Encourages farmers to take up lac cultivation for additional income
“Definitely lac cultivation will improve farmer’s income! Revenues largely depend on the host plant, it could vary between Rs. 1.5-3 lakh/year/hectare,” asserts Dr. K K Sharma, Director, Indian Institute of Natural Resins and Gums, Namkum, Ranchi, Jharkhand. Lac is a natural resin secreted by a tiny insect known as lac insect. Lac is a kind of crop that can contribute 20-30% of agricultural income to the farmers. “Particularly in the rain fed areas where people are dependent on rain lac cultivation becomes substantial additional income for the farmers.” In the world lac trade India contributes about 60% followed by Thailand. Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, are the main lac producing states in the country besides West Bengal, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh also contribute.
India produced lac has good export potential! “65-70% annual lac production is exported from India. There are many buyers for lac in domestic and international market. Farmers can sell it directly to the processing factories or close the sales deal through middlemen as well. Selling is not a challenge in lac farming,” highlights Dr. Sharma.
Most popular lac insect in India is Kerria lacca ( Kerr). It gives 2 crops in year. It has two strains namely Kusmi strain and Rangeeni strain. “Kusmi strain normally matures and is harvested in January-February and June-July. Similarly Rangeeni strain yields lac in June-July and October-November,” he says.
There is another insect called K Sharda (tri-voltine). It gives three crops in a year. “It is found normally near coastal regions of our country where climatic conditions don’t vary much. Third insect is called Kerria chinensis, found in North eastern states of our country like Meghalaya and Assam. It gives two crops in a year. Depending upon the insect we are using, yield also varies along with the quality,” states Dr. Sharma.
All insects are easily available at Government research institutes. Previously lac cultivation was done throughout in the country but it reduced due to various reasons. The insects are adaptable to different climatic conditions yet cannot withstand temperature beyond 45 degree Celsius.
Lac cultivation can be done on different host forest trees however commonly there are three main trees namely Kusum (Schleichera oleosa), Ber ( Ziziphus mauritiana) and Semialata (Flemigia semialata). “Kusum saplings are planted at 12×12 m so approximately 70plants/hectare can be accommodated. 625 Ber saplings are grown in one hectare at the distance of 4×4 m while and Semialata is grown in one hectare in paired row system keeping the distance of 1×1 m. There will gap of 2 meters between the paired rows and depending upon this about 8000 plants can be planted in one hectare” he shares.
During the initial days of sapling transplantation of the host tree the plant is small in size therefore farmers are encouraged to grow intercrops mainly seasonal vegetables. “Once the trees gain height and the shade area increases farmers can grow shade loving plants like ginger and turmeric etc. Besides if Semialata is grown then vegetables can be easily grown in between the two rows,” he adds.
These forest trees demand less attention of the farmers yet after inoculating the lac insect on the trees it must be monitored closely at least twice a day. “Lac insect is inoculated only on soft and new branches. Therefore to get new branches the tree requires regular pruning before leaving the lac insect on it. Pruning period differs in all host trees. Kusum tree needs to be pruned at least 18monhts prior to insect inoculation while Ber and Semialata needs 6 months,” says Dr. Sharma.
Future of lac cultivation in India is extremely bright claims Dr. Sharma and explains, “Lac is a natural product. Its’ cultivation gives three products viz lac, resin and wax. All three products are utilized for different applications. These days as people are coming back to the natural products the prospects of high income are promising in lac cultivation.”
In addition to revenue generation from lac the host trees keep our environment healthy. “Farmers can do lac cultivation with other farming activities. 15-20% additional income from the same land through lac is guaranteed as the host trees can be planted on the farm boundary. Farmers must pay attention to lac and earn better!” he concludes.
Indian Institute of Natural Resins and Gums
(Formerly Indian Lac Research Institute)
Namkum, Ranchi – 834 010
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