In India, nearly 63 m. ha of wasteland is available in the country, out of which 33 m. ha of wasteland have been allotted for tree plantation. Certain multipurpose bio-fuel plants can grow well in wastelands with very minimum input. Once cultivated, the crop has fifty years of life. Fruiting can take place in these plants in two years. Bio-fuel plants grown in parts of the waste land, for example, 11 m. ha, can yield a revenue of approximately Rs. 20,000 crore a year and provide employment to over 12 million people both for plantation and running of the extraction plants. It will reduce the foreign exchange outflow paid for importing crude oil, the cost of which is continuously rising in the international market. The bio-fuel is carbon mono-oxide emission free. The oil can also be used for soap and in candle industries. De-oiled cake is a raw material for composting and the plantation is also good for honey production. One time investment needed for bio-fuel plantation to production in 11 m. ha will be approximately Rs. 27,000 crores. The capital equipment and investment in plant and machinery can come from bank loans and private sector entrepreneurs. Bio-fuel plants can be grown in a number of states in the southern, western and central part of the country (Abdul Kalam, 2006).
1. JATROPHA CURCAS
Jatropha curcas is multipurpose non-edible oil yielding perennial shrub originated in tropical America and West Asia. It is commonly known as physic nut or purging nut. Jatropha curcas belongs to the family Euphorbiaceae and has the tendency to produce latex and animals do not browse the plant. This is a hardy and drought tolerant and this crop can be raised in marginal lands with lesser input. The crop can be maintained for 30 years economically. The genus Jatropha has 176 species and distributed throughout the world. Among them, 12 species are recorded in India. The species Jatropha curcas is a promising one with economic seed yield and oil recovery. The oil from Jatropha curcas can be used as bio-diesel blend upto 20%. However, the refined oil is a qualified neat bio-diesel. The plant flowers a year after planting and the economic yield is obtained from 4th year onwards. The farmers of southern districts suggest that this crop can be cultivated as fence crop initially in black cotton soils of southern districts under rain fed conditions.
Climate: It grows well under subtropical and tropical climates. It can tolerate extremes of temperature but not the frost.
Soil: It is grown on wide range of soils. It comes up in the marginal lands and also in problem soils (to some extent). For economic returns, soils with moderate fertility are preferred.
Variety: High yielding cultures collected from Tamil Nadu Agricultural University–TNMC–3, 4, 5, 7, 19 and 20.
Propagation: Jatropha is normally propagated through seeds. Well-developed plumpy seeds are selected for sowing, seeds are soaked in cow dung solution for 12 hours and kept under the wet gunny bags for 12 hours. Germinated seeds (2–3) are sown in poly-bags of 10 × 20 cm size filled with red soil, sand and farmyard manure in the ratio of 1:1:1 respectively. In some areas, the seeds are treated with GA, which results in improvement of germination (45–50%) of raw or cleaned seeds. The current market price of raw seeds and cleaned seeds is Rs. 30/kg, and Rs. 40/kg respectively. Approximately, the number of seeds per kg will be around 1800.
Planting: In one acre, 1000 plants can be planted at a spacing of 2 m × 2 m. Pits of 30 × 30 cm may be dug and filled with soil and 5 kg FYM per pit before planting. For better establishment of seedlings, monsoon season may be preferred for planting (June-July, October-November).
Manures and fertilizers: From 2nd year onwards, fertilizers are applied. For one acre, 20:120:60 kg of NPK respectively should be applied during September–October. From 4th year onwards, 150 g super phosphate is recommended over and above the regular dose.
Irrigation: Irrigation is a must immediately after planting. Life irrigation should be given on 3rd day after planting. The irrigation at fortnight interval is compulsory to ensure year round production of flowers and harvest of seeds. Growing this crop under garden land condition (assured condition) or drip irrigation is good.
After cultivation: Weeding may be done as and when needed. For early flowering, GA @ 100 ppm may be sprayed. It also helps better pod development and yield.
Intercropping: Being a perennial crop, intercrops can be raised in between the rows for the first two years. Crops like tomato, bitter gourd, pumpkin, ash gourd, cucumber and black gram can be grown profitably.
