Indigenous fodder tree species for Siwaliks of Jammu
Prof (Dr) R.D. Gupta
A large number of trees are grown throughout the mid and lower Himalayas of India which serve as source of fodder for cattle reared by the peasants of these areas. Biual, Bhimal or Dhaman (Grewia optiva), Khirk (Celtis austrails), Tut or Shatut-Mulberry (Morus alba), Katrer or Kachnar (Bauhinia variegata), Palah or Dhak (Butea monosperma), Kau (Olea ferruginea), Bisa Vaid (Salix alba), Kashmiri Vaid-Kashmir Willow (Salix fragilis), Bankhor or Goonh-India Horse Chestnut (Aescules indica), Moru (Quercus dilatata), Khair (Acacia catechu) etc., are the main indigenous tree species, the loppings of which are utilised as fodder by the peasants for their cattle.
In the present paper, however, the use of Grewia optiva as fodder and other uses have been detailed. Bhimal, Dhaman or Biul hitherto has been well known as potential source of fodder, fibre firewood during lean period, especially winter season in the Himalayan region, has now been introduced in the Bundekhand zone of the country. Growing of Biul has improved the forage supply during lean period in this part of the country also as studied by the scientists of Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute, Jhansi (Uttar Pardesh).
Grewia optiva Syn. Grewia oppositifolia, belonging to Tillacae family, is a fodder, fuel and fibre producing indigenous tree of subtropical to subtemperate climate in India. It is a multipurpose tree species and fairly used under Agroforestry system. Leaves and green twigs are palatable, nutritious and easily digestible. And as such it has been rated to be the best species by the farmers for using as green fodder for cattle. It is attributabed to the presence of higher content of N (2.70 per cent) with crude protein content of about 20 per cent and Ca (4.07 per cent) than other fodder trees as well as showing negligible amount or almost free from oxalates.
Buil or Dhaman is a medium to large sized tree with spreading crown growing upto 12 to 15m height and 30-40 cm in diameter. Its leaves remain green from April to March which are used as fodder during winter season (November to March). As per the elders, the “leaves of this tree species have warming effect and if are fed to the cattle during summer they will be in trouble”. Infact, during summer months the leaves of biul, are not liked by the animals as most of them feel drowsiness if these are fed in the summer months. This precaution, therefore, needs to be followed by the villagers of the Siwaliks of Jammu.
The tree grows in and around the agriculture fields, homestead, near animal sheds and hilly slopes of Himalayas from Jammu region of Jammu and Kashmir State to Nepal, covering the states of Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarkhand, upto an elevation of about 300 to 1500m or even more. Although biul grows on wide variety of soils but its best growth occurs in sandly loam soils with adequate supply of soil moisture. The tree requires strong light and the temperature extremes for trees tolerance are 5-40oC.
Flowers are produced from March to June, along with new leaves. The fruits ripen from October to December depending upon the locality. For seed production, trees are kept unlopped or sometime are partially lopped. Fruits are rubbed and washed in water to remove flesh. In each fruit, there are 2-4 seeds. Seeds possess hard testa and can be stored for a longer period. Hot water treatment of seeds by overnight soaking is the prerequisite for their quick germination. Seedlings of the biul can be raised in nursery beds or polythene bags for their quick germination. Seedlings of the biul can be raised in nursery beds or polythene bags by sowing seeds in March. These are then planted during July-August during rainy season, when they attain size of about 25 to 40 cm. Grewia optiva can also be propagated vegetatively with rooted branch cuttings. Spacing for sole stands may vary from 3×3 to 4x4m also 5x10m under Agroforestry system. The planted areas must be kept free from weeds and protected against grazing, browsing and fire.
Role of Dhaman in managing wastelands
Through the plantation of Grewia optiva along with other tree species like Celtis australis (Khirk), Albizia lebbeck (Sarin) Azadirachta indica (Neem or Nim), Acacia nitotica (Kikar), it not only enhances the fodder production for the growing cattle but also helps in managing wastelands. Large scale plantation of Dhaman will also check the environmental degradation as well as preventing drought flood devastation, unpleasant climatic condition like other tree species besides providing fodder for the livestock and controlling the wastelands and soil erosion.
(The author is Ex Associate Dean Cum Chief Scientist KVK, SKUAST, Jammu)