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Sunday July 21, 2024

Farmers cultivate isabgol as water scarcity hits wheat sowing

By Jan Khaskheli
February 02, 2022

HYDERABAD: Tail end farmers of southern Sindh after experiencing water scarcity in cultivating wheat this year, planted isabgol (Psyllium husk) in late November and December on their pieces of lands.

For many small-scale farmers, cultivating isabgol was the only choice due to water shortage, which had disturbed the wheat sowing process.

They hope for a reasonable yield of this short-period herbal crop, which would be ready by the mid of March for harvesting, reports gathered from local farmers reveal. Presently, the herbal crop can be seen near Jhudo of Mirpurkhas, Nao Kot and Kaloi in Tharparkar district, Kunri, Umerkot and parts of Khipro, Sanghar and Badin districts. Usually, these areas are considered advanced in cultivating all food and cash crops. They also cultivate isabgol in October and November with wheat. But this year, water scarcity forced farmers to opt out of sowing wheat even on the prepared land.

They cultivated isabgol late, mainly in November and December, when receiving little streams in watercourses. Hajan Leghari, a farmer from Jhudo neighbourhood said they were facing hardships in cultivating wheat this year because of water scarcity. “We received some water much later, and did cultivate isabghol on some parts of our family lands,” he shared.

Almost all farmers have used one or two acres for isabghol, with expectation of earning reasonable profit.

Ghulam Hussain, another farmer in Kaloi area, claimed to have spared three acres of land for isabgol. “Last year I cultivated isabghol on 10 acres and got better yield.” But, he said this year, like many other farmers he also sowed mustard in the hopes of getting better yields and higher profits.

Hussain believes that many farmers in rain-flood areas like Kunri, Kaloi and Jhudo have shifted to cultivating mustard, which in the last two years has given a good average in terms of yield.

Farmers cultivated mustard just after receding flood water and got more yield. Mustard crop was being revived in the area after a long time. The crop does not need a lot of water and fertiliser.

Kunri, Kaloi, Nao Kot, Jhudo and parts of Badin and Sanghar are among the favourite areas where isabgol originated long ago, and has continued to thrive, thanks to the local farmers who have continued the tradition. About per acre yield, Hussain said isabgol gives 12-18 maund/acre, depending on the situation. Mostly it does not require chemical input or more water.

It needs one or two waters and matures on moisture. “Two kilogram seed is enough for one acre and farmers get better yield and earn Rs120,000/acre or more profit on it,” he said.

Information gathered from Badin, especially parts of old riverbeds known as Puran and Hakro have fertile land, which is where farmers prefer cultivating this herbal crop.

Elderly farmers sharing their experiences said only rain might destroy the crop if it falls at its mature stage. Otherwise, it grows well in situations where farmers do not have enough water for major crops. These farmers understand the value of the conventional crops, including isabgol, which needs less water to grow and does not need any chemical input.