvt. Ltd. Mumbai, is in progress. NIIST has developed a protocol for bio leather (vegan leather) production, studied its properties and economics of production. Cactus pears meet the criteria of energy crop and biogas production is 0.36 m3 kg/DM having 55 to 70 % methane (CH4). The slurry coming out from the digester is a very good fertilizer and can be used in crop production. The work is being taken forward in collaboration with International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), ICAR institutes and a few start-up companies.

Future prospects : In vast areas of India which are rainfed, cactus can be grown with minimum availability of water. The Ministry of Land Resources and Watershed, Government of India is showing considerable interest in promoting cactus plantation on available watershed areas/ degraded land / waste land / rangelands in arid and semi-arid regions across the country. There is a need to establish a decentralised cactus nursery on farmers’ fields and for Government institutes to cater to the increasing demand of planting material. Cactus as a raw material can be utilised for multiple uses like green fodder, community biogas and bio CNG, bio leather and pharmaceutical and industrial products.

Dr. Vitthal Kauthale

Chief Thematic Programme Executive
BAIF Development Research Foundation
Central Research Station, Uruli Kanchan, Pune 412 202

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Sire contributes 50 percent of the total animals in the herd

Sire contributes 50 percent of the total animals in the herd

Dr. R. L. Bhagat
Sep 05, 2023
Dr. R. L. Bhagat
Sep 05, 2023

Introduction:

Rural livestock improvement is one of the core activity approaches of BAIF to ensure gainful self-employment and sustainable livelihood approach at the rural level.  This activity is not only a tool for income generation and improvement of the quality of life of the rural population but also an opportunity for dairy population improvement. The method varies from using frozen semen from exotic breed dairy sires (Jersey or Holstein Friesian) to crossbreed rural indigenous (Zebu) cows to produce crossbreds with high milk potential to preserving and enhancing indigenous stock through their characterization and genetic improvement using frozen semen from chosen bulls through Artificial Insemination.

Breeding the field animals through natural service:

Traditionally, bulls have been used by natural service to impregnate females for producing calves. Since one bull is used for providing service to many females, his contribution to improvement becomes more important than that of females. In natural mating, while realizing the importance of the bull in transmitting good qualities to its progeny, it was also noticed that the level of impact was much less than desired due to the production of a few numbers of daughters during the year. The invention of Artificial Insemination (A.I.) created an opportunity to produce a large number of daughters from a bull to create a sizable impact of its inheritance, to genetically improve the milk production potential. Such a program was launched by BAIF right in the initial establishment years by importing frozen semen of highly merited bulls from Europe and America and thereafter from locally available selected bulls when semen freezing facilities were established and standardized.

Generation-wise contribution of sire:

Considering the objective of improving milk and the overall productive and reproductive performance of rural animals, the selection of top-class quality bulls for producing a large number of daughters to make the desired impact is necessary. In the 1st generation sire contributes 50 percent to the foundation stock, in the 2nd generation, his contribution is 75 percent and in the 3rd generation, 87.5 percent contributes from 3 sires to the foundation stock. (See the following Image) and the bull effect continues for 10 years.

Bull selection methods:

There are three popular methods for selecting bulls for breeding field animals and they are as follows;

1. Physical confirmation: In this bull selection method, more importance is given to the breed characters rather than the milk production potential of his dam. While selecting the bull it is also seen that the bull is free from any physical ailments like lameness, blindness, any damaged part of the body, etc. This bull selection method is used for draft-purpose breeds E.g. Khillar, Hallikar, Red Kandhari, etc,

2. Physical confirmation and pedigree selection: In this bull selection method along with physical confirmation, the bull’s pedigree (ancestors’ information) is also seen like, the milk production capacity of his dam, his sisters, and grand dam. If the pedigree information of three generations is available, then it is considered to be much better. This method is used for selecting the bulls from milk breeds and crossbreed animals.

3. Physical confirmation, pedigree, and progeny performance: This is the most reliable method of bull selection before the bull is put into extensive use. The developed countries that made extensive genetic improvements in milk production used this method on a very large scale. In this bull selection method, the selection of bulls is made after comparing a large number of bulls and selecting a top few of them to be used extensively. Since bulls themselves do not give milk, the average production of their daughters is considered for comparison. Standard procedures are defined for doing this and the process is known as progeny testing. The field progeny testing has prime importance as bulls are selected on the performance of daughters born at farmers’ herd and every farmer has his own feeding and management practices followed for their animals.

4. BAIF experience in progeny testing: The first field progeny testing attempt in BAIF was initiated during the period 1980-85. During this period, pure Holstein and Jersey breed bulls were progeny tested on the basis of their crossbred daughters produced under farmer conditions. This probably was the first attempt of this sort in the country.

The absence of information and experience on many aspects of field recording in the country calls for a need to build knowledge on the aspects of fine-tuning the recording system to increase the accuracy of progeny testing.

