PUSA, INDIA

Rajendra Agricultural University

Origin of Rabi (winter) maize in India --V. K. Chaudhary and V. K. Shahi Rabi (winter) cultivation of maize is a relatively new introduction to the state of Bihar in particular and the country as a whole. For the first time maize crop was grown in winter (starting from the 15th of October) on farmers' fields during 1961 following the release of high yielding hybrids. Its origin dates back to the period when high yielding hybrids bred in India were not becoming successful in the late 50's. Attempts were made in the state of Bihar during kharif (rainy) season (starting from June) in the year 1959 to grow hybrids like Texas-26, Texas-32 and Dixie-11 obtained from the United States of America (USA), knowing the fact that these varieties had given high yield in the past under Indian conditions in the farmer's field as well as on government farms. Seeds of double cross hybrids from USA were imported and also produced in the country from imported single cross hybrid seeds. This project was taken in collaboration with Dr. L. M. Humphrey, Agriculture adviser to the technical cooperation mission of USA. None of the hybrids from USA gave expected good yield and crops did not come up well during kharif season of 1959. On getting discouraging reports about poor performance of these hybrids from different parts of the state, the government of Bihar entrusted Dr. Rameshwar Singh, the then Maize and Millet Specialist, at Dholi-Pusa Centre, with the task of detail check-up of the crops grown during the season and directed him to submit a report indicating reasons for poor performance of the hybrids from USA. After investigation of field experiments grown at various places in the state it was found that besides other small managerial factors the crop had greatly suffered due to heavy rainfall which is of usual occurrence in this season. It was therefore decided by Dr. Singh and his associates then to grow these hybrids, their single cross parents and the inbreds involved during Rabi season with the hope that they may do better in the milder winter condition of Bihar. Inbreds, single crosses and double crosses of the hybrids from the USA were grown in Rabi season at Dholi-Pusa campus which grew very well in winter condition and produced disease free vigorous crops. Crops grown from Texas-26 in a one acre area also gave a yield of 80 quintals per hectare. This was the turning point for revolutionizing maize cultivation in Bihar and other parts of the country. A mere glimpse of the possibility of getting higher yield from Rabi crop and also that the hybrids bred for Indian conditions were on the anvil, led to the start of a series of trials to find the best hybrid and agronomic practices for getting optimum yield from the crop. At the same time seed production and demonstrations on the farmers' fields were started. Multi-pronged attacks, without waiting for confirmative test of the possibility of growing maize in Rabi season, led to a maize revolution in this state (Singh, 1988). Total area under maize cultivation in Bihar during 1960-61 was nearly 8.5 lakh hectares grown only as kharif crop. At present out of a total area of nearly 8 lakh hectares, Rabi maize is being grown in an area of approximately 4 lakh hectares causing a shift of acreage from kharif to Rabi season. Rabi maize has the clear-cut comparative advantage of low incidence of diseases and insect pests, crops do not suffer on account of heavy rainfall, slow growth of weeds, etc. and hence, preferred by the farmers. These factors singly and in combination favoured the adoption of Rabi maize cultivation in Bihar. Later it caught the attention in other parts of the country like West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Punjab, etc., where it is being grown successfully. Hence, Dholi-Pusa Centre, which is now the main campus of Rajendra Agricultural University, Bihar is the sheet of origin of Rabi maize cultivation which is fetching millions of rupees to the Indian farmers to boost their economy up. A concrete and significant effort indeed.

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