Canopy management: The terminal-growing twig is to be pinched to induce secondary branches. Likewise, the secondary and tertiary branches are to be pinched or pruned at the end of first year to induce a minimum of twenty-five branches at the end of second year. Once in ten years, the plant may be cut leaving one-foot height from ground level for rejuvenation. The growth is quick and the plant will start yielding in about a year period. This will be useful to include new growth and yield stabilization there on.
Pests: Bark eaters (Indarbella spp) and capsule borers are the two major pests affecting the plant. They may be controlled by spraying endosulphan at 3 ml/litre of water.
Disease: Collar rot may become a problem in the beginning and be controlled by application of 1% of Bordeaux drenching.
Yield: Seedlings produce flowers 9 months after sowing. However, plants established through cuttings, produce flowers from 6th month onwards. Wherever Jatropa is cultivated under irrigated condition, the flowering is throughout the year. Economic yield starts from 3rd year-end. It is estimated as 3000 kg seeds/acre @ 3 kg of seeds per plant. The dried pods are collected and the seeds are separated either manually or mechanically. Seeds are dried under sunlight for four days until the moisture is brought to 6–10% before oil extraction. Oil content varies from 22–25%. The present cost of selling jatropha seed is Rs. 5–10/kg. If it is fixed at Rs. 25–30 per kg, the farmers will get additional income.
2. SWEET SORGHUM
Alternative uses of sorghum include commercial utilization of grain in food industry and utilization of stalk for the production of value added products like ethanol, syrup and jaggery and bioenriched baggasse as a fodder and as a base material for cogeneration. The syrup can be used as table syrup, bread species, and in salad dressing, cakes, biscuits and ice-cream topping. Utilization of sorghum grain as animal and poultry feed has dramatically increased due to the price competition from maize. Similarly, demand for industrial and potable alcohol is continuously increasing. The recent policy of Government for blending of alcohol in petrol at 5 per cent increased the demand for alternative and commercially feasible raw materials such as sweet sorghum. Sweet sorghum has emerged as a supplementary crop to sugarcane in dry land pockets for the production of ethanol. The advantages of the crop are:
(i) it can be grown with limited water and minimal inputs;
(ii) it can be harvested in four months. Sweet sorghum is gaining the world attention as a promising bio-energy crop and alternative raw material for the production of alcohol.
The success rate is high because of the use of existing machinery available in the sugar factories and attached distilleries. Sweet sorghum juice can be used for the production of syrup called “sorghum honey”. Farmers, in a manner similar to jaggery preparation can prepare sorghum honey. Bagasse can be enriched and sold as cattle-feed. It is also a highly suitable base material for cogeneration. Similarly, use of grain as an alternate raw material for the production of potable alcohol is promising and receiving importance for use as biofuel. Sweet sorghum stalk is juicy and rich in fermentable sugars as high as 15–18 per cent and has potential for cane yield of 40 t/ha or more. Projected uses of sweet sorghum are production of alcohol, syrup and jaggery from the stalk juice. The recovery of alcohol in the pilot run showed 9 per cent of the juice having a brix of 12°. The various quality parameters that are determined along with the phenotypic characters are juice yield (t/ha), juice extraction (%), juice brix (%), juice pH, reducing sugars (%), non-reducing sugars (Sucrose %), commercial cane sugar (CCS) equivalents (%), and total sugars (%). These parameters play a very important role in determining the suitability of a genotype for a particular alternate use envisaged (mainly alcohol). So far no variety was released except SSV 84 (105 days) through All India Coordinated Sorghum Improvement Project.
Varieties: The important sweet sorghum varieties released at international level are Rio, Dale, Brandes, Theis, Rama, Vani, Ramada and Keller. BJ 248, RSSV 9, NSSV 208, NSSV 255 and RSSV 56 are the sweet sorghum cultures identified by the All India Coordinated sorghum Improvement Project at National level. Hybrid Madhura developed by Nimkar Agricultural Research Institute, Phaltan, Maharashtra is a popular hybrid in sweet sorghum. The TNAU has developed a sweet sorghum VMS 98003 with a cane yield of 45.7 t/ha and ethanol yield of 3.6 kl/ha as a promising sweet sorghum variety for Tamil Nadu and is being tested under adaptive research trial (ART) and will be released soon. Most of these varieties mature in 100–110 days.
