Cash Crops

Important Organic Cash Crops of Sikkim

 
Important organically grown cash crops of the state are oranges, large cardomom, ginger, turmeric, cherry paper, baby corn, buck heat, pulses etc. All these organic crops have a high demand in domestic and international markets.

SIKKIM MANDARIN ORANGE

Mandarin orange (Citrus reticulata) is the most common among citrus fruits grown in India. It occupies nearly 50% of the total citrus area in India. Mandatrin group includes all types of loose jacket oranges commonly called Santra or mandarin such as Nagpur Santra, Coorg Santra, Khasi Mandarin, Sikkim Mandarin etc. Sikkim mandarin represents the most important commercial fruit of Sikkim and is similar to the Nepal or Assam or Darjeeling mandarin.

mandarin orange

In Sikkim, mandarin orange is being cultivated since time immemorial. It is a native fruit of Sikkim and is very popular all over the country.

Origin and Distribution

The origin of Citrus reticulata is from China. The valleys of Teesta and Rangit rivers and their tributaries of Sikkim and adjoining Darjeeling district of West Bengal offer an ideal himalayan climate for the cultivation of Sikkim mandarin. In Sikkim, mandarin is cultivated in an area of about 6,300 ha with a total annual production of about 17,190 tonnes. The important orange-producing areas are Teesta and Rangit river valleys up to 600-1500 m amsl. Tashiding, Gyalshing, Omchung, Tikjyak, Lingchom, Bermiok, Barthang, Rinchenpong, Chingthang, Chakung, Zoom, Timberbong and Karthok in West; Kewzing, Lingmoo, Sangmoo, Yangang, Payong, Rateypani, Namthang, Tarku, Tokal- Bermiok, Turuk and Sumbuk in South; Nazitam, Sang, Simik Lingzey, Khamdong, Sirwani and Samdong in East and Dikchu and Hee-Gyathang in North district are important orange-growing areas in Sikkim.

In Sikkim, only one variety, Sikkim mandarin is cultivated on commercial scale. It is also known as Darjeeling or Sikkim orange. This variety is generally propagated from seeds. The tree is generally medium to tall with an erect habit, very densely foliaged, both thorny and thornless, and a prolific-bearer. Fruits are depressed, globose to oblate and weigh 100-225 g; colour is orange yellow to bright orange; surface smooth, gloosy, short-necked, slightly ribbed, rind thin, firmness soft to very soft, segment 8–12, flavour agreeable, juice abundant, sweetness and acidity well-blended, seeds about 10 per fruit, medium-sized and green when cut.

Coorg mandarin was also introduced in Sikkim in 1977. Although it was found to be a heavy-bearer, its fruits were inferior as compared to be well-established Sikkim mandarin and hence rejected for cultivation in Sikkim.

Most of the orange fruits of Sikkim are sent to Kolkata and nearby markets. The fruits are brought to important marketing centres such as Singtam, Jorethang, Melli, Legship and Rangpo. The fruits are packed in 60 cm x 45 cm x 30 cm wooden boxes. Newspapers are used for packing, No individual fruits are packed. The fruits are graded into three grades — large, medium and small. One box contains 400 fruits of large size or 500 fruits of medium size or 800 fruits of small size. The smaller size fruits are disposed off in local market.

Considerable quantity of fruit is consumed by Government Fruit Preservation Factory located at Singtam, East Sikkim. Orange squash ‘Sikkim Supreme’ is a famous product of this factory. The Sikkim mandarins have good storage quality compared to other mandarins. The fruits can be stored for about a month even at ordinary room temperature. However, they lose their marketable appearance after a month of harvesting.

LARGE CARDAMOM

Large cardamom (Amomum subulatum Roxburgh), a member of Zingiberaceae family under the order Scitaminae, is one of the most important cash crops cultivated in the sub-himalayan state of Sikkim and Darjeeling District of West Bengal. In the state the area under large cardamom is about 12,500 ha and Sikkim is the highest producer in India holding a share of 70% of the Indian market.

