Principles of castor farming
Castor can be grown on almost all types of well drained soils. It adapts well to arid and semi-arid climate, but cold & temperate regions are not suitable for profitable castor cultivation. The key principles of castor farming include suitable selection of field which should be well drained and selection of appropriate castor hybrid / variety for sowing which should be based on available farm resources viz., labor, irrigation etc. The crop must be supplemented adequately with plant nutrients recommended by the crop specialists based on local conditions and soil fertility test reports. Castor is less effected by incidences of pests & diseases but to avoid soil borne diseases like wilt & root rot, one should practice crop rotation and avoid castor cultivation on same field for at least two years in a row.
Castor in the world
Castor is grown in countries such as India, Brazil and China. Since the 1980’s, India commands the leading market share of over 88%. China has around 6% share followed by Brazil at 3%. The remaining 3% is grown in other countries in Asia, Africa and South America.
Castor in India
In India, castor cultivation is popular in arid & semi-arid regions of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Gujarat ranks 1st in terms of castor productivity and is a major contributor to Indian castor-based economy with highest share in area (>70%) & production (>75%).
Research on castor
Since 1970 several castor hybrid seeds have been released with the latest being GCH 8, released in 2018., which is resistant to wilt & tolerant to root rot disease and has higher yield potential under irrigated condition with higher oil content. The main aspects of current research programs involving castor crop is to increase its productivity & oil content while focusing on its adaptability to harsh climatic conditions & disease resistance / tolerance. Castor being a long duration crop, researchers are also experimenting its suitability with other crops as mixed, inter or relay crop to increase land utilization & revenue generation from this limited scare resource.
Good Agricultural Practices
Castor seed yield can be substantially increased with use of right inputs at right time & following right farming practices. The selected field for castor cultivation should be deep ploughed in summer season so that all the harmful soil borne pests – diseases can be eradicated. Under irrigated conditions, its sowing period should be so adjusted that it escapes or reduces damage caused by seasonal leaf eating caterpillars. Application of plant nutrients should be judiciously distributed & applied through organic & inorganic fertilizer sources strictly based on soil test report. The basal dose of required plant nutrients should be applied timely in the root zone, prior to sowing to not later than 35 days after sowing. Top dressing of plant nutrients especially Nitrogen should be applied soon after irrigation in equal splits along the crop duration by ring method around the plant stem. This will increase efficiency & efficacy of Nitrogenous fertilizer – Urea. Timely harvesting of matured racemes is also important for developing of subsequent orders of racemes. The harvested racemes should be sun dried separately on clean surface to avoid inclusion of foreign particles like pebbles, sand etc. and lastly the seeds should be mechanically separated while using appropriate sieve size to avoid breakage or inclusion of husk in the final produce.
Sustainable castor farming
Castor is a climate resilient crop and it is resistant to drought & salinity. If irrigated through micro irrigation system like drip irrigation, then it requires lesser water as compared to normal irrigation. Since Castor is a wide spaced – long duration crop, it facilitates cultivation of short duration intercrops like legumes & sesame. It provides assured profitable returns with minimum expenditure on cropping practices, fertilizers and plant protection. Based on fore presented, castor has proved to be a boon for the farmers, and it is recommended as a sustainable crop to assure livelihood to farmers.