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Magazine Editorial

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Name written by- Vijay Jardhari
Title Picking the Odd One Out: Weed Control in the Himalayas
Details Weeds are a constant source of problem for farmers. Many multi-national companies offer poisonous solutions in the form of chemical herbicides. Though the chemicals help to control weeds temporarily, the weeds grow again in larger number in the next season as they become resistant to the herbicides. Moreover, constant and prolonged use of chemicals can cause irreparable damage to the soil and water bodies. Most of the farmers in the Garhwal region use traditional techniques to control weeds. With the introduction of new seed varieties, many new and unfamiliar weeds have appeared and spread profusely. In the Uttarakhand region of middle Himalayas, paddy is cultivated right from the valleys up to 2000 feet altitude. There is a wide diversity of paddy varieties and also of the weeds. Some common weeds that grow with paddy are ‘dhalra’, ‘mora’, ‘kukraiya’, ‘jhurra’ and ‘dhakuda’. Most of these weeds look similar to the rice plant. During manual weeding operations, women identify them easily and remove them and use them as green manure. Recognizing look alike weeds However, as it is very difficult to recognize some weeds in paddy field, farmers have devised ingenious ways to control them. ‘Dhakura’ or ‘jharuva’ is one such weed. It is also referred to as a kind of wild paddy. While harvesting paddy, some ripened grains of ‘dhakura’ fall in the field and sprout in the next season. And in the subsequent years, the same ‘dhakura’ assumes menacing proportions and becomes very difficult to control given its close resemblance to the paddy plant. It starts flowering and setting seed earlier than the rice plant does. While harvesting, the ears start shattering and seeds get scattered all over the field. The paddy crop suffers. After a few years, the whole field is swamped by ‘dhakura’ which affects the paddy yield. After a few cycles of growth, the ‘dhakura’ seeds become stronger and resistant to disease, drought and flood. Farmers change the variety of the paddy in each season to control such weeds. For example, if the ‘dhakura’ weed is from the white stalk variety of paddy such as ‘thaapchini’, ‘kangudi’, ‘nyuri’ and ‘gorakhpuri’, farmers sow red stalk variety of paddy such as ‘rikhva’, ‘lalmati’ and ‘bangoi’. Once the plants grow, weeds can be easily identified by the colour of their stalks. Farmers can then easily spot and remove the white stalked weeds from the red stalked paddy. The uprooted weeds can of course be used as manure. The farmers lend each other these seed varieties whenever necessary. This exchange also helps in maintaining the diversity. Organic herbicide There is another weed called mora. Its roots grow deep and cling to the soil making it extremely difficult to uproot. The Uttarakhand hill-farmers have invented an organic herbicide to control this weed. Apricot grows in abundance in this region. The oil extracted from apricot seeds is used for various medicinal and culinary purposes. The seed husk, known as ‘hadela’, is considered to be a waste product. The elderly and experienced farmers, however, believe that ‘hadela’ can be used to control ‘mora’ weed. They scatter the husk in their fields to control ‘mora’. It is also a good manure. 1. Henwalghati, PO Nagni, Tehri Garhwal, Uttar Pradesh, Pin: 249 175
Volume No. Honey Bee, 8(4):8, 1997