It is a native crop of Sikkim. The presence of wild species, locally known as ‘Churumpa’ like Amomum aromaticum, A. dealbatum, A. Kingir, A. corynostachyum, A. Lingiforme etc. and tremendous variability within the cultivated species in Sikkim support the view of its origin. It is the most important revenue earning crop of Sikkim. The dried capsules are marketed at Amritsar,Delhi, Kanpur, Kolkata and Lucknow for further distribution. Large cardamom is also cultivated in parts of Uttarakhand and in some other North-Eastern States. Nepal and Bhutan are other countries where large cardamom is cultivated.

It is used as a spice and active ingredient in several ayurvedic preparations. It contains 2-3 per cent of essential oil, powerful flavoring agents, very much resembling to that of small cardamom and possesses medicinal properties that act as carminative, stomachic, diuretic, and an effective cardiac stimulant and is a remedy for throat and respiratory troubles.

Commercial Aspects

In India, black cardamom is felt superior for spicy and rustic dishes and can be used in liberal amounts. Large cardamom enhance and intensify the taste of other ingredients if used after crushing a bit. There are many distinct species of large cardamom, ranging in pod size from 2 cm (A. subulatum, Nepal to North Vietnam) to more than 5 cm (A. medium, China) with different tastes. Large cardamom is the dried fruit of a perennial herbaceous plant and its quality characteristics are different from that of small cardamom.

black cardamom

The fruit is 4-6 times the size of small cardamom and has an acceptable taste, flavour and aroma that stimulate the taste buds when used in rice and meat preparations, besides a wide range of beverages and sweets. In India, it is a popular ingredient of pan masala.

Plant Characteristics

The plant is a perennial herb having subterranean rhizomes which give rise to several leafy shoots and panicles. The bearing plant ranges in height from 1.8 to 2.5 m. On an average, the number of leafy shoots per healthy clump varies from 20-30. The leafy shoots or pseudostems are slender, cylindrical and greyish or reddish depending upon the variety. Leaves are green or dark green, glabrous on both surfaces with acuminate apex, more or less unicostate, parallel venation, alternately placed, lanceolate, generally 40-50 cm in length and 8-11 cm in width. The inflorescence is spadix, arising from subterranean rhizome. Flowers are zygomorphic, hermaphrodite, yellow to bright yellow in colour and cross-pollinated by bees. The fruit is a globose, triloculate capsule, dark pink or reddish in colour. Colour of dried capsule is reddish brown to dark brown. On an average, the number of capsules per panicle range from 10 to 15, each containing several aromatic seeds in each cell. The ripe seeds are brown to black in colour and are embedded with a sugary mucilaginous membrane.

Climatic Requirement

Large cardamom is a shade-loving plant. Its natural habitat is humid, subtropical, semi-evergreen forests on steep hills of eastern sub-himalayan region. The crop is at present grown in some relatively drier shadow areas also where the productivity is much low. The tracts receive a well-distributed rainfall spread around 200 days with a total of about 3,000-3,500 mm/year. The weather remains mostly cloudy and foggy during monsoon season. It is grown up to 1,000-2,000 m amsl. It is normally cultivated in lower altitudes of cooler areas (near to snow-line) and higher altitudes of warmer areas. In severe winter, its plants remain dormant and withstand up to 2o C but frost and hailstorm are injurious. The flower bud differentiation occurs from August in lower altitudes to October in higher altitudes. The initiation of flower buds occur in pre-winter at lower elevations but further development takes place only after the lapse of cold period in early-March. On the other hand, in higher elevations, the flower-bud initiation and development occur post-winter in April-May resulting in late-flowering by at least 2-3 months compared to plants grown at lower elevations. The continuous rain during flowering is detrimental as it hampers foraging activity of pollinating bees affecting the sensitive flowers and resulting in poor capsule setting and barren spikes.

