Asian Agri-History Foundation

Asian Agri-History Foundation (Volume 12)

No. 1, January-March 2008


In ancient India, agriculturists were quite aware of the relation between soil properties and crop production. Several systems of soil classification were in vogue. Arable lands were classified on the basis of rainfall, inundation and terrain. Soils were also classified on the basis of colour e.g., grey, pale-white, black, red, etc. or taste e.g., sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, etc. Ancient Indian scriptures contain elaborate injunctions regarding the use of various kinds of manures for crop production. Soils research in the 1930s and 1940s focused on soil colloids, clay minerals, composting of organic manures and green manuring. In the mid 1940s, research on the use of chemical fertilizers was initiated. In the 1950s, greater emphasis was given to the establishment of permanent manure plot experiments. These experiments showed that continuous use of chemical fertilizers would not inhibit soil productivity if applied judiciously. Crop rotations alone did not check the decline in soil fertility and it was noted that phosphate had a significant positive role in soil fertility. Soil fertility research was strengthened in the 1960s with the introduction of high-yielding varieties. In the 1970s, greater emphasis was placed on nutrient balance and soil fertility management in multiple cropping systems. Micronutrient research received greater attention in the 1980s once zinc deficiency was detected in intensive cropping systems.

Fertility Management of Indian Soils - A Historical Perspective – IP Abrol and KKM Nambiar


In recent decades, the introduction of fertilizer- and irrigation-responsive high-yielding dwarf varieties of rice have resulted in more widespread and intensive use of chemical fertilizers, insecticides, and herbicides. The indiscriminate use of such chemical agents – which led to a wide array of problems such as human and animal health hazards, degradation of soils, pollution of underground waters, resurgence of weeds and insect pests, mortality of non-target and beneficial organisms, insects, and birds, etc. – has forced mankind to consider safer ways of crop production and protection. Many such approaches are, in fact, practices that our ancestors had employed for centuries. This paper reviews available information on the traditional practices used in India for seed treatment, soil fertility, and disease and insect pest control. Some of the old practices have been scientifically tested and adopted by farmers, such as the use of rice husk ash, shifting of transplantation dates for the control of blast and stem borers, double transplantation to tide over bad periods, and uprooting of nursery seedlings in standing water to check bakanae. There is a great need to more extensively identify and verify area-specific indigenous technical knowledge (ITK) practices, in view of their recommendation and promotion among farmers in all paddy-growing areas of India.

Learning from Farmers - Traditional Rice Production Technology - S C Ahuja and Uma Ahuja


The study was conducted in Parbhani and Nanded districts of Marathwada region of Maharashtra, India to know the indigenous knowledge of rural people regarding use of medicinal plants for arthritis. Data were collected from old and experienced rural people. The data on medicinal plants used for arthritis were collected by participatory rural appraisal (PRA) technique from five villages. The collected information was then scientifically validated with the help of books on medicinal plants, drug index, and by consulting Ayurvedic doctors. The study revealed that rhizomes of Cyperus rotundus, leaves of karanja (Pongamia pinnata), seeds (dry spikes) of pimpali (Piper longum), latex of Papaver somniferum, leaves and stem of kamuni (Solanum nigrum), and whole plant of Tribulus terrestris are used to get relief from arthritis.

Indigenous Medicinal Plants Used for Arthritis - P N Antwal, C M Bellurkar and PB Bhosale


In Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India there are two national institutes of repute – the Birbal Sahni Institute of Botany (BSIP) and the National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI) established by Prof. Birbal Sahni, the world renowned paleobotanist and Prof. KN Kaul, the renowned botanist and philosopher, respectively. But, at the initial stage of establishment and management of these institutes stood a humble paleobotanist named Dr RV Sitholey. The present paper presents in brief his life profile, scientific works, and contribution in establishment of the above stated institutes and the historiography how these institutes were founded and established.

Rajendra Verma Sitholey: A Scientist Behind Two National Institutes of Repute- A Tribute - N C Shah
Medicinal Smoke (Havan) Reduces Airborne Bacteria - CS Nautiyal, PS Chauhan, and Y L Nene
History of Apple Cultivation in Uttarakhand - P C Tripathi
Turning Disadvantages to their Advantages - Lessons from Tribal Potato Farmers of Meghalaya Hills - Shantanu Kumar, Uma Sah, and SK Singh
Book Review: Glimpses of the Agricultural Heritage of India - AV Balasubramanian
Progress Report 2007: Asian Agri-History Foundation - Y L Nene
No. 2, April-June 2008
Rice - A Nutraceutical - Uma Ahuja, S C Ahuja, Rashmi Thakrar, and RK Singh


Dinajpur district in West Bengal, India is traditionally famous for its indigenous rice biodiversity. However, this highly valuable biodiversity is under threat. The indigenous rice biodiversity of old alluvial region of North and South Dinajpur has been highlighted in this paper. This traditional rice biodiversity is an amazing bio-resource of the region and therefore, proper attention should be given to its conservation, documentation, and future research and development program. At the same time, commercialization of several quality-based indigenous varieties may assure socioeconomic development of the farming communities and can also save the biodiversity to some extent.

