HindustanTimes Fri,19 Dec 2014

Where there is a will, there is willow: Armyman shows the way

Harkirat Singh, Hindustan Times  Ajnala, June 02, 2014
First Published: 08:37 IST(2/6/2014) | Last Updated: 08:41 IST(2/6/2014)

Believe it or not, willow trees can be grown in Punjab, but for this one has to have a ‘fauji’ (army) brain, that is ever ready to take risks.

Well the ‘fauji’ who has done this is none other than Maj Manmohan Singh (retd), at his farm in Pherwaria village in the Ajnala tehsil of Amritsar district.

About a year and half back, HT had provided an insight on the Major’s farming skills and had then asked him “What next Major sahib?”.

He provided the answer to this question on Sunday when he showed 60 trees of willow at his farm.

After kinnow, litchi, sand and soft pears, plums and poplar, the retired army officer has now added willows to his cultivation list.

Of course the normal crops, like basmati, sugarcane, wheat and turmeric, which he also processes, are also a part of his farm.

Maj Singh surprised his guest, RS Paroda, a noted scientist and former director general (DG), Indian Council for Agriculture Research (ICAR).

Paroda, who is presently chairman, Haryana Farmers Commission, while examining the trees, exclaimed, “Is this possible, as this tree is normally seen in cold climatic areas of Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh.”

To provide an answer to this was NB Singh, director extension at the Dr YS Parmar University of Agro Forestry and Horticulture.

He was the man who had encouraged the ex-army officer to try his hand at willows as there was a great demand for the wood of this tree by the sports industry, particularly for making cricket bats.

So, in February last year, Manmohan Singh, without telling anyone, planted around 70 willow saplings that Dr Singh had given to him. “People asked me about this plant, I just told them that I was doing something new,” said the Major, who has won a number of national and statelevel awards for his exploits in the farming field.

Singh who examined the trees explained that the growth was impressive considering the climatic conditions of Punjab. The average height of the trees after being measured was 18 feet and the diameter was 10 inches.

“This is the only place in Punjab, where willows are growing,” stated Singh.

Singh had provided 23 different species of willow to the Major. Barring a few odd saplings, most survived the hot climate with some artificial sheltering with paddy straw.

In addition, this season, the Major will be sowing the PUSA-1121 and PUSA-1509 varieties of basmati for the Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi. This information was given by BS Tomar, incharge, Seed Production at IARI, who was also present at Manmohan Singh’s farm.

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