Soil Requirement

Deep and well-drained soil with loamy texture are best suited. Its crop requires at least moderate deep (0.6m) top soil for good performance. Large cardamom soil is generally rich in organic matter and nitrogen, medium in available phosphorus and medium to high in available potash. The pH of 4.5-6.0 has high exchangeable iron and aluminium. Even though the crop can be grown in undulating and steep terrain, land with moderate slope is preferred.

Varieties

There are few cultivated varieties. Besides, there are several sub-varieties or strains which are named in local dialects of Lepchas, Bhutias and Nepalese. Among them important ones are:

Sawney

It is a widely adaptable cultivar, which is most suited to medium and high altitude areas of 1,350 m amsl and above. The plants are vigorous with maroonish to greenish-brown leafy stems slightly tapering towards apex. Plants are 1.5-2.0 m tall, robust in nature, leaves are ovate and broad and the colour of tiller is similar to Ramsey. Capsules are bigger and bold with 35-50 seeds with volatile oil content of 1.8-2.5%. Flowering starts from March to May and harvesting begins in September-October and may extend up to November in high altitude areas. The variety is widely adapted to low, mid and high altitudes of Sikkim and Darjeeling. The cultivar is susceptible to both Chirkey, Foorkey, leaf-spot and spike-rot diseases. It is high-yielding under congenial conditions.

sawney widely adaptable cultivar

Ramsey

This cultivar is well-suited to high altitudes above 1,515m amsl and can be cultivated even in steep slopes. The variety is identified by the maroonish colour of tiller and narrow leaves. Plants are 1.5-2.0 m tall, robust with large number of tillers. Flowering starts in May and crop is ready for harvesting by October-November. Capsules are smaller in size with 25-40 seeds. It is susceptible to viral diseases like Chirkey and Foorkey.

Dzongu Golsey

It is suitable to areas below 1,500 m amsl and is very specific in the Dzongu area of North Sikkim. The plant height is 1.0-1.5 m and not as robust like other cultivars. Unlike Ramsey and Sawney, tillers are green in colour and leaves are narrow and erect. Capsules are big and bold and contain about 50-70 seeds. Flowering starts in
March and harvesting is done in September-October. It is relatively tolerant to Chirkey but susceptible to Foorkey and leaf streak diseases.

Varlangey

This cultivar grows in mid and high altitude areas. Its yield is exceptionally high at high altitudes. Plant height is 1.5-2.5 m, robust type and resembles that of Ramsey with narrow leaves having wavy margins. The spike and productive tiller ratio is relatively high. Size of capsule is bold with 50-70 bold seeds. Flowering starts in May at medium altitudes and during June-July at high altitudes. Consequently, harvesting is delayed up to the end of November in high altitudes. The quantity of essential oil in seeds is 2.5%. It yields 500 kg of cured capsules/ha.

Golsey

The plants are less vigorous with erect leafy stems bearing slant upright leaves. It is self-shaded requiring less shade. The cultivar is mostly grown at low and mid altitude. Plants are smaller with less number of tillers and hence suited to close spacing. The leafy stem is greenish to maroonish depending upon the strain. The leaves are dark green, thick and glaborous with prominent midrib. The capsules are bold, round with reddish-brown to dark-pinkish and slightly echinated. On an average, capsules contain 40-55 seeds. The volatile oil content in seeds is 2.0-3.0%. It is known for its consistent performance though not a heavy yielder and also found immune to Chirkey but not to Fooreky disease. The cultivar is, however, susceptible to fungal leaf-spot disease.

Ramla

The plants are tall and vigorous like those of Ramsey. The capsules are dark pinkish, uniform and medium-bold in size having 25-35 seeds each. The seeds contain 2.2-3% volatile oil content. The plants are moderately tolerant to Chirkey but susceptible to Foorkey disease.

Seremna

The cultivar is grown in a small pocket of Hee-Gaon, West Sikkim, at low altitude and is known for its high yield potential. Plants are 1.5-2.0 m tall, tillers are green and leaves are mostly drooping, hence named as ‘Seremna’. On an average, 2-3 spikes in each productive tillers with 10 capsules in each spike and 65-70 seeds per capsule is recorded.

