Ancient farm practices worth examining: ICAR chief

HYDERABAD, DEC. 6. Underscoring the immense knowledge base of India's farmers, with regard to agricultural practices, climate, soil and water use, Mangala Rai, Director-General of the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR), on Monday called for marrying scientific tools with ancient wisdom.

Inaugurating an international seminar on "Agricultural Heritage of India" organised by the Asian Agri-History Foundation here, Dr. Rai said that historically human culture had developed on the shoulders of agricultural development. "There is much wisdom hidden in religious practices, local sayings and farming practices," he said and added that it was necessary to tweeze it out for use by all.

Work praised

He complimented the foundation for its work in unearthing old treatises on agriculture and bringing them to the notice of all. Y.L. Nene, Trustee of the Foundation, informed that they had already translated, printed and analysed five agriculture manuals from ancient and medieval India.

"It is not that ancient Indians knew everything. But we have developed much knowledge about agriculture and can gain from it even in today's world of biotechnology-driven agriculture," said Dr. Nene, who was earlier with ICRISAT.

He gave the example of "kanapa" (translated as `filthy water'), which has been prescribed as a liquid manure for fruit trees in many ancient texts. It was produced by boiling animal waste, flesh and bones.

Record yields

Chemical analysis shows that high levels of proline amino acid in `Kanapa' enables plants to withstand pests and extreme weather.

Even in 1884, British scientists found record rice yields in Salsette Island off Bombay as animal waste was being dumped there. Records show that rice yield in Salsette touched 4.8 tonnes per hectare from local varieties without the use of any fertilizer.

Compare this to the present day average rice yield of 1.9 tonnes per hectare, or the "high" yield of 4 tonnes per hectare even in States like Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

The foundation has till date recovered, translated and printed five ancient and medieval texts.

These are the `Krishi-Parashara' from 400 B.C., the `Kashyapiyakrishisukti' from 700 to 800 A.D., which deals with agricultural practices of the Krishna-Godavari delta, the `Vrikshayurveda' of Surapala from 1000 A.D., the `Vishvavallabha' compiled in Rajasthan during the reign of Maharana Pratap and the `Nuskha Dar Fanni-Falahat' compiled by Mughal prince Dara Shikoh.

The foundation is currently working on an agricultural treatise in old Kannada called `Lokapakaran' dated to 1024 A.D. and on a 600 A.D. document called `Varahamihira' from Ujjain.

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