High-five

Scientists are rediscovering the value of the unique combination of five products of the cow, especially as pesticide

 
By Muchkund
Published: Monday 30 September 1996

plant disease management has today become more independent of chemical treatment as its hazardous ramifications have been recognised. Scientists involved in plant protection are concentrating, therefore, on alternate methods to avoid the usage of chemicals. Any method or innovation, however small its impact, should be considered a step forward in this direction. In this regard, our work at the University of Agricultural Sciences ( uas ), Bangalore, on the management of a fungal pathogen of tomato crop is significant.

The soil-borne pathogen, Fusarium Oxysporum lycopersici, causes diseases in the tomato seedling and wilt in the adult plants. The disease is prevalent the world over and the damage caused ranges from 10 to 100 per cent, depending on the environment. Among the many products tested by us, panchagavya, an organic formulation has been found to be promising.In Sanskrit, panchagavya means a combination of five products procured from the cow. It is an ancient ritua-listic practice prescribed in Hindu scriptures to administer panchagavya to human beings under many conditions of ill health, convalescence and as a spiritual purifying agent. This preparation is also recommended as a cure for epilepsy, jaundice and fever as per the ancient system of medicine in India.

Bovine remedy
Tests to control the Fusarium wilt disease of tomato with various formulations show that panchagavya is the most effective
Treatment Plant diease index (PDI) Mean shoot length (cm) Mean root length (cm) shoot dry weight (grams) Root dry weight (grams) Fruit yield (tonnes hectare) Cost benefit ratio
Uninoculated control - 104 26.2 38.4 2.6 14.1 -
Carbendazim* 34.4 94 23.7 31.4 2.2 0.3 1:4
Neem cake (nc)** 25 95 25.5 35.4 2.6 11.6 1:1.4
MPG-3*** 20.3 97.9 25.3 33.8 2.4 12.3 1:21.3
NC+MPG-3 7.8 105 29.9 38.3 3.1 16.7 1:2.4
Inoculated control 55.7 63.2 16.5 17.5 1.1 7.7 -
NOTE:*-Carbendazim at 0.1 percent; **-neem cake @ 250gm per sq m; PDI was computered by adopting 0/4 scale to cover all the symptomology criteria, giveing weightage proportionate to the degree of symptom contributing towards the yield of tomato

Testing this product in a modified form to tackle plant diseases was prompted by reading the experiments of Jim Martin in the '50s on 'living water', which consisted of cow's urine, sea water and other ingredients. In our study, three modified formulations were prepared and tested. The modified form of panchagavya -3 ( mpg -3) - a mixture of two volumes of ghee, five volumes each of curd and milk, 40 of urine and 48 of dung, two per cent of common salt and 0.01 per cent of baker's yeast - was found to be the most effective and economical. The concoction which was stirred daily was allowed to ferment for 10 days. This was then slurry-filtered and the filtrate was diluted 10-fold. The p h of the filtrate was maintained at 6.6. The filtrate was first applied on the roots of the tomato seedlings and later for spot application after they were transplanted, in the soil previously inoculated with the pathogen. Two additional applications to the soil around the plants were given at an interval of 10 days. As a fungicide check for comparison, 0.1 per cent of carbendazim was used. Two more treatments, using neem cakes and using the neem cake in combination with mpg -3, were also included in the experiment. Two tests were conducted, one with the seedlings in healthy soil and another in pathogen-sick soil.

We found that mpg -3 was superior to carbendazim in reducing the plant disease index, and increasing the vigour of plant and yield (See table ). We also found high microbial activity and low pathogen population in the soil treated with mpg -3. Inhibition of pathogen in vitro was also recorded. We believe that mpg -3 acts by suppressing the pathogen and by increasing the vigour / resistance of the plant. Suppression of the pathogen could have occurred by encouraging the local antagonists of the pathogen.

Tests have also revealed that mpg -3 has an inhibitory effect on Fusarium Oxysporum cubens which causes banana wilt. Looking at these findings, panchagavya is definitely a promising formulation in the years to come. However, there is a need for further research to understand in depth the active components produced in the mixture and their mechanism of action. It is also necessary to develop and test various formulations of products obtained from the cow and other livestock.

H Ramachandra Reddy is a retired professor of plant pathology from the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore. Bhaskara Padmodaya is currently working at the Andhra Pradesh Agricultural University, Hyderabad

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