Research Report

Intercropping of Pearl millet + Cowpea as Rainfed Fodder Crops with Aonla based Agri-horti-system  

Sunil Kumar , A. K. Shukla , H.V. Singh
Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute, Jhansi, 284003, India
Author    Correspondence author
International Journal of Horticulture, 2013, Vol. 3, No. 7   doi: 10.5376/ijh.2013.03.0007
Received: 31 Jan., 2013    Accepted: 07 Feb., 2013    Published: 15 Feb., 2013
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Sunil K., Shukla A. K., and Singh H.V. , 2013, Intercropping of Pearl millet+Cowpea as Rainfed Fodder Crops with Aonla based Agri-horti-system, 3(7): 28-34 (doi:10.5376/ijh.2013.03.0007)


An experiment was conducted to utilize interspaces of grownup (13 years old) aonla plantation with rainfed fodder crop combinations to optimize forage and fruit production. The aonla fruit production was not influenced with intercropping of fodder crops under rainfed and produced fruit yield of 13.65 t/ha. Pearlmillet (multicut) + cowpea produced significantly higher yield 21.6 t green fodder as compared to 18.4 t green fodder obtained from Pearlmillet (single cut) + cowpea. Fodder production in association with tree was also higher (20.75 t green fodder) as compared to sole crop. Higher B: C ratio 2.48:1 and 4.02:1 respectively of aonla based fodder production was recorded in 1st year and 2nd year when aonla trees were intercropped with Pearlmillet multicut+cowpea. The soil nutrient build up was also noticed in fodder intercropped in association with aonla tree.

Agri-horti-system; Aonla (Cv. NA-7); Cowpea; Intercrop; Pearl millet; Rainfed fodder

With the increase of human population and economic growth of the country, the demand of animal products as human diet is increasing. The aim of “White Revolution” which aspect to make milk available everyone in the country is becoming a challenging task beside continued increase in annual production. However, an imbalance between demand and supply of green and dry fodder is persisting since long back. The requirement of dry and green fodder by 2025 AD will be 1170.8 MT and 650.4 MT respectively, while supply is expected to be around 411.3 MT. and 488 MT (GOI, 2001). A recent estimate indicates that the deficiency in forages is about 68% of green fodder and 23% of dry forage (Singh, 2009). In dairy input about 60%~65% is incurred on feed and fodder.Due to increasing pressure of anthropocentric and development activities, availability in land for fodder is decreasing day by days resulting about 4.0 % of total cultivable and culturable wasteland is under fodder crop. Expansion in area under forage crops is quite difficult to solve the forage deficit. It will be necessary to emphasis research on increasing area under forages vertically rather horizontally. Pearl millet is considered as an important dual purpose crop for arid and semi region and its herbage quality could be considerably increased with intercropping with cowpea (Hazra and Bihari; 1993). Aonla (Emblica officinalis Gaertn.) is also recognized as an important fruit crop of semiarid region of India (Kumar et al., 2008) and grown commercially because of its high economic return, therapeutic and neutraceutical value and its suitability for marginal lands without much care. The tree canopy of aonla allows intercepting light and permits intercropping even after it has made full growth. Deep root system and deciduous nature, sparse foliage make aonla an ideal plant amenable for inter cropping. Hence, it is one of the most suitable fruit species for agri-horti- system in semi-arid region. Only few scientific information regarding intercropping of aonla with vegetables (Verma et al., 2005), arid crops (Awasthi et al., 2009), grass (Kumar and Chaubey, 2008) and perennial pigeon pea (Prasad et al., 2007) and in pre and post bearing stage of orchard Kumar and Shukla (2010) have been reported. Since, area under aonla crop is increasing manifolds during past years and its old orchards are also having a great opportunity to intercropping with suitable fodder crops. Inter- cropping of aonla with suitable fodder species to mitigate the gap between demand and supply of fodder in semiarid region could be helpful for livestock production, which has vital role in rural economy of the region. Soil microorganisms (fungi and bacteria) play a fundamental role in driving nutrient cycling and carbon turn over in all terrestrial ecosystem. Productivity and stability of soils as a medium for plant growth depend greatly on the balance between living and nonliving components. Biological activity indicates the potential of soil to support biochemical processes, essential for maintaining soil fertility. Recycling of carbon and nutrients during decomposition is a fundamentally important ecosystem process that has major control over the carbon cycle, nutrient availability and consequently plant growth and community structure (Bardgett, 2005).Keeping in view of above facts an experiment was conducted to assess the feasibility and economics of intercropping of thirteen years old aonla plantation with Perl millet + cowpea under rainfed condition through agri-horti based pasture production system

