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Lemon Grass Farming in Monkeys Effected Areas of Jammu Region
12/6/2019 10:39:58 PM
Dr. Banarsi Lal and
Dr. Vikas Tandon

Monkeys have left a substantial dent in the agricultural production of J&K. The state is struggling to contain the assaults by the monkeys. Monkeys are wreaking havoc in certain pockets of J&K affecting the income of the farmers. Monkeys menace has compelled many farmers to keep their cultivable land fallow resulting in the net loss to the farmers. More pronounced damage caused by these animals in lands adjacent to forest areas is due to food and water shortage in the forests. The major crops of these farmers are badly damaged by the monkeys. Many efforts are made to eradicate this problem but it is increasing day-by-day. Not just village residents, city dwellers are also struggling to cope with monkey menace. The holy town Katra is also struggling and many times we observe monkeys attacks on the people. Turmeric, ginger, marigold, medicinal and aromatic plants etc. are suggested by the farmers by the agricultural scientists to minimize the effects of monkey menace. In 2016-17 KVK, Reasi with the close co-ordination of Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (CIMAP)-Lucknow and Indian Institute of Integrative Medicines (IIIM)-Jammu introduced lemongrass farming in Katra belt of Reasi district of J&K. It is worthwhile to mention here that lemongrass is not affected by the monkeys and other animals and farmers can fetch more money by growing it commercially. Many farmers of the area showed keen interest in its cultivation. Lemongrass has immense potential in the region and can be grown by the farmers in their fallow land. KVK, Reasi facilitated the farmers in extraction which was done by IIIM-Jammu. Sh.Tilak Raj, a progressive farmer of Sirah village in Painthal block of Reasi district has grown 1 acre land with the lemongrass. He is a diversified farmer and generating extra income by growing lemongrass. Presently he is having around 9 lakhs of lemongrass slips which can help him to generate more money. Meanwhile his lemon oil is of very good quality and international firms are demanding it. By observing the success of lemongrass farming of Sh.Tilak Raj and some other farmers of the area, many other farmers are coming forward for lemongrass farming as the area is severely affected by the lemongrass. Sh.Tilak Raj himself also wants to increase his area under lemongrass farming. Lemongrass oil has tremendous scope in Reasi district as the tourists across the nation visit Katra throughout the year and there are numerous hotels and restaurants.
Lemon grass (Cymbopogan flexuosus) is a tall perennial plant with thin and long leaves. It is indigenous to India and other parts of Asia. It is aromatic tall sedge of family Poaceae which is grown in many parts of tropical and sub-tropical South East Asia and Africa. In India, it is mainly cultivated in Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu states, in some parts of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand besides foot-hills of Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. KVK, Reasi with the close co-ordination of CIMAP-Lucknow and IIIM-Jammu have also introduced its cultivation in lower belts of Reasi district of J&K. These belts area severely affected by the monkeys menace and lemongrass has immense potential in the area. Lemongrass is one of the commercially cultivated aromatic crops in India. India is the largest producer of lemon grass and about 80% of the produce is being exported. The essential oil is being traditionally exported to West Europe, U.S.A. and Japan. It has lot of medicinal properties and health benefits. It can be used in regular tea consumption for a best aromatic flavor.
Most of the species of lemon grass are native to South Asia, South-east Asia and Australia. The so called East Indian lemon grass (Cymbopogon flexuosus) , also known as Malabar or Cochin grass is native to India , Sri Lanka, Burma and Thailand ; for the related West Indian lemon grass (C. citratus ), a Malesian origin is generally assumed. Both the species are today cultivated throughout tropical Asia. Its culm is stout, erect, up to 1.8 meter high. Leaves are long, green, linear tapering upwards and along the margins; ligule very short; sheaths terete. It is a short day plant and produce profuse flowering. The inflorescence is a long spike about one metre in length. Flowers borne on decompound spatheate, panicles 30 to over 60 cm long. Presently it is grown in about 3,000 ha area in India, largely in states of Kerala, Karnataka, U.P., Uttrakhand and Assam. Now it is grown commercially in Jammu region also with very good results.
The oil is distilled from its leaves and flowering tops of lemon grass. The oil has strong lemon-like fragrance, due to high percentage of citral in the oil. The characteristic fragrance of oil makes its use in scenting of soaps, detergents, insect repellent preparations etc. The major use of oil is as a source of citral, which goes in perfumery, cosmetics, beverages etc. The citral rich oil has germicidal, medicinal and flavouring properties. During early fifties India had monopoly both in production and world trade. Considering the bio-diversity in Cymbopogon spp. found in India; some allied spp. have shown to contain high value of nerolidal and farnesol in the oil. Obviously, varieties with these high value aroma compounds should be developed. The IIIM-Jammu has come out with a culture rich in bisabalol (15-20%); this has to be upgraded to yield 35-40% of this aroma compound to fetch better return and develop into monopoly item for export. The oil of lemon grass has high percentage of terpenes (limonene and myrecene), beside menthyl heptenone, linalool, geranyl acetate, nerol and geraniol. Further, citral can be converted into high value compounds like cintronellal, geraniol, geranyl acid and geranyl nitride but the processes are governed by patents.
The crop grows well in both tropical and subtropical climates at an elevation up to 900 m. However, ideal conditions for growing lemon grass are warm and humid climate with sufficient sunshine and 250-330 cm rainfall per annum, evenly distributed over most part of the year. A temperature ranging from 20-300 C and good sunshine throughout the year is conducive to high crop yield. Lemon grass can also be grown in semi-arid regions receiving low to moderate rainfall. Lemon grass can grow well over medium fertile soils and moderate irrigation. Well drained sandy loam is most suitable for the growth of the plant. It can be grown on a variety of soils ranging from loam to poor laterite. Calcareous and water logged soils should be avoided as they are unsuitable for cultivation. CKP 25, RRL 16, Jama Rosa, Praman, Sugandhi, Krishna etc. are the varieties of lemongrass. The crop is best propagated through seed raised in nurseries, 2.5 kg/ha. It is also vegetatively propagated by splitting the clumps into slips. These are planted at a spacing of 40x40 cm. There are two planting seasons of lemongrass i.e. February-March and September-October. About 55,000 slips are required for one ha. A healthy plant gives about 100-200 g of seeds. These dry seed lots are stored in gunny bags lined with polythene. The seeds lose their viability if stored for a period more than one year. Lemongrass crop is free from most pests or disease but may require micronutrients over marginal lands. The field is kept weed free for the first 3 - 4 months after plating. Similarly, weeding cum hoeing is done up to 1 month, after every harvest. Generally, 2-3 weedings are necessary during a year. Under normal conditions, three harvests are possible during the first year, and 3-4 in subsequent years, depending on the management practices followed. The yield of oil is less during the first year but it increases in the second year and reaches a maximum in the third year; after this, the yield declines. Under irrigated conditions from newly bred varieties an oil yield of 150-200 kg/ha is obtained. The oil is yellowish in colour having 75-85% citral and small amount of other minor aroma compounds. The recovery of oil from the grass ranges from 0.5 - 0.8 per cent. If grown commercially, lemongrass can be a boon to the farmers of Jammu region.
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