-Binu Dhungana, Baglung
Cereals crops are the members of grass family grown for their edible starchy seeds. Cereal grain crops are grown in greater quantities and provide more food energy worldwide than any other type of crop and are therefore staple crops. In Nepal too, cereal crops have played major roles in addressing food security issues. Cereal crops are the mainstay of Nepal’s agriculture, though their predominance has been showing some decline in recent years due to various factors. The key cereals: Paddy, wheat and wheat occupy the major share of cropped area. Cereals, especially rice, from the staple diet of Nepalese population, providing nearly 69% of the total dietary energy supply and 63% of the total dietary protein supply in the period 2005-2007 (FAO 2010). The productivity level of cereals in Nepal is low, and growth has been sluggish in comparison to that in other countries in the region; cereal production has not kept pace with the growth in demand and population.
The crop production system is very sensitive to short-term changes in weather and seasonal, annual and longer-term variations in climate. The crop is itself affected by the climate. Crop growth and development as well as different physiological processes are highly influenced by climate. Land preparation, date of sowing, irrigation, harvesting, and other forms of activities are also affected by climate.
Nepal can be divided into three ecological zones, namely: Terai (plain), Mid-hills and High hills. Terai is the main area where cereal crops can be extensively grown. Because of the tropical and sub-tropical climate in the region, food crops, vegetables and fruits of tropical and sub-tropical nature are the main agricultural produce. As we go higher we have mid-hills where different types of crops can be grown. This is the region where different climates are available. For example, at the foot of the hills the climate is sub-tropical whereas at the top of the hills it is temperate. So the cereals suitable in sub-tropical and temperate like: millet, buckwheat can be produced economically.
Accordingly, if we try to see the country from the climatic point of view, in the plains or Terai there is hot and humid or subtropical to tropical climate, while in the hills both sub-tropical climate in the foothill and temperate climate on the top of the hills prevail. The mountains have very cold climate. Based on the prevailing climatic condition, different types of crops can be grown. Primarily, rice, wheat, legumes and oilseeds are the major commodities of the Terai, rice, maize, wheat, pulses and oilseed are major commodities in the hill and barley, buckwheat are the commodities suitable for the mountains.
Cereal grains are grown in greater quantities and provide more food energy worldwide than any other type of crops; they are therefore staple food crops. In their natural form, they are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, oils and protein. However, when refined by the removal of the bran and germs, the remaining endosperm is mostly carbohydrate and lacks the majority of the other nutrients. As human food, cereals are usually marketed in raw grain form or as ingredients of food products. As animal feed, they are consumed mainly by livestock and poultry, which are eventually rendered as meat, dairy and poultry products for human consumption. They are also used industrially in the production of a wide range of substances, such as glucose, adhesives, oils and alcohols. There is high demand of cereals crops mainly because of nutritional values. So, it said “eating variety of cereals is helpful to health rather than just feeding one item.”
Cereal crops are the mainstay of Nepal’s agriculture, with the key cereal crops being rice, maize, and wheat. These three cereals occupy the major share of cropped area in Nepal, making up more than 75% of total cultivated area. Rice, one of the most common crop, accounted for 35% of total cultivated area and 46% of cereal area in 2008/09 (Nepal, MoAC 2009). Until 1980s, Nepal was one of the rice exporter to south Asian countries, mainly Bangladesh. People now days are more conscious about nutritional value and cereals are the best on it, demand of cereal crops now a days in the international market mainly in South Asian countries is very high. So, if we are able to produce these crops in sufficient amount, cereals can get good market. This could help to increase Nation’s economy.
Along with the great possibilities, there are many problems in our country due to which we are not able to meet our expectation. Land structure is difficult here due to which infrastructure development is affected. Even if the crops are produced in good amount in one side of country, another side is deprived of it and crops cannot be transported because of lack of transport facilities. Farmers have to depend upon the monsoon rain for cultivation of various crops. The main is farmers are very uneducated about proper way of cultivation and management of agriculture and cereal production. Farmers are unknown about modern technologies of farming, soil fertility, even about the fertilizers, insecticides.
If government makes little effort for the minimization of these problems, Cereal crops would definitely assists the country’s agricultural and economic status. Providing agro-training, introducing land reform for the democratic distribution and scientific cultivation of land could be some steps for the minimization of constrains. The main focus should be given by the government in the development of agricultural plan and policies, research and different soil training programs for the farmers. If farmers are educated then agriculture itself would be productive. So, many programs should be conducted as: soil fertility test; its importance and soil PH test, etc. This could provide great encouragement for the farmers. Finally, appropriate policies should be established, at various levels, in order to facilitate seed investment and development in this sector.