1 Results and Discussions
1.1 Tree growth and yield
Aonla tree growth height and canopy did not influence significantly by understorey intercrop combinations (Table 1). The fruit production also did not influence significantly with intercropping with pearlmillet+cowpea. Highest fruit yield 13.3 t/ha and 13.43 t/ha was recorded with intercropping with Pearl millet multicut+Cow pea. Sharma (2004) , Kumar and Chaubey (2008) and Kumar and Shukla (2011) also reported that understorey forage crop combinations did not influenced the fruit yield of ber and aonla tree species due to different rooting behavior of crops as well as tree. Singh (1997) also reported that intercropping of rainfed legume crops in ber orchard at Pali Rajasthan gave 3 times more yield as compared to sole crops. Under rainfed situation it has also been observed that fruit tree based framing system is reduced risk .I has been observed that in 2009 only 499.4 mm rainfall within 27 rainy days gave 14.36 t/ha fruit where as in 2010, 631.6 mm rainfall in 28 rainy days gave 12.18 t ftuit/ha. Dayal et al (1996) and Korwar et al (1988) also suggested that involvement of fruit trees in farming system reduced risk. Because, trees were deep rooted and very much tolerant to abnormal monsoon. They also suggested that trees yield at least something in drought year when seasonal crop totally failed.

Table 1 Aonla plant growth and Fruit production under fodder intercropping

1.2 Fodder yield and quality

Under rainfed situation the production of intercrop fodder is dependent on rainfall distribution. In first year due to poor rainfall only one cut has been taken as a result low yield (11.62 t green fodder or 2.25 t DM/ha) was noticed. In 2nd year normal rainfall for rainfed fodder crop produced good crop yield (28.2 t Green fodder or 5.25 t Dm/ha). In second year two cut has been taken from multicut Pearlmillet. Both years the pearl millet multi cut+cowpea produced higher yield (14.4 t GF or 2.69 t DM/ha and 30.4 t GF or 6.33 t DM/ha) as compared to pearl millet single cut+cowpea (11.2 t GF or 2.24 t DM and 27.1 t GF or 6.24 t DM/ha0 in association with aonla.  Intercropping of multi cut pearl millet with cowpea gave maximum yield without affecting aonla fruit crops. The probable reason may be that manure and fertilizers applied to aonla tree were also utilized by better availability of nutrients compensated for the lost area as well as availability of moisture was better in sown crop component for these there was no physical barrier between root system of tree and pasture and thus, association with tree as compared to sole crop. Similarly sole fodder production (Table 2) of pearl millet multi cut+cowpea produced higher yield as compared to pearl millet single cut+cowpea during both years. Inter cropping of Perarl miller multicut+Cowpea influenced the crude protein yield. Both years the pearl millet multi cut+cowpea produced higher crude protein yield (265.74 kg/ha and 546.4 kg/ha) as compared to pearl millet single cut+cowpea (226.7 and 530.8 kg/ha) in association with aonla. Similarly sole fodder production (Table 3) of pearl millet multi cut+cowpea produced higher crude protein yield as compared to pearl millet single cut+cowpea during both years. The crude protein content of herbage derived from cereal forage is low. However it will improved with intercropping of legume (Rai and Verma, 1995; Hazra and Bihari, 1993). Contribution of Pearlmillet in green fodder with different treatment combination was also estimated. It was found that highest green fodder yield of Pearlmillet 22.1 t/h recorded when aonla intercropped with multicut Pearlmillet+cow pea and lowest 19.1 t/h when single cut Pearlmillet+cow pea sown as sole crop (Figure 1). Similarly, cow pea as green fodder has higher yield 8.3t/h in the treatment where intercropped with aonla. Sole plantation of fodder crops yielded low fodder yield. Dry fodder yield of Pearlmillet and cow pea was also higher in the treatment intercropped with aonla (3.47 t/h) of multicut Pearlmillet and 4.51 t/h of cowpea than inter- cropping without aonla. Higher dry matter yield obtained from cow pea combination provide nutritious fodder as cow pea contain higher protein than Pearlmillet only.

Table 2 Fodder production under aonla based Agri- horti system

Table 3 Soil nutrient build up due to intercropping of fodder with aonla

Figure 1 Contribution of bajra and cow pea in fodder production (t/ha)

1.3 Microbial count in rhizospher soil

Microbial count in term of fungi and bacteria in the rhizospher soil of crops in different treatment combination clearly indicates that higher fungi population 3.64 cfu×105 per gram of rhizosphere soil recorded from Pearlmillet (multi cut) intercropped with cow pea. Lowest fungal population 3.12 cfu×105per gram rhizosphere soil recorded in the treatment of aonla (Figure 2). However, higher bacterial population 68.75 cfu/g rhizosphere soil recorded with multi cut Pearlmillet grown with aonla and single cut Pearlmillet with aonla. Crops grown without aonla has lowest bacterial population. The rhizodeposition of nutrients by plant roots supports increased microbial growth. Plant species and seasonal changes affect the indigenous bacterial soil communities and function of fungal communities (Mougel et al., 2006). Hossain et al (2010) also reported that litters from different grassland species influence the microbial population in the soil.

