Posts Tagged ‘agriculture’
The primary motivation to eat cereal grains such as paddy rice, millet rices, or wheat is the nutrition we can derive from these. The largest component, in terms of weight composition of the grain are the carbohydrates in each of these grains. The other nutritional components we can derive from these grains are fibre, minerals and essential fatty acids – to varying degrees depending on the nutritional content of individual grains. In a recent post, I had mentioned about how we can use the carbohydrate to fibre ratio as a fairly good indicator to identify a grain that suits one’s dietary needs.
When a grain is very light, it is not filled with enough carbohydrates in its endosperm – the hard part of the grain. These grains typically do not get dehusked properly during the hulling process. And even when they do, the millet rice kernel tend to shatter resulting in an increase in the grits among the millet rice kernels. These immature grains would also not taste good when eaten primarily due to the ill-formed starch component in the endosperm or the heart of the grain. So the cooking quality deteriorates dramatically even if we are able to process them to rice or rawa form.
The maturity of the oils – the fatty acids in the bran layer in such grains is also very low. This means that the oils go rancid very quickly in such immature grains even if
one is able to get the husk off without damaging the millet rice kernel. And once the oil on a few grains go rancid, it gives the entire package a foul odour and the rancidity spreads to the other mature grains too.
To summarize, removing the immature millet grains from the better formed ones during processing for the millet rice, improves (i) the taste (ii) the cooking quality (iii) shelf life and (iv) the cleanliness of the product. Once separated, the light grains can be used for cattle feed as it is rich in cellulosic material.
Historically, farming was a rain fed practice. Even today, after spending lakhs of crores (or trillions, if you prefer that system of counting large numbers) of rupees and $s on irrigation systems and destroying almost all river ecosystems across the world, ~20% of cultivated land is irrigated. And ~60% of food production comes from rain fed farms. For more interesting facts and figures on irrigation, please see this comprehensive FAO ready reckoner and explore the website.
If we look at the budgetary outlays in India (and in other countries too) investments in agriculture are invariably dominated by investments in irrigation. Isn’t it high time people call the bluff and realized that if we really want to have a food system that survives the changing climate and tumultuous financial systems, we need to develop our rain fed farms.
Increasing spending on irrigation will of course mean more contracts and constructions. And construction, after all is the best way for people in power to make more money.
“There is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow !! Oh ho, why do you worry about all the money we are making you spend to get to this pot of gold, or about the wrecked ecosystems we are leaving behind! you are such an ‘anti-national’ !!”
Unseasonal rains and hail storms in Feb-Mar hit North India. The wheat and other rabi crops were almost there, ready to be harvested in a few weeks when the storms hit. Thousands of farmers across the subcontinent lost anywhere from 30 to 70% of their crop.
During the regular monsoon, many places in the subcontinent went dry for weeks on end. It was drought conditions in atleast 300 districts moving some of the state governments to push farmers to go for contingency crops. Luckily, there were some rains in the later part of the season. Though it was too late to take up any planting then, those who had planted were able to breathe a little easier.
In the last two weeks, successive low pressure regions in the Bay of Bengal have caused incessant rains in Tamil Nadu, south interior Karnataka, Rayalseema and Andhra. The ground nut crops, that had survived the dry stretch and revived by the late rains, were ready for harvest. The pigeon pea (tuvar) crops were flowering. A good rain at this stage would make harvest ground nut easier and would also be very beneficial for all those crops in the flowering stage (like Sorghum, Pegion Pea, etc.). But as the rains have continued day after day, what was initially greeted as good news by farmers has become the harbinger of misery. There are reports of ground nuts starting to sprout in their pods and of pigeon pea flowers starting to wither and fall due to the excessive moisture.
In the North, almost zero precipitation in some 150+ districts have rendered the soil too hard to take up any sowing activity. The wheat crop is what feeds the millions in these parts and with no possibility of sowing, we are not just staring at a bleak and hard winter, but into a dry, hot and hungry summer ahead too. The Gangetic plains do get a good amount of precipitation in the winter months in the form of dew. Once wheat, mustard and other crops take root, this dew is sufficient to meet their water needs. So when most people are cursing the winter fog for causing delays and cancellations of trains and flights, farmers are keeping their fingers crossed, counting their blessings in anticipation of a good harvest. But the dew does not provide sufficient moisture for sprouting seeds or help in putting down roots for almost all commonly cultivated crops. If any of you have any ideas on what can be cultivated in such conditions, do share it in the comments or send me an email.