Threatened Indigenous Rice Biodiversity of Old Alluvial Region of North and South Dinajpur, West Bengal - Dhiman Sen


Khasi tribe is an ancient hill tribe of East and West Khasi Hill districts of Meghalaya in Northeast India. Potato is the most important crop for the tribal farmers. Traditional potato storage structures and methods accords high significance among this tribe owing to the semi-perishable nature of the potatoes, the need of farmers to store potatoes for seed as well as table purpose, and non-existence of cold storage facilities in these districts. Several indigenous potato storage structures and methods that are being utilized in the state of Meghalaya were documented from this tribal community. In-situ storage structure or in-ground storage is used in hill slopes and lowlands. Ex-situ storage structures like storage of potato in pits, in layer in pit, in wooden structure, in rooms within the house, below house as well as pucca storage structures made of cement and stone pieces/bricks are practiced by the Khasi tribal farmers of Meghalaya with different rationale. In addition, different storage methods are also utilized for potato storage by the tribal farmers which include storage in bamboo baskets and gunny bags, in heaps, and in layers in different platforms in storage structures.

Traditional Potato Storage Among Khasi Tribe of Meghalaya Hills - Uma Sah and Shantanu Kumar


Professor RD Asana, an eminent Crop Physiologist of India, made notable contributions in understanding the physiology of crop plants. His studies in wheat provided a number of physiological criteria that were of great importance in improving wheat productivity in Asian countries. He observed that for unirrigated condition, selection could be based on the main axis yield of breeding material raised under optimal nutrition and water supply and that the root growth is related with time of ear emergence. These observations were found to be quite useful by wheat breeders. He showed the photosynthetic capacity of wheat ear and proposed an ideotype of wheat for rainfed cultivation based on his exhaustive physiological studies. Because of his immense contribution he is considered as doyen of crop physiology in India.

Contributions of Professor RD Asana to Crop Physiology Research - YP Abrol, PS Deshmukh, and MC Ghildiyal
Geo-history and Traditional Farming Calendar in Kashmir Valley - B L Puttoo
Plants Used as Traditional Medicine in Manipur - M Sumarjit Singh and N Rajendro Singh
Book Review: Folk Wisdom and Thai Sayings in Agriculture - Lindsay Falvey
No. 3, October-December 2008


The cultivation and use of brinjal (eggplant/aubergine) is of great antiquity. It is from India, as philological studies indicate, that brinjal moved to West Asia and Europe. The early inhibitions to its consumption by certain population groups could be because of the suspicion of the presence of anti-nutritional/poisonous substances. One of the unique varieties of brinjal, Mattu gulla, cultivated for its special taste and unique flavor in the Udupi district of Karnataka (South India), is a perfect example of the man-plant-God-science relationship. The different regions of India offer a diversity of accounts, documented as part of history, of the availability of brinjal and ancient food preparations of brinjal during medieval times.

Antiquity of the Cultivation and Use of Brinjal in India - Ramesh V Bhatt and S Vasanthi


Soybean is a native of China. The cultivated soybean (Glycine max) originated from its wild ancestor Glycine ussuriensis, which is presently known as Glycine soja. The crop is known for its high food value from centuries and it was used for food purposes (milk, douchi, hamanatto, miso, shoyu, doufu, natto, tempeh, soya flour, green beans, roasted soy nuts, and soybean sprouts) with the dawn of civilization. Soybean was migrated from China to neighboring countries with the development of sea and land trades during 7th century. Introduction of soybean to Indian subcontinent dates back to 1000 AD through silk route from northeastern India and Himalayan mountains. The black-seeded soybean has been traditionally grown in North and northeastern regions of India and further spread to different parts of the country. This black-seeded soybean, Kalitur, was the vehicle for soybean revolution in India. The major initiative on soybean cultivation was undertaken during 1963-64 by Govind Ballabh Pant University of Agriculture and Technology (GBPUAT), Pantnagar and Jawaharlal Nehru Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya (JNKVV), Jabalpur in collaboration with University of Illinois, USA. The cultivation was further picked up after the researchers took advantage of yellow-seeded material to develop high-yielding varieties that suited Indian conditions. Soybean cultivation got momentum during the 1970s as the vast monsoon fallow lands of Madhya Pradesh provided appropriate niche for its cultivation. Presently it is cultivated on nearly 8.7 million ha land with likely production of above 9 million t. The crop now occupies 5th position in the world and has acquired premier position in oilseed production in the country. It plays a significant role in national economy by amending 20% of the edible oil produced in the country and fetches around Rs 40,000 million by way of export of soya-meal. This striking growth rate is yet to be experienced in India for any other crop. On account of its resilience to withstand aberrant climatic conditions and the amount of good done to transform socioeconomic conditions of Indian farmers, it appears that the crop has come to stay in India. Based on the analysis of continued unabated growth, it is projected that the area under the crop will stabilize around 12 to 13 million ha in near future.