Figure 2 Microbial population in rhizosphere soil of aonla and intercropped fodders plant

1.3 Microbial count in rhizospher soil

Microbial count in term of fungi and bacteria in the rhizospher soil of crops in different treatment combination clearly indicates that higher fungi population 3.64 cfu×105 per gram of rhizosphere soil recorded from Pearlmillet (multi cut) intercropped with cow pea. Lowest fungal population 3.12 cfu×105 per gram rhizosphere soil recorded in the treatment of aonla (Figure 2). However, higher bacterial population 68.75 cfu/g rhizosphere soil recorded with multi cut Pearlmillet grown with aonla and single cut Pearlmillet with aonla. Crops grown without aonla has lowest bacterial population. The rhizodeposition of nutrients by plant roots supports increased microbial growth. Plant species and seasonal changes affect the indigenous bacterial soil communities and function of fungal communities (Mougel et al., 2006). Hossain et al (2010) also reported that litters from different grassland species influence the microbial population in the soil.

1.4 Soil nutrient buildup
Litter decomposition and microbial activity also changes the soil nutrient status. About 8% to 11% increase in available nitrogen kg/ha and 3% in phosphorus and 4% to 5% in potassium kg/h was recorded (Table 3). Per cent in organic carbon was nonsignificant in respect of all treatments. However available N was slightly higher in all aonla treatments. This is might be due to aonla leaf fall add some of nitrogen in soil or application of additional fertilizer in aonla basin may add up in nitrogen availability. Similarly available P and K were also higher in soil with aonla based treatment combinations. Another reason may be higher bacterial population with treatment of fodder crops intercropped with aonla. Microbial biomass plays a key role in soil nutrient cycling (McLaughlin et al., 1988; Frossard et al., 2000). In agricultural soils, microbial activity in the form of phosphate-solubilizing bacteria improves P transfer from soil to plants.
1.5 Economics

Fruit crops are deep rooted, hardy and tolerant to abnormal monsoon e.g. early or late onset, intermittent dry spell, early withdrawl, uneven distribution of rainfall etc. better than short duration field crop (Figure 3).Thus; it results in stability of income and brings ready cash to farmers. These statements quite clear (Table 4). In 1st year very poor rainfall produced low fodder yield gave benefit cost ratio from 4.56~5.43:1 from fruit and 1.96~2.48:1 from intercrop and in 2nd year 3.8~4.7:1 from fruit and 3.65~4.02:1 from under storey fodder crop. However, pearlmillet multicut+Cowpea combination was best to intercrop with 13 years old plantations of aonla. Kumar and Ram (2010) also reported maximum cost: benefit ratio (1:1.99) of pasture when 10 years old ber orchard intercropped with Guinea+S.hamata.

Figure 3 Rainfall and rainy days distribution during experimentation

Table 4 Economics of fruit and under storey fodder crop

2 Conclusion

In semi- arid region livestock production is secondary occupation of the farmers. The gap between demand and supply could be minimized by intercropping with fodder crops without affecting the fruit yield under rainfed situation. Incorporating of aonla fruit tree in farming system also minimized the risk of mono cropping system that is quite common practice in raifed conditions.
3 Materials and Methods
An experiment was conducted during Kharif seasons of 2009-2010 in 13 years old fully established aonla (cv. NA-7) orchard at Central Research Farm (longitude 25°26′08″N, latitude 78°30′21″E and altitude 216 m above mean sea level ) of the Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute, Jhansi. The soil was clay loam; contain 38.55% clay, 32.5% sand and 29.5% silt with 2 m depth. The initial soil composition was poor in available N (169.3 kg/ha), P (4.1 kg/ha) and K (172.7 kg/ha), low in organic carbon (0.39%), neutral in pH (6.4). The understorey of was intercropped with Pearlmillet fodder single and multi cut with cow pea. The Pearlmillet fodder (single cut cv. Gujrat Bajra-1 and multi cut cv. Rajasthan bajra Chari-2) and cow pea were sown in line at 30 cm in the ratio of 2:2 as followed by (Hajra and Bihari, 1993) in the month of July of both the years 2009 and 2010.The experiment consisted 5 treatments, T1 (aonla sole), T2 (aonla+Pearlmillet fodder single cut Gujrat Bajra-1+Cow pea Bundle Lobia-2), T3 (aonla+Pearlmillet fodder multi cut RBC-2+Cow pea Bundel lobia-2), T4 (Pearlmillet fodder single cut cv. Gujrat Bajra-1+Cow pea cv. Bundle Lobia-2) and T5 (Pearlmillet fodder multi cut cv. RBC-2+Cow pea Bundel lobia-2). Plot size of each treatment was 12 m×24 m having 8 trees /plot kept. Experiment was replicated four times in randomized block design. All possible agronomic practices were applied to the tree and fodder crops each year to ensure good crop.The weather parameters rainfall (mm) and rainy days were collected from meteorological observatory of Central Research Farm of IGFRI, Jhansi (Figure 3).
For estimation of dry matter and crude protein in fodder crops, fresh samples (500 g) were collected randomly from each plot at 50% of flowering and dried in hot-air oven at 70℃ till constant weight. Rhizospheric soil microbial count in term of colony forming unit (cfu)/g of fungi and bacteria in rhizosphere soil of each fodder intercropped with aonla was done at crop stage of fifty per cent flowering, following dilution plating and culture count methods. Soil nutrient buildup in term of available nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and organic carbon was measured from each treatment after the harvest of fodder crops at end of experimentation following standard procedures. Economics of the system were calculated on present price of inputs and outputs.
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