GINGER

Ginger (Zingiber officinale L.), an important commercial crop belonging to the family Zingiberaceae is grown for its aromatic rhizomes which are used both as spice and medicine. It is an old age crop of Asia and believed to have originated from South-East Asia.

ginger cultivated in sikkim

Ginger is cultivated in Sikkim since time immemorial. It is also used for religious purpose by Limboo Phedangma and Rai Bijuwas which shows its attachment with the people of Sikkim from ancient period. Its commercial value has been recently exploited due to sudden price hike in market. Now, it is grown as one of the important cash crops of Sikkim below 1,500 m amsl occupying a considerable area. The important ginger-growing areas are: Mangalbaria, Chakung, Tharpu, Gyalshing, Zoom in West district; Turuk, Sumbuk, Rateypani, Namthang, Mellidara, Maniram, Namchi and Temi-Tarku in South district; Rhenock, Rongli, Pakyong, Rorathang, Khamdong, Pendam, Sirwani and Rangpo in East district and in small pockets of North district. The important markets of ginger are Melli, Gyalshing, Rangpo, Singtam, Nayabazar and Reshi.

Crop improvement in Sikkim

No systematic work on crop improvement of ginger was carried out in Sikkim till 1976 when some varieties such as Rio-de-Janerio, Nadia etc. were introduced for cultivation. However, these varieties could not gain popularity so far against the local varieties. A number of local varieties are available. These are Gorubathaney, Jorethangey, Bhaisey and Majhauley. The variety, Gorubathaney is probably introduced from Gorubathan in West Bengal by farmers and easily distinguished by its longer internode and comparatively pointed apex of rhizome. Jorethangey is recognized by its shorter internode and blunt apex of rhizome. Bhaisey is highest yielder with thicker rhizomes and low keeping quality. Majhauley is perhaps a mixture of local varieties with medium-sized rhizomes. All these local varieties contain high percentage of fibre in rhizomes.

The introduced variety, Nadia, has smaller rhizome and is a low yielder as compared to locals in the hills of Sikkim. However, Rio-de-Janerio and Nadia yielded better at lower elevation. Now, Bhaisey and Majhauley are mostly cultivated varieties in Sikkim.

Market and Export Potential

There is a ready market for fresh ginger in Sikkim. Before bringing ginger to market, farmers clean the harvested ginger removing adhering soil particles. Sorting is done at the trader’s level to remove diseased, cut or deformed ginger rhizomes. In this process, 810% produce is discarded. About 30% produce is sold in the village itself to the local merchants or commission agents. The remaining produce is taken to the market for sale to commission agents/wholesalers. The main marketing centres are Gangtok, Pakyong, Singtam and Rangpo in East district; Gyalshing, Reshi, Legshep and Nayabazar in West district; Namchi, Jorethang and Melli in South district and Mangan and Dikchu in North district of Sikkim. The quantum of ginger going out of the state ranges from 35,000 tonnes to 40,000 tonnes (2010-11). About 30-40% of the produce is retained for seed. The important markets dealing with ginger are: Naya Bazar – Reshi (30%), Singtam (25%), Jorethang – Namchi (20%), Melli (15%), Pakyong (3%), Rangpo (3%) and others (4%).

cultivation of ginger crop

Delhi market is the major consumer of Sikkim ginger (70%), followed by Punjab (10%), Uttar Pradesh (10%), West Bengal (5%) and others (5%). Most of the ginger coming to Delhi is further traded with other markets in other states. The largest exporters in the world are: Thailand, China, India, Brazil and Indonesia. The biggest importers of ginger are: Japan , USA, UK, Netherlands, Canada, Singapore and others.