Origin, Domestication, Introduction, and Success of Soybean in India - B U Dupare, SD Billore, O P Joshi, and S M Hussain


Water is a prime natural resource - it forms the basis for all life on earth. Water has been regarded as an essential commodity since time immemorial, and all the ancient civilizations settled and developed close to a source of water. But the steady increase in human populations, widespread technological modernization, and new and unsustainable lifestyles have invited calamity in the form of water scarcity. This article examines the traditional water resources in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, which is blessed with varied and bountiful natural water resources such as khads, nalas, baudis, nawns, chhrudus, khatris, wells, etc. However, a recent study has revealed that 20% of the traditional water resources are in disuse, many of them dying a natural death due to poor maintenance, disrepair, and the availability of modern facilities such as hand pumps and taps. There is an urgent need to develop policies for the revival of the traditional water resources, so as to combat the problem of increasing water scarcity.

Traditional Water Resources: The Dying Wisdom of Himachal Pradesh -Promila Kanwar, Neetu Sharma, and Anju Kapoor
Impact of Khana's Vachan on Traditional Agriculture in Bengal - Dhiman Sen
Bhut jolokia - A Commercially Potent Chili from Northeast India - R Borgohain, D Mazumdar, M Neog, and A Saikia
Traditional Practices Adopted by the Small Growers of Assam for Tea Pest Management - G K Saikia, R P Bhuyan, A Deka, S Baruah, R C Neog, and M R S Dutta


Bhupendra Singh Deora
Deckiajuli Tea Estate, Parry Agro Industries Ltd., Dhekiajuli PO 784110, Dist. Sointpur, Assam, India (email: Deckiajuli Tea Estate in Assam, India has been grappling with the issue of what should be considered as an ideal crop management system for tea plantation. Is the use of pesticides the right approach? If yes, then why are the yields showing a declining trend? Why do our tea bushes look weak? Why do pests recur with a vengeance? We felt that the use of chemicals was not giving satisfactory results, probably because pests were becoming immune and resistant to the pesticides being used. An alternative was to follow the organic way of tea cultivation. Once the consensus was reached on trying to cultivate tea without the use of chemicals such as pesticides and growth promoters, our major concern was the implementation of alternative technology. Our knowledge on alternatives to pesticides was limited to bio-products marketed by a few companies. However, the bio-products available in the market were not only very expensive but also unreliable. Left without any viable option, these bio-products were tried. The results were inconsistent and the whole team of workers started losing confidence of managing tea organically. While practicing organic farming, the following objectives were kept in mind: . Produce and sustain the present level of yields of tea. . Churn out healthy produce to maintain and uphold human health. . Make tea production sustainable and cost-effective for both producer and consumer. . Completely diminish the use of inorganic fertilizers. To achieve these objectives, the ancient classics published by the Asian Agri-History Foundation (AAHF), Secunderabad, India were used for obtaining useful and practical information. The bulletins of AAHF referred were Vrikshayurveda (Sadhale, 1996), Vishvavallabha (Sadhale, 2004), Nuskha Dar Fanni-Falahat (Razia Akbar, 2000), Kashyapiyakrishisukti (Ayachit, 2002), Lokopakara (Ayangarya, 2006), and Krishi-Parashara (Sadhale, 1999). We called procedures based on the old classics as "Growing Tea the Natural Way".
1. Based on the paper "Migration from western cultivation culture to eastern ethnicity in tea"presented at the National Conference on Traditional Agricultural Practices with Potential for Growing Plantation Crops held from 22 to 24 February 2007 at Assam Agricultural University, Jorhat, Assam organized by the Asian Agri-History Foundation. Tea is a medium size perennial tree which is given a bushy frame for ease of operation. The leaves are of commercial interest. That is why the art of managing a tea plantation lies in: . Maintaining the tea bush in its vegetative phase

Managing Tea Plantation Using Vrikshayurveda - Bhupendra Singh Deora
Indigenous Technique to Control Termites in Tea Plantations - Shamim Ahmed
Krishi Gita: A Commentary - P M Tamboli
No. 4, October-December 2008