Climate and Soil: It can be sown during June, coinciding with the SWM, September-October during NEM with a rainfall of 500-600 mm well distributed across the growing period and also during summer with assured irrigation. The crop does not prefer high rainfall as high soil moisture or continuous heavy rain after flowering may hamper sugar increase. If irrigation is available, sowing can be advanced before June so that the crop does not face heavy rains after flowering and more so during the last half of grain maturing period. Sowing during summer season may result in low biomass and sugar yield. All soils that have medium depth (18″ and above) with good drainage are suited. Depending on the soil (red, black, laterite and loamy) and its depth, water requirement may vary which in turn decide the suitability of the crop.
Seed treatment: The seeds are treated with Carbendazim (or) Thiram @ 2 g/kg of seeds. The seeds are treated with 2% KH2PO4 for 6 hours as pre sowing treatment under rainfed condition. Before sowing, the seeds are treated with azospirillum @ 600 gm/ha.
Seed rate and sowing: For better productivity, the optimum spacing should be 45 cm × 15 cm with a seed rate of 10 kg/ha. 3–4 seeds are dibbled in each hill/planting hole and the seedlings are to be eventually thinned to one per hill. If a planter is used, then the existing seed rate can be further reduced.
Fertilization: Recommended dose of fertilizer for sweet sorghum in soils with normal fertility level is 120 kg N, 40 kg P2O5 and 40 kg K2O. Half of N and whole of P and K are applied as basal. Remaining N is to be top-dressed during 25–30 days after germination, following weeding and intercultivation.
Weed management: Atrazine @ 0.2 kg a.i./ha can be applied as pre-emergence herbicide at 3 DAS followed by hand weeding at 45 DAS.
Irrigation: Irrigation should be based on available soil moisture, which depends on the type of soil and the rainfall distribution. Minimum of 6–7 irrigations are required with an interval of 7–10 days.
Pest management: Major pests are sorghum shoot fly and stem borer. Shoot fly attacks soon after germination upto 30 days. Stem borer incidence may be at a later stage and continues up to maturity. Shoot fly attack is noted by dead hearts in seedlings land heavy tillering in affected plants later. Shoot fly is controlled with the application of Carbofuran 2G @ 8–10 kg ha−1 during plating either along the furrow (in furrow sowing) or in a shallow furrows cut on the ridge (in ridge plating). The same insecticide could be applied in leaf whorls (2–3 granules/whorl) based on the foliar injury symptoms, to prevent stem borer tunneling.
Downy mildew: Seed treatment with Metalaxyl at 4 g/kg of seed. Rogue out infected plants up to 45 days after sowing and spray Metalaxyl 500 g or Mancozeb 1 kg or Zineb 1 kg/ha. Spray Mancozeb 1250 g/ha after noticing the symptoms of foliar diseases, for both transplanted and direct sown crops.
Head mould: Spraying Mancozeb 1 kg/ha or Zineb 1 kg/ha or Captan 1 kg/ha + Aureofungin sol 100 g/ha may be done in case of intermittent rainfall during ear head emergence and a week later.
Sugary disease: Sowing period to be adjusted so as to prevent heading during rainy season and severe winter. Spray Ziram 1 kg/ha or Mancozeb 1 kg/ha or Zineb 1 kg/ha at emergence of ear heads (5-10% flowering stage) followed by a spray at 50% flowering and repeat the spray after a week if necessary.
Rust: Spraying Mancozeb at 1 kg/ha is done, when the disease reached grade 3 and repeated after 10 days.
Harvest: The ear head should be harvested at physiological maturity and sun dried for removing excess moisture in the grain. The green cane should be cut at the ground level and sent to the mill for crushing at the earliest (12 hours after harvest) as the sugar content decrease in progression with time. In any case, it should be crushed before 48 hrs failing which sugar content will be drastically reduced.
3. SUGAR BEET
Sugar beet (Beta vulgaris Var. Saccharifera L.) is a biennial sugar producing tuber crop, grown in temperate countries. Now, tropical sugar beet varieties are gaining momentum in tropical and sub tropical countries including Tamil Nadu as a promising alternative energy crop for the production of ethanol. The ethanol can be blended with petrol or diesel to the extent of 10% and used as bio-fuel. The byproducts of sugar beet viz., beet top can be used as green fodder, while pulp and filter cake from industry can be used as cattle feed. Sugar beet has now emerged as commercial field crop because of the favourable characters like
(i) tropical sugarbeet varieties suitable for Tamil Nadu
(ii) shorter duration of 5–6 months
(iii) moderate water requirement of 80–100 cm
(iv) higher sugar content of 12–15%
(v) improvement of soil conditions because of tuber crop, and
(vi) suitability for saline and alkali soil. Further, as the harvesting period of sugarbeet coincides with the period from March to June, the human resource of sugar factory in the off season could be efficiently utilized in the processing of sugarbeet in the sugar mills, which facilitates in continuous functioning of the sugar mills.