Organic Ginger Export

Since 2007 in some areas of West Sikkim, Certified Organic Ginger cultivation is going on in over 400 acres of land at Meyong, Berfok and Chingthang. About 115 farmers are growing organic ginger fetching premium prices of their produce with an average production of organic ginger being 2400kg/acre. This will encourage other farmers for horizontal expansion of the ginger cultivating area. The organically-produced ginger from Sikkim is being exported to the Netherlands and it has widely been accepted in the European market making its presence felt in a bigger way. It is expected to make headway in the European market in the years to come thereby throwing more challenges before farmers and entrepreneurs in Sikkim to carry on the momentum. Hence, it goes without saying that there is a tremendous scope for farmers of Sikkim for organic ginger cultivation.

BABY CORN

Baby Corn cultivation is a recent development in Sikkim. Major motive behind popularization of the crop is to increase the economic condition of farmers. The potential of growing the crop in the state is visualized from the production and productivity of maize. Thought less remunerative, maize is the only crop in Sikkim which is successfully grown in approximately 39000 ha area across different agroecological condition.

Sikkim state is already set for organic certification of the entire cultivable area. Therefore, production of organic baby corn is no wonder. Sikkim has now emerged as one of the most potential niche in the country for production of organic baby corn. In a pilot project for popularization of the crop, a model of Public Private Partnership and forward and backward linkages have been successfully demonstrated in 2011. Department of Food Security and Agriculture Development demonstrated the cultivation of EBCH 106 variety of baby corn in 40 ha of land. Farmers were technically supported by the department with constant monitoring, Sikkim Marketing Federation (SIMFED) was linked up directly with the farmers for marketing of the husked corn at the farm gate itself which was later processed and canned at Sikkim Fruit Preservation Factory, Singtam. A good stand of crop up to 60,000 plant population per hectare was demonstrated at different locations in the state. Some estimates in the crop cutting experiment have shown an average yield of 25 q/ha of dehusked cob which can fetch up to Rs. 250000 /ha within a period of 60-70 days. Moreover, farmers are happy to get the bumper green fodder for their cattle which in turn will help in increasing milk and manure production. They are also convinced that atleast three crops at low elevation and two crops at higher elevation can be harvested per annum.

organic baby corn cultivation in sikkim

This success story has led the government to plan area expansion of the crop and seek private participation for contract farming. Premium price for organically certified baby corn is also anticipated. Increasing farm income of marginal and small farmers, while sustaining cattle population and increased production of milk and manure is best proposition for the successful execution of organic farming. There already exists lot of demand for baby corn in the hotels of the state. Domestic demand will also increase owing to the changing food habit of local population. It is expected that organically grown baby corn from Sikkim will find its place in international market in near future.

BUCK WHEAT

Origin and History

The original home of common buckwheat is China, from where it spread to other European countries. Some wild species of buckwheat are reported from Nepal also. It is believed that buckwheat was brought to Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, and other North-Eastern States from China. Buckwheat is widely cultivated in the U.S.A., other Western Countries, Northern hills of India, USSR, France, Poland, Canada, Japan, Australia, Germany and Romania.

The area and production of this crop in Sikkim are 2760 hectares and 1,380 tonnes respectively. It is widely grown in the hilly tracts of the state. In recent years, the area and production has gone up considerably. It is now considered a cash crop fetching even higher price than rice. As a result, it is not only grown on slopy dry land but also as a chief rotational crop between paddy and maize in Sikkim. The crop is grown right from 300 m to 2,500 m in the hills.

flowering stage of buck wheat

Economic use

Buckwheat is an important crop of the people of Sikkim, Nepal, Bhutan and Assam. The flour of buckwheat is used as bread, ‘dhenro’ and a considerable amount is malted to prepare liquor. Dehusked buckwheat is taken as food. In Western countries it is used as animal feed, poultry feed and used for green manuring. Since the crop flowers profusely it is also used in bee keeping as bees collect nectar from this crop and the honey from such bees have enhanced antioxidant properties.

Nutritional and Medicinal Value

Buck wheat is highly nutritious and medicinal and termed also as healing grain. High content of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B, minerals, and essential amino acids including lysine makes it a complete balanced food. It has on high demand as medicinal food due to rutin (Glucoside) contents which strengthens capillary blood vessels. The tartary buckwheat contains more rutin than the common buckwheat. It is good food for diabetic patient due to its D-chiro-inositol content. In Japan and other countries rutin is extracted from
buckwheat.

