Berseem The King Of Fodder & Forage Cultivation
For those who own livestock and are their prime business, they would have come across berseem at some point in time. While some livestock owners have land and cultivate it, others have at some point tried to purchase berseem as green or dry fodder at some point in time. Berseem is a fodder crop, which is easy to grow. It’s a great nitrogen-fixing legume which helps soil rejuvenation while providing food for the animals. It’s not consumed by humans but for livestock, specially bred for milk, the berseem is a wonder crop.
Berseem is known as the king of fodder for a reason. the high content of protein (18-20%) in Berseem helps cows and goats to produce more milk and remain healthy throughout their milking cycle. It’s safe and if it comes from a reliable source can be found organic too. For a farmer, The potential of 80 to 100 tonnes of fodder per hectare or 40 tonnes per acre is of great value and especially when the entire crop cycle is 60-80 days. Theoretically, you could feed 10 cows for 250 days with one hectare of land with that much quantity.
The Berseem Crop for Winter
While farmers have been cultivating the same variety of crops over years and failed to see more than a moderate profit, the berseem crop is a great source of income for those who are into diversification of crops. While Berseem is quite an old product, it is relatively new to many farmers in India. Berseem was introduced in India in 1903. Though a product this old, there are very few farmers taking interest in this crop as they are not willing to diversify. the few who are taking up cultivating are those who have wanted to do foraging crops and fodders. Unlike normal crops, fodder crops are not used for human consumption and thus the value of the product is low in the market. Demand too is minimal unless you have a local buyer with a dairy farm or you have a dairy farm. Selling fodder, especially green fodder is not possible in the market on large scale these days.
At the time of this writing, Haryana is the only state where Dry fodder is sold in the mandi. Green fodder is not sold in mandi at all. With no provision to sell in bulk or mandi’s farmers are reluctant to cultivate fodder crops, especially that which cannot be sold green. Dry fodder does have its market but drying takes time and effort. Moreover, Drying Berseem is a bit harder than most other fodder crops. Berseem is a wonderful crop to make silage out of when mixed with ground maize.
- Climate for Cultivation: A winter Crop, the Barseem is best sown by late September or early October. they are open-field crops and require moderate irrigation and fertilization. The Temperature between 25-30 degrees is best suited for germination and 35 degrees when flowering.
- Ideal Soil for Cultivation: Unlike most other crops, berseem does extremely well in heavy soil. Clay soil which retains water for longer is excellent to grow berseem. Ensure that there is enough drainage though, as water logging is not good for berseem plants. Sandy soil requires frequent irrigation and can add up to the cost and effort.
- Varieties of Berseem: There are over 20 Known varieties and hybrids online. the best variety suited for your weather conditions can be recommended by the nearest agricultural department. Seed advise from farmers near you who have cultivated berseem in your area. Some hybrid varieties are better in some areas but will do poorly in others. this has to do with the climatic conditions and soil. Improved varieties include Pusa Giant, L–180, BL-42, Hisar Berseem-1, Jawahar Berseem-5, Wardan, JB-1, FR-S-99-1, UPB-101 and its series.
- Land Preparation: the soil e must be fertilised. Application of cow Manure, FYM or compost is applied before sowing. The land is first ploughed twice before the application of FYM and then ploughed and levelled again to ensure that the FYM is distributed evenly. once the ploughing is complete and the levelling is done, water is supplied to the land and left to stay at 1-2 inches in height. Sowing is done on top of the water and the seeds settle in within a few hours. the water should be drained after 24 hours. the seeds would have settled in the soil by then and the sprouting should start in a day or two.
- Sowing: Seeds are sown at 8 Kg per acre but some farmers choose to sow up to 10 kg per acre. Seeds are also mixed with mustard seeds at a 10% ratio to give the forage a balance in nutrition for the livestock. This is a personal preference and can be avoided. it’s important to know the seed requirement per acre and its mentioned in each seed packet. Seed packets come in 1 Kg and are priced between 280 and 310 per kilo.
- Spacing and Density: When sowing, it’s impossible to keep track of the plant density, but usually the plants are 3-5 centimetres apart for better growth.
Intercropping: Berseem is intercropped with soy and oats in many parts of the world. It’s a great idea to intercrop berseem with soy as soy has a good market locally and can be sold. This adds value to the land and the farmer. While Berseem can be used for fodder, the harvest from soy will add value and can be sold in the market or mandi.
- Irrigation: Irrigation for Berseem is moderate. During winters, berseem requires 1-2 irrigation per month. The crops are quite resilient and with clay soil, the water retention is much higher which enables the crop to survive for a longer period without much irrigation.
- Fertilizers: Fertilizers for Besreem is essential. Like most crops cultivated commercially, the application of fertilizers, especially basal application is key for better growth of berseem plants. application of 25 Kg Urea, 90 KG ssp and 5 KG zinc is recommended as basal application per acre. Application of 25 kg urea post-harvest is important for regrowing the plants to their second harvest.
- Pests: Caterpillars and Grasshoppers are the most common pests in Berseem and stem rot can be seen in some farms which is a seed-borne disease. use good quality seeds and spray carbendazim for fungal growth and pesticides which are generally used for caterpillars and hoppers for pest control.
- Harvesting: Harvest is best done after 45 days. Some farmers harvest from the 30th day but this is not recommended. The chances of increased weed if harvested early are common. harvesting early allows weeds to grow faster due to lesser competition and nutritional availability. Harvesting on the 45th day allows more growth to the berseem plant and the growth of the weed is delayed by 15 days. The second growth after the harvest is more vigorous too when harvested on the 45th day.
- Post Harvest: Once harvested, the green fodder is usually used immediately or within 2 days. Fodder can be dried to make hay but it’s not suitable for the first harvested berseem. Berseem in the first harvest has more moisture content and takes more time to dry. Converting berseem to silaged during the first harvest is more feasible.
- Yield: An average of 80 tonnes per hectare is common in most places. 50 to 60 tonnes of green fodder and 10 tonnes of dry matter can be harvested per hectare.
Area of cultivation: Berseem is not cultivated in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, orrisa and Haryana. They are slowly gaining traction in other parts of the country. Though many places like Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat have feasible weather conditions, it’s not widely cultivated by farmers due to a lack of experience and exposure to the crop. This will change slowly but surely.
- Market information: Berseem is not widely available in mandi. Most fodder crops are not sold in markets and especially not green fodder. Green fodder crops are usually perishable and require immediate sale and use. With dry forage though, there is an option of storing for a longer time. People are using Berseem widely in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and it’s gaining popularity. the market will eventually change. It’s good to start berseem cultivation if you have a dairy farm near you. The average price of 8 Rs per kilo for dry matter is common in Madhya Pradesh. even with a profit margin of only 1 Rupee per kilo, there is good potential for Berseem as a fodder crop shortly.