Ten ways India's newest 'arhar' variety could be true-game changer

India’s newest addition to its rather long tradition of good varieties is the PUSA Arhar-16. Unveiled by finance minister Arun Jaitley, the pulses variety has been developed by scientists of Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI) under the Indian Council of Agriculture Research.

The pulses which would be released for commercial use sometime early next year promises to transform Indian agriculture in more than one ways and could solve the vexed issue of demand not matching with production for pulses once and for all. The mis-match had pushed arhar prices to over Rs 200 per kilogram last year.

10 ways in which the new variety is transformative and would make India self-sufficient in pulses in next 3-4 years if propagated and spread in the right manner.

1) The per hectare yield of PUSA Arhar 16 is around 20 quintals which is similar to many existing varieties.

2) However, the big difference between existing varieties and PUSA Arhar 16 is it matures in 120 days, which is roughly around four months, while all current arhar varieties mature in around 170-180 days, while some even take longer.

3) Because it takes lesser time to grow, farmers can plant the crop around June, when monsoon starts and harvest it by September or October.

4) This would leave them ample time to plant the traditionally grown wheat, mustard in the rabi season. Sowing for rabi usually starts with the onset of winters sometime around late November.

5) This window of a month or so makes this pulses variety ideal for northern plains like Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh and if popularized in the right manner could become a very viable alternative to the water guzzling paddy and sugarcane, thus saving valuable ground water and also protecting the environment.

6) As it takes lesser time to mature, hence the crop is not in the field for a longer time thus preventing it from ‘neelgai’ attacks. This also lessens the chances of damage and yield loss.

7) The PUSA Arhar 16 is semi-dwarf variety, that is its is height of the plant is around 90-120 centimeters, much lower than the current arhar varieties which is more than 2 meters long.

8) Not only this, the crop also grows into synchronized maturity, which means that the pod size are uniform and flat. No one pod which bears the pulses is of longer length and none is abnormally shorter than the other.

9) The semi-dwarf variety and uniform pod size makes it ideal for use of big harvesting machines like combines which are extensively used in northern India thus leading to more production per hectare.

10) India has targeted to domestically produce over 24 million tonnes of pulses in the next 3-5 years so that its import dependence is minimal. Arhar is critical part of that target. The new pulses variety could also be grown in semi-arid regions and in traditional non-pulses growing areas of the country thereby expanding its overall acreage.

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