Agri Business

Why farmers plump for barley

Harish Damodaran Alwar (Rajasthan) | Updated on February 16, 2011

Barley is a Rabi cereal, sown in November and harvested by end-March. That makes it similar to wheat, though the latter matures only about 15 days later.

But in terms of yields or prices, barley ranks much below wheat, making it an orphan crop or sorts.

Mr Ram Niwas Punia, a farmer from Girudi village in Bansur Tehsil of Alwar, says he gets 18-20 quintals of barley from an acre, as against 20-22 quintals from wheat.

Last year, Mr Punia received an average Rs 950 a quintal for the ‘K-551' barley variety that he supplied to SABMiller's purchase centre at Bansur. This was more than the minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 750 fixed by the Centre. But it was lower than the official MSP of Rs 1,100 for wheat.

Why does he, then, still grow barley on 20 acres of his 100-acre holding, which includes 60 acres of leased-in land?

“Firstly, it is very hardy and performs well even in sandy, saline soils. On my more fertile land, I cultivate wheat on 20 acres,” notes this progressive farmer, who also grows chana (gram) on 10, mooli (radish) on 30 and other vegetables (cauliflower, peas and tomatoes) on 20 acres.

But hardiness is only one factor. The other is costs. “For wheat, I have to apply 40 kg of di-ammonium phosphate and 80 kg of urea for every acre, whereas these are only 30 kg and 60 kg respectively in the case of wheat,” Mr Punia adds.

In addition, there are savings on water and associated diesel consumption. “I need at least six irrigations in wheat, which is only four for barley,” points out Mr Hazari Lal Jat, a 35-bigha (21-acre) farmer, who devotes 16 bigha to barley, 13 bigha to wheat and six bigha to mustard.

Water is obviously a major consideration in Rajasthan. Mr Jat now extracts water from around 125 feet below the ground. And as the water-table is dipping every year, he has made sufficient provision by sinking a submersible pump to 225 feet.

Published on February 16, 2011

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