Variety and duration: The tropical sugar beet varieties like Pasoda, H1 0064 and Doratea etc., are suitable for cultivation in Tamil Nadu. The duration of these tropical varieties will be 5–6 months depending on variety and climatic conditions prevailing during crop growth period.
Climate and soil: Tropical sugar beet requires good sunshine during its growth period. Sugar beet can be grown during October-March with a well-distributed rainfall of 300–350 mm across the growing period. This condition favours vegetative growth and acts as a base for tuber enlargement. However, high soil moisture or continuous heavy rain may affect development of tuber and synthesis of sugar. The sugar beet crop requires an optimum temperature range of 20–25°C for germination, 30–35°C for growth and development and 25–35°C for sugar accumulation. All kinds of well drained deep soil (45 cm) with stable and porous soil structure and sandy loam to clayey loam texture are suitable. Optimum pH range is 6.5–8.0 but, it can also grow in saline and alkaline soil. The soils with good organic matter status are more favourable for sugar beet.
Season: Sugar beet is a cold weather crop season (rabi). Hence, sugar beet is sown from October to November and harvested during April–May.
Field preparation: Sugar beet being a root crop requires deep ploughing (45 cm) followed by 2–3 ploughings to obtain a good soil tilth condition for favourable seed germination and tuber development. After proper leveling to ensure adequate drainage, ridges and furrows are formed at 50 cm apart.
Seeds and sowing: To maintain the required plant population of 40,000/- acre, use 2 pockets designer seeds. One pocket contains 20,000 seeds weighing 600 g. The recommended spacing is 50 × 20 cm. The designer seed is dippled at 2 cm depth on the top of the ridges at 20 cm apart at one seed per hole.
Weeding and earthing up: The crops should be maintained weed free upto 75 days. Pendimethalin at 1.5 l/acre is dissolved in 300 l of water and sprayed with hand operated sprayer on 3rd day after sowing, followed by hand weeding on 25 and 50 DAS. The earthing up operation coincides with top dressing of N fertilizer.
Irrigation: Sugar beet is very sensitive to water stagnation at all stages of its growth. Irrigation should be based on soil type and climatic conditions. Pre-sowing irrigation is essential at the time of sowing. First irrigation is very crucial for the early establishment of the crop. For light textured sandy loam soil, irrigation once in 5–7 days and for heavy textured clay loam soil, irrigation once in 8–10 days is recommended. Light and frequent irrigation is recommended for maintaining optimum soil moisture. The irrigation may be stopped at least 2–3 weeks before harvest. At the time of harvest, if the soil is too dry and hard, it is necessary to give pre harvest irrigation for easy harvest.
Pest and diseases: The major insect pests are aphids, tobacco caterpillar and diamond back moth. To control aphids, spray neem oil 3% or dimethoate 2 ml/l with teepol. For tobacco caterpillar, spray endosulfon 2 ml/l or carbaryl 2g/l of water. The major insect pests that affect the sugar beet crop are rhizoctonia wilt, powdery mildew, cercospora leaf spot, and fusarium yellow. To control rhizoctonia wilt, spot drenching with Bordeaux mixture 1% and for fusarium wilt, drenching the soil with carbendazim @ 0.1%. To control powdery mildew, spraying of wettable powder 0.3% and for cercospora leaf spot, application of mancozeb 0.25% on 10–14 days schedule.
Harvest, yield and economics: The sugar beet matures in about 5–6 months. The yellowing of lower leaf whirls of matured plant and tuber brix reading of 15–18% indicate the maturity of tuber for harvest. The harvested tuber should be handled as gently as possible to remove soil and trash to minimize the beet breakage and bruising to get quality beet tuber. The average yield of beet tuber is 30-35 t/acre. Total cost of cultivation per acre is around Rs. 8,000–8,500 and the income will be Rs.18,000/- acre with a net income of Rs. 10,000/- acre.
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