Livestock production is the backbone ofIndian agriculture and a source of livelihood for rural population. In an eraof modernization and urbanization, smart and climate-resilient agriculturecoupled with upkeep of livestock on scientific lines is the only way out toenhance livestock productivity and production and to meet the ever-increasinghuman demand for livestock products. Fast shrinking land under fodderproduction and increasing cultivation of cereal and cash crops has put atremendous production pressure on livestock. It therefore has strainedscientists from agriculture and allied disciplines either to improve thenutrient quality of existing feed and fodder or to research for neweracceptable and viable alternatives. The work is going on in both directions inSKUAST Kashmir, and varietal development of Shalimar Fodder Maize – 1 is anevidence of well-directed and applied research. Yes, it needs to be taken from lab to land by the extension wing of thevarsity, and to the development departments for wider and large scale adoption.In proposed action plan twenty20-21, Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Kupwara, incollaboration with Dryland Agriculture Research Station of the varsity hastaken up the job of demonstrating potential of Shalimar Fodder Maize – 1 aslivestock fodder in aspiring district Kupwara. And similar exercise shall bedone in rest of the valley through SKUAST-run KVKs.
Maize has an important place in food grainbasket of India and is the 3rd most important versatile food grain crop owingto its value in food, feed, speciality corn, starch etc. The last few yearshave seen dramatic changes in productivity and production of maize. Adoption ofsingle cross maize hybrids has revolutionized maize production. Consequently,it has registered the highest growth rate of 6.4 %, the highest among all otherfood crops, surpassing 4 % growth rate for agriculture in general and 4.7 % formaize in particular as the target set by Planning Commission. As per the latestestimates of Ministry of Agriculture, GoI, maize productivity is headingtowards a record output of 21.28 mt this year as against 16.72 mt produced lastyear. Consumption pattern for maize in India at present includes poultry feed52 %, human food 24 %, animal feed 11 % and more than 22 % going towardsindustrial processing.
Maize is a warm weather plant and growsfrom sea level to 3000 metres altitude. It can be grown under diverse climaticconditions. Kharif (monsoon) season is the main growing season in northernIndia. It requires considerable moisture and warmth from germination toflowering. The most suitable temperature for germination is 21°C and for growth32°C. During flowering extremely high temperature and low humidity damage thefoliage, desiccate the pollen and interfere with proper pollination, resultingin poor grain formation. About 50 to 75 cm of well distributed rain isconducive for proper growth. It is very sensitive to stagnant water,particularly during its early stages of growth.
Maize is an excellent crop in terms ofbiomass production. Its straw is used as animal fodder since ancient times.However, fodder quality of green maize is far excellent. Amongst the non-legumecultivated fodders, maize is the only fodder which produces better nutritionalquality along with good quantity of biomass. Its quality is much better thansorghum and pearl millet owing to anti-quality components HCN and oxalaterespectively in the latter two. Secondly, baby corn is ready for harvestapproximately 2 months after sowing indicating baby corn as well as maizefodder is available in bulk just 2 months after sowing. Both crude protein andin-vitro dry matter digestibility, two important nutritional quality parametersgoverning fodder quality, are highest in maize among other competitive fodders.
For profitable dairying, year round foddersupply is a must. However, in Kashmir, farmers routinely face an acute shortageof green fodder during lean periods (November – December & May – June), andare forced to feed nutritionally poor straws and stovers, and costlyconcentrates to meet cattle daily dietary requirements and maintain their levelof production; making it economically a non- viable enterprise. Therefore,production and conservation of forages in sufficient quantity and of goodquality is of paramount importance. Shalimar Fodder Maize – 1 offers a goodalternative in addressing this issue. Its use at 50 % maturity as green fodderand as silage during winter months can help optimize animal performance andalleviate economic stress on farmers'.
SKUAST scientists are determined to takethis technology to field but the onus lies with the farmers' for its adoption.It is believed that this proven variety will help reduce parasitic disease(Fascioliasis/Liver fluke) incidence and/or other complications associated withlong-term use of paddy straw as cattle fodder. This alternative will helpreduce protein-energy-mineral related health issues in dairy cattle. Thisvariety of "miracle crop/queen of cereals" will help address the much- talkedand worried issue of fodder scarcity in Kashmir valley. This surely will proveits research-revealed potential in farmers' field and provide much neededrespite to the farming community in making dairying a sustainable andprofitable venture.
(Zahoor Ahmad Dar is Professor, DrylandAgriculture Research Station, SKUAST Kashmir & Aijaz Ahmad Dar is SMS(Animal Science), KVK Kupwara, SKUAST Kashmir)