Dual-purpose wheat: nutritious fodder for livestock, grain for humans and additional income for farmers
The availability and procurement of green fodder for livestock in India is generally a challenge, especially during December and January. Within India’s northern hilly states of Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, a typical farming household has one or two buffalos and/or cows and a pair of bullocks to cultivate cereals and/or vegetables on small/narrow terraces. Livestock makes a significant contribution to the livelihood of such farm families but securing sufficient fodder for animals is a significant limiting factor. Likewise, in the plains of India, the availability of green fodder during winter months, especially during December-January is limited. As a result of this unmet need, farmers use part of their land to grow green fodder during Rabi season, which leads to a reduction of land under wheat and other crops. A simple technique of using cereal crops like wheat and barley as dual-purpose has recently been evaluated and it has shown promising results: it can provide nutritious green fodder during December-January, at the critical time it is most needed, with little detrimental impact on the eventual grain and straw yields. This new approach can deliver a welcome boost to ensure the production of food grain for people as well as fodder for livestock. Notably, not all varieties perform well as dual-purpose, as recent studies have shown, and therefore identification of appropriate varieties is necessary. Besides, there is also a need to standardize the management protocol including the time of cutting for the dual-purpose wheat.