Jowar Cultivation: Empowering Farmers, Nourishing the Nation – Unleashing the Potential of Sorghum Farming in India
Jowar or sorghum is one of the most important food and fodder crops of dryland agriculture in India. It is a tropical crop that can withstand high temperature and drought conditions. It is also rich in nutrients and has various health benefits. Jowar is mainly grown in the peninsular and central India, with Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan being the major producing states.
Jowar can grow on a variety of soils, but it prefers sandy loam to clay loam soils with good drainage and organic matter content. The ideal soil pH range for jowar cultivation is 6 to 7.5. Jowar can tolerate mild acidity to mild salinity, but it does not perform well on sandy or waterlogged soils.
Jowar requires a warm and arid climate for its growth and development. The optimum temperature range for jowar cultivation is 25°C to 32°C, but it can tolerate up to 40°C. Jowar needs rainfall of about 40 cm annually, but it can survive with less or more rainfall depending on the soil moisture availability. Jowar is sensitive to frost and low temperature below 16°C.
Water and Irrigation
Jowar is a drought-tolerant crop that can survive with minimal irrigation or rainfed conditions. However, irrigation at critical stages of growth can enhance the yield and quality of jowar. The critical stages of irrigation for jowar are pre-sowing or sowing, tillering, flowering and grain filling. Depending on the soil type and rainfall pattern, jowar may require 2 to 4 irrigations during its growth cycle.
Jowar requires proper maintenance practices such as seed treatment, weed control, pest and disease management, fertilization and harvesting to ensure a good crop.
Seed treatment is important to protect the seeds from soil-borne diseases and pests and to improve the germination and vigour of the seedlings. Seeds can be treated with fungicides such as thiram or captan at 2 g/kg of seed or biocontrol agents such as Trichoderma viride at 4 g/kg of seed before sowing.
Weed control is essential to prevent the competition for nutrients, water and light between the weeds and the crop. Weeds can be controlled by manual weeding, mechanical weeding or chemical weeding. Manual weeding involves removing the weeds by hand or hoe at regular intervals. Mechanical weeding involves using implements such as harrow or cultivator to uproot or cut the weeds. Chemical weeding involves using herbicides such as atrazine or 2,4-D to kill the weeds selectively without harming the crop.
Pest and Disease Management
Pest and disease management is necessary to protect the crop from various biotic stresses that can reduce the yield and quality of jowar. Some of the common pests and diseases of jowar are:
- Stem borer: It is a caterpillar that bores into the stem and feeds on the internal tissues, causing wilting and drying of the plant. It can be controlled by spraying insecticides such as chlorpyriphos or quinalphos at 2 ml/litre of water at fortnightly intervals from 30 days after sowing.
- Shoot fly: It is a fly that lays eggs on the leaf sheath near the base of the plant. The maggots feed on the growing point of the plant, causing dead hearts or drying of central leaves. It can be controlled by spraying insecticides such as dimethoate or monocrotophos at 1 ml/litre of water at weekly intervals from 15 days after sowing.
- Aphids: They are small sucking insects that feed on the sap of the plant, causing yellowing and curling of leaves and transmission of viral diseases. They can be controlled by spraying insecticides such as methyl demeton or imidacloprid at 1 ml/litre of water at weekly intervals from flowering stage.
- Anthracnose: It is a fungal disease that causes brown spots with dark margins on leaves and stems, leading to blighting and drying of affected parts. It can be controlled by spraying fungicides such as mancozeb or carbendazim at 2 g/litre of water at fortnightly intervals from flowering stage.
- Downy mildew: It is a fungal disease that causes white cottony growth on the lower surface of leaves and stunting and distortion of plants. It can be controlled by spraying fungicides such as metalaxyl or fosetyl-aluminium at 2 g/litre of water at fortnightly intervals from flowering stage.
Fertilization is important to provide adequate nutrients to the crop for its optimum growth and yield. The recommended dose of fertilizer for jowar cultivation is 80 kg/ha of nitrogen (N), 40 kg/ha of phosphorus (P) and 20 kg/ha of potassium (K). Half of N and full dose of P and K should be applied as basal dose at sowing time. The remaining half of N should be applied as top dressing at tillering stage.
Jowar crop matures in about 90 to 120 days depending on the variety and season. The crop should be harvested when the grains are hard and have less than 20% moisture content. The crop can be harvested manually by cutting the plants with sickle or mechanically by using harvester. The harvested crop should be threshed by beating with sticks or using thresher to separate the grains from chaff.
Jowar cultivation can be profitable if done with proper management practices and marketing strategies. The profitability depends on various factors such as yield, cost of production, market price and demand for jowar products.
The average yield of jowar in India is about 1 tonne/ha for grain sorghum and about 30 tonnes/ha for fodder sorghum. However, with improved varieties and better agronomic practices, higher yields up to 3 tonnes/ha for grain sorghum and up to 50 tonnes/ha for fodder sorghum can be obtained.
Cost of Production
The cost of production of jowar varies depending on the inputs used, labour charges, land rent and other expenses involved in cultivation. According to a study by ICAR-Indian Institute of Millets Research (IIMR), the cost of production of jowar in India was estimated to be Rs. 18,000/ha for grain sorghum and Rs. 12,000/ha for fodder sorghum in 2019-20.
The market price of jowar depends on the quality, quantity, seasonality and demand-supply situation in the market. The government of India announces minimum support price (MSP) for jowar every year to protect the farmers from price fluctuations and ensure remunerative returns. The MSP for jowar in India was Rs. 2,620/quintal for grain sorghum (hybrid) and Rs. 2,600/quintal for grain sorghum (maldandi) in 2020-21.
The demand for jowar products is increasing due to its nutritional, health and environmental benefits. Jowar is used as food for human consumption in various forms such as roti, porridge, malt, popped sorghum etc. Jowar is also used as feed for livestock, poultry and fishery sectors. Jowar has potential for industrial uses such as ethanol production, starch extraction, paper making etc.
Marketing is an important aspect of jowar cultivation that determines the profitability of farmers. Farmers can sell their produce directly to consumers through local markets or online platforms or through collective marketing channels such as farmer producer organisations (FPOs), cooperatives etc. Farmers can also add value to their produce by processing it into various products such as flour, jaggery etc.
Distribution is another important aspect of jowar cultivation that involves transportation, storage and delivery of produce from farm to market or end users. Farmers need to adopt proper post-harvest management practices such as cleaning, drying, grading, packing etc. to maintain the quality and shelf life of their produce. Farmers also need to have access to adequate infrastructure facilities such as roads, vehicles, warehouses, cold storages etc. to reduce post-harvest losses and ensure timely distribution of their produce.