Dr. R. L. Bhagat

Senior Thematic Program Executive
BAIF, CRS, Uruli Kanchan, Pune

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Methane Emission Mitigation Strategies in Livestock

Methane Emission Mitigation Strategies in Livestock

Dr. Manojkumar Aware
July 17, 2023
Dr. Manojkumar Aware
July 17, 2023

Global warming is a pressing global issue that has severe implications for the overall ecosystem. One significant contributor to this problem is the emission of methane from animals, which is influenced by various factors including feed type, feed intake, ambient temperature, rate of feed consumption, the balance of nutrients in the feed for microbial growth and microbial composition in the animal’s gut. To address this issue, a holistic livestock development approach can be adopted to improve the milk production and provide sustainable livelihoods for the rural community. Following strategies can be recommended and adopted to reduce the methane emission:

Improved animal nutrition and Ration Balancing Programme: Enhancing feeding practices and feed conversion efficiency is crucial in minimizing methane production. By increasing the energy content and digestibility of feed, less feed is converted to methane resulting in more productive output. Balanced diets incorporating high-quality forages can improve animal health, digestion, and ultimately reduce methane emissions. A balanced ration should provide protein, energy, minerals and vitamins from dry fodder, green fodder, concentrates, mineral supplements etc. in appropriate quantities to ensure optimal performance and animal health.

Use of anti-methanogenic feed supplements: Certain feed additives, such as tannins, essential oils, and enzyme supplements, have proven effective in reducing enteric methane emissions in livestock. With the help of research activities certain anti-methanogenic feed supplement have been developed which can be effectively and safely incorporated into animal diet like “Harit Dhara”. Based on the results of a feeding trial of Harit Dhara, anti-methanogenic feed supplement at different ICAR research institutes and possible reduction of methane emission up to 17 – 20%, BAIF has purchased a license of Harit Dhara for production and supply through its own programmes as well as from private customers.   It has been developed from tannin-rich plant-based sources. Tropical plants containing tannins, bitter and astringent chemical compounds, are known to suppress or remove protozoa from the rumen. It decreases the population of protozoa microbes in the rumen, responsible for hydrogen production and making it available to the archaea (structure similar to bacteria) for reduction of CO2 eq. The use of Harit Dhara promotes higher milk production by increasing the production of propionic acid, providing more energy for lactose production and weight gain.

Changes in animal management and breeding: Improving animal productivity through selective breeding and enhanced management practices can significantly reduce methane emissions per unit of output. This approach requires a decrease in total animal numbers coupled with increased productivity to meet consumer demands.

Improved Breeding and genetics: Selective breeding programmes can be employed to develop dairy breeds that are more efficient in feed utilization and have lower methane emissions. Identifying and breeding animals with naturally low methane production can contribute to long-term emission reductions.

Use of sexed sorted semen: Sorted semen is a sexed semen containing either X or Y sperms and the use of it produces a desired sex (male or female) animal. The male calves are both neglected and under fed by the farmers due to less utility to the farmer. The sorted semen technology will produce 90% female calves.  This technology helps to reduce the economic losses and challenges associated with male calves, leading to improved animal management.

Dung and Manure Management: Proper management of livestock waste, such as dung and manure, is crucial in reducing methane emissions. BAIF has contributed to research and development in establishing an Integrated Renewable Energy and Sustainable Agriculture (IRESA) Model-Based Biogas Unit. Pre-fabricated Floating Dome Biogas Plants are the first portable and ready-to-use plants. These Biogas Plants, made from non-toxic polyethylene material are free from any contamination, chemical resistant and blended with stabilizers, Anti Corrosive and Anti Acidic. These are designed especially for Semi Urban and Rural areas to produce biogas from wet waste and animal dung. This is easy for operation and cleaning. The generated biogas can be used for domestic purpose like cooking which is sufficient for a family of 5-6 members. Each unit can contribute 4 tons of CO2 equivalent emission reduction per year.

Furthermore, the digested slurry from the biogas unit can be utilized as organic fertilizer for crops or fish ponds. After continuous research and development, we have established a 5G filter technology developed to gain the benefits of this IRESA based Biogas Model. The 5G filter is used to separate the solid and liquid waste. The slurry separated water and LOF Culture can be used for kitchen garden plantation by drip irrigation. The application of organic manure improves soil quality by reducing salinity/alkalinity, increasing porosity and enhancing water-holding capacity. BAIF has obtained 2 patents jointly with Sankalp Med-Education Society, Pune viz. “Method and system for production of enriched organic fertilizer from biogas slurry separated water” for Liquid Organic Fertilizers (LOF) on 18th January, 2023 and “Method and system for separation of solids in biogas plant slurry for resource reutilization” for IRESA based Biogas Filter on 29th March, 2023.

Adopting a holistic livestock development approach that encompasses improved animal nutrition, anti-methanogenic feed supplements, changes in animal management and breeding, and effective dung and manure management can significantly reduce methane emissions. These strategies not only contribute to mitigating global warming but also improve milk production and provide sustainable livelihoods for rural communities.

Dr. Manojkumar Aware

Chief Thematic Programme Executive
Animal Nutrition & Climate Action 
BAIF, CRS, Uruli Kanchan, Pune

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