Hugh Martin Leake was a pioneering agricultural scientist, who worked in India from 1901 to 1923 in various capacities such as, a Biologist to the Bihar Indigo Planters Association at Pemberandah (Bihar) 1901 to 1904; Economic Botanist and Geneticist - United Provinces, Cawnpore 1904 to 1915; Principal, Cawnpore Agricultural College, Cawnpore 1915 to 1919, and Director of Agriculture - United Provinces, Lucknow 1919 to 1923. Leake made significant contribution to agriculture science in India and improving the opium and cotton crops by genetical means. He made efforts to improve the yield of indigo crop through genetical means. He recorded that the seeds of indigo from western parts of U.P. gave plants with vigorous growth with abundant foliage and a suitable material for genetical improvement. He also resolved the problem of low percentage of indigo seed germination due to hard seed coat by feeding seeds to ducks and collect these when ejected. Second method was the mechanical method in which the seeds were mixed with emery powder and then beated the mixture in a sack and then separated. He introduced zamindari course at Cawnpore Agriculture College but it failed due to non-cooperation of the then zamindars. He also wrote a few books. A brief description of his research work and publications are given.

Hugh Martin Leake:A Historical Memoir - N C Shah


Scented rices have been known in the Indian subcontinent since the times of Charaka [600 BC (c. 700 BC - eds.)] and Susruta [200 BC (c. 400 BC - eds.)]. These rices have played an important role in many regional economies, and have been the favorites of kings, religious heads, royalty, and the elite of society. Most of these rices are highly area specific; hence each Indian state has its own special scented rice(s). Scented rices of short and medium grain size are grown in most states, but the long-grained basmati rice of northwestern India has gained popularity all over the country. It is known that scent is present only in a handful of rice varieties, and that it is conspicuously absent in wild rices. Biotechnological studies have revealed that scent originated as a mutation in normal rice in the BAD2 gene. Even in the ancient times, the existence of several groups of scented rices was known. Like other rices, these have shown a spread from one area to another, revealing important links with important people and events in history. This paper attempts to bring together information on the history, diversity, and spread of scented rices, and the patronage offered by the royalty. It traces basmati from the Vedic period and its association with mahasali, the well-known variety of ancient and medieval times.

- Uma Ahuja, S C Ahuja, Rashmi Thakrar and N Shobha Rani


Rice culture and consumption in Kashmir has been in vogue since the drainage of water from Satisar by Kashyap Reshi. Farmers had developed sound traditional knowledge about the parameters for good rice harvest and management of blast (rai) disease. Sustained rice production by adopting organic practices coupled with indigenous farming implements and bullock power was invariably followed. Two approaches - dry (tao) and wet (kenul) - depending upon location and soil under broadcasting and transplantation systems were adopted for growing paddy. Pre-germinated seeds of self-grown and maintained rice varieties were either sown in nursery beds or directly broadcasted and hand weedings done at periodical intervals were enough to have a reasonably good harvest. Use of leftover pre-germinated paddy seeds as a delicious snack known as byail tomul has been elaborated. Many farming operations like transplanting, hand weeding, harvesting, collection, and thrashing were done on family and community basis. Kashmir was rich in rice biodiversity but the cultivars were low yielders and susceptible to diseases. Specific methods of bundling paddy plants after harvest, transportation, stocking, thrashing, and pounding have been described. Bund cropping and double cropping in paddy fields, cattle grazing in harvested fields, weed management after harvest, and de-silting of the water channels on community basis were other hallmarks. Sharing of paddy harvest with local artisans and other related members of community in lieu of the support rendered to the farmer for raising a good crop has been a standing example of the prevalence of barter system. Efforts made at state and national levels to improve rice culture and release of promising varieties that boosted rice productivity on one hand and extinction of indigenous germplasm on the other have been discussed.

Traditional Rices of India - B L Puttoo
Forestry in Ancient India:Some Literary Evidences on Productive and Protective Aspects - BM Kumar
Professor Vispi M meher-Homji:Botanist and Ecologist - A B Damania
Traditional Fishing Practices and Socio-cultural Activities of Koli Community in Konkan Region of India - YN Ulman, VG Naik and JM Talathi
Medicinal Plants Utilized by Rural Women of Rajasthan - Manju Guptha, Deepika Mandowara and Simple Jain
ASIAN Agri-History

The opinions expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily of the Asian Agri-History Foundation (AAHF). The designations employed and the presentation of the material in this journal do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of AAHF concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city, or area...

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Asian Agri-History Foundation (AAHF)
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GB Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, Pantnagar-263145
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