Headline : Why Soyabean is key to MP
- Significance of Soyabean for Madhya Pradesh has been explained.
History of Soyabean in India
- Malwa is India’s Midwest US and Indore its Chicago and that’s only because of soyabean.
- Soyabean in India has an American connection.
- The leguminous oilseed was hardly grown in the country till the mid-sixties.
- The first yellow-seeded soyabean varieties were introduced by University of Illinois scientists, who conducted field trials at the Jawaharlal Nehru Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya (JNKVV) in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh.
- Many of these varieties — with names such as Bragg, Improved Pelican, Clark 63, Lee and Hardee — were released for direct cultivation.
- By 1975-76, the all-India area under soyabean had touched around 90,000 hectares but the revolution took place only after that.
- The strains imported from US Midwest had a maturity period of 115-120 days from seed to grain.
- In 1994, JNKVV released an indigenously bred variety, JS 335 and later JS 9560 and JS 2034.
Story of Soyabeancrop in Madhya Pradesh
- The plateau region of western MP — covering the districts of Dewas, Indore, Dhar, Ujjain, Jhabua, Ratlam, Mandasur, Neemuch, Shajapur and Rajgarh — traditionally grew only a single un-irrigated crop of wheat or chana (chickpea) during the rabi winter season.
- Farmers mostly kept their lands fallow during the kharif monsoon season.
- The reason was the monsoon’s unpredictability: Even if the rains arrived on time, it could be followed by long dry spells.
- Sometimes, it rained so much that the fields would get waterlogged, damaging the standing crop.
- The best option, then, was to allow the soil to retain water from the monsoon rain and take a rabi crop using this residual moisture.
- The change came with the advent of tube-wells in the mid-seventies.
- The Malwa plateau is made up of hard basaltic rocks of the Deccan Trap.
- Since these had aquifers with unutilised groundwater in many places, it was possible to drill tube-wells and grow irrigated wheat.
- Farmers also now felt no need to conserve rainwater during monsoon.
- They could, instead, raise a kharif crop on this previously fallow land and that kharif crop was soyabean.
Reasons for selection of Soyabean by MP
- It could tolerate water-logging for 2-3 days and survive dry spells for over three weeks without much yield loss.
- Being a legume, its root nodules harboured atmospheric nitrogen-fixing bacteria.
- When harvested, it left behind 40-45 kg of nitrogen per hectare — equivalent to nearly two 50-kg urea bags — for the succeeding crop.
- Soyabean’s main advantage, though, was duration.
- The indigenously bred variety, JS 335 not only matured in just 95-100 days, but yielded 25-30 quintals per hectare, which was 5-10 quintals more.
- The crop duration fell further to 80-90 days with varieties like JS 9560 and JS 2034.
- It could grow well in the Malwaregion’s black cotton soil and didn’t require much effort; farmers simply had to prepare the field, sow the seeds, do some basic intercultural and weeding operations, and harvest after three months.
- Farmers were assured of a minimum yield even under waterlogged or drought conditions.
- The relative hardiness and shorter maturity — at least 10-15 days less than jowar (sorghum) or maize — made soyabean the ideal kharif crop.
Facts regarding Soyabean production in India and MP’s share in it
- By 1979-80, the country’s soyabean area had reached 0.5 million hectares.
- It rose further to 2.25 mh in 1989-90 and 6 mh towards the end of the century, with MP accounting for 70 per cent.
- Within MP, soyabean cultivation spread to other districts as well, especially in the neighbouring Vindhya plateau (Sehore, Raisen, Bhopal, Vidisha, Sagar and Guna) and the Narmadapuram division (Harda, Hoshangabad and Betul).
- Even in 2017, Malwa’s share in MP’s 5 mh (out of India’s 10.2 mh) was well over 50 per cent.
- Soyabean-wheat became the dominant crop cycle in this region, just as for the US Midwest or paddy-wheat in the case of Punjab and Haryana.
Significance of soyabean for Madhya Pradesh
- In Malwa, soyabean’srelevance even shaped electoral outcomes, which may be compared to sugarcane in western Uttar Pradesh.
- Soyabean had only 18-20 per cent oil content, as against 40-45 per cent in mustard or groundnut.
- The real potential lay in the balance 80-82 per cent de-oiled cake and extractions, also called meal.
- The protein-rich meal could be exported out, especially to South-East/East Asia where it was used as an ingredient for animal feed.
- Soon the businessman spotted an export market for Indian soya-meal andstarted setting up solvent extraction plants for processing soyabean.
- The real boom in Soyabean production in Madhya Pradesh happened only from the mid-2000s, which was when Shivraj Singh Chouhan also took over as MP Chief Minister.
- Between 2002-03 and 2013-14, the value of soya-meal shipments from India soared from just over Rs 1,360 crore to almost Rs 14,500 crore.
- As the fortunes of the industry rose, realisations from oil, too, went up — so did that of soyabean growers in Malwa and the neighbouring regions of MP.
- During this period, the average price of soyabean in Indore market climbed from Rs 1,353 to Rs 3,667 per quintal.
- All these factors provided political mileage for two consequent terms to the running Shivraj Singh Chauhan’s government.
Issues with soyabean and collapse of its boom
- The Soyabean boom collapsed after 2013-14, along with a crash in global agri-commodity prices.
- The period since then, coinciding with Chouhan’s third term, has seen soya-meal exports plunge to Rs 1,900 crore in 2015-16, before recovering somewhat in the following years.
- Soyabeanrealisations have also fallen to Rs 2,900-3,000 per quintal levels.
- The problem is not just economic, but also ecological.
- The soyabean-wheat crop cycle has led to groundwater overexploitation, more so in Malwa.
- The initial digging of bore-wells was a success, but now you need to dig deeper and deeper, as the top aquifers have been exhausted.
- Moreover, soyabean itself has over the years become prone to pest and disease attack.
- Yellow mosaic virus was once a problem confined to Northwest India but today, it has come even to soyabean in Central India and we saw it particularly in 2015.
- There are also fungal diseases such as collar rot, rhizoctonia root rot and pod blight.
- The pests that are increasingly causing crop damage include white fly (carrier of yellow mosaic virus), stem fly (whose larva feeds on the inner part of the stem, making it hollow), girdle beetle and tobacco caterpillar.
- The main reason for pest and disease susceptibility is the absence of crop rotation and growing the same variety year after year.
Impact on politics
- The collapse of soyabean boom could play out a major role in decision in the current Assembly elections.
- It has to be seen if the ruling BJP could win the Malwa region as was in 2013.
- However, the role of a crop grown in five mh in MP certainly cannot be ignored.
- Crop rotation: It would help manage organic soil fertility and also help avoid or reduce problems with soil-borne diseases and some soil-dwelling insects.
- Herbicide/pesticide resistant crops: It would enable farmers to use certain herbicides that will kill weeds without harming their crop.
- Appropriate support price: It could reduce the stress of farmers due to loss occurred to them.