Best suited crop for organic production

Buckwheat is most suited crop for organic farming with high resistance to insects and pests. This crop has already been researched for its allelopathic properties and release of phytotoxic chemicals (allelochemicals) from the root is an advantageous characteristic in the use of the crop as cover or green manure crop for weed management.

Botany

Buckwheat belongs to polygonaceae and genus Fagopyrum. Common buckwheat (Fagopyrum cymosum) belongs to cymosum species while tartary buckwheat (Fagopyrum tartaricum) to that of the tartaricum species. Common buckwheat or Japanese buckwheat is 60 to 80 cm high having triangular and broad leaves. Upper leaves are sessile. Flower is red or rosy or white in colour and is self incompatible. Seeds are three sided, wing shaped and grey in colour.

Tartary Buckwheat has stout stems, leaves triangular but narrow and flowers smaller and greenish in colour. Flowers are self-fertile, seeds are ovoid or conical and beaked and grey to black in colour. Average plant height is about 92 cm.

Crop Improvement

No crop improvement work has been done in Sikkim so far. Local collections and selection may be useful to find out high yielding varieties for immediate use.

Harvesting

The crop should be harvested when 60 to 70 percent grain is ready for harvest because all the grains do not ripen at a time. The crop should be harvested and dried on threshing floor for few days. Threshing is usually done with the help of stick. Grains may be cleaned by winnowing and stored after proper drying.

Yield

Average yield of common buckwheat is about 950 kg per ha while that of tartary  buckwheat is about 1164 kg per ha as recorded in the farmer’s field at Gyalshing, West  Sikkim.

Market potential

Buckwheat grown organically in Sikkim fetches premium price. Sikkim government has notified the minimum support price of Rs. 32/kg at farm gate. Sikkim Marketing Federation (SIMFED) has made an agreement to purchase the produce. Buckwheat flour is in high demand in Northern India during Hindu festival “Navratri and Shivaratri”, when it is used as food during fasting. Cultivation of Buckwheat is most suited under organic conditions.

Future Strategy

The state has already launched a programme for promotion of millets and buckwheat which are traditional food items of the state. Value addition to these produce in the near future is also expected to increase the income.

TURMERIC

The Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is an important spice used conventionally as a natural food colorant and as an additive for imparting to food orange-yellow colour, flavor and aroma. It is also valued as an antiseptic for its anti-inflammatory property and is used in beauty treatment or in the cosmetic industry and dye plants.

It is the most researched spice for medicinal use and occupy prominent place in traditional medicine system for treatment of cough, flu, anemia, asthma, sprain and pain, skin diseases, sinus etc. It is loaded with antioxidant properties.

turmeric cultivation in sikkim

It is propagated through tuberous seed rhizome. Its cultivation in unutilized areas and forest areas as well as in cultivated land is gaining popularity in the state in recent years, especially in niche areas having an altitude of 3000 ft amsl and less. With similar cultivation practices as that of ginger, turmeric is grown both as pure crop as well as mixed with maize, chilly, bean, vegetable etc under both rainfed and irrigated conditions.

Small and marginal farmers in the state take up the crop in small operational holdings with cultivation of the crop contributing to generation of income as well as in promotion of livelihood of farmers in the state.

As the turmeric crop is grown under purely organic conditions in the state, there is huge demand for organic produce which is at present mostly sold locally. Further, several growers also cater to the needs of small scale industries which specialize in processing into powder form the turmeric rhizome and marketing it commercially in small packets.

In order to boost production of the crop, Department of Horticulture has also introduced the var. Lakardang from Meghalaya in the state. In addition to improved yield, the introduced variety also contains higher (7-9 %) curcumin content.

Turmeric shows more resistant to pests and diseases and therefore this can be a better crop for organic cultivation. Turmeric yields upto 15 to 25 tonnes per ha. Government has planned for setting up of turmeric drying and processing unit in the state for value addition.

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