Research on Organic Agriculture (Chithreekaranam)

References - Historical perspective

References - Historical perspective (1)

Reference about Vrikshayurveda are available in Vedas, Upanishads, Epics, Puranas and Ayurvedic literature. It includes Charakasamhita, Susrutasamhita and Ashtangahridaya popyularly known as Brihattrai (three important treatises related to ancient Indian medicine and surgery). But it became a separate branch of Ayurveda in the later stages. It is believed that Sargadhara-1, who lived during the middle of Samhita period was specialized in Ayurvedic materia medica and he might have introduced Vrikshayurveda as a separate branch of Ayurveda. During the same period Salihotra, Nakula and Ramapada introduced Mrigayurveda (Ayurvedic veterinary medicine). The other books that provide information on Vrikshayurveda are Kautilya’s Artasastra, Amarakosa written by Amarasimha, Brihatsamhita of Varahamihira, Krishi of Parasara. Patanjali’s Mahabhasya, Vrikshayurveda of Surapala, Dhanwanthari Nighandu, Sarngadhara padhathi of Sarngadhara – II, Rajavallabha nighandu Bhavaprakasham.

A work on vrikshayurveda by Vavilla Ramaswami is available in Telugu language. Lakshmipathi devides these developments under three stages i.e.

  • Preliminary stage from the Vedic period to Gupta period (600 A.D.)
  • Middle period from 601 to 1536 AD and Modern period from 1536 AD onwards.
  • Nene, 1996 observed the original manuscript of Surapala’s Vrikshayurveda from the Bodleian Library, Oxford, U.K. and Nalini Sadhale translated the manuscript into English.

Archaeological findings have revealed that rice (Oryza sativa) was domesticated crop grown along the banks of Ganga in the sixth millennium BC. Later, its cultivation extended to other areas. Several species of winter cereals, barley (Hordeum vulgare), oats (Avena sativa), Wheat (Triticum aestivum), Legumes (lentil - edible pulses) and Chickpea (Cicer arietinum) domesticated in Southwest Asia, where grown Northwest India before the sixth millennium BC. Some other millets, such as Sorghum (Sorghum bicolour), Pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum) and Finger millet (Eleusine coracana) which were earlier domesticated in Africa, found their way to the Indian subcontinent more than 4000 years ago. In addition, smaller millets such as the species of Panicum, Setaria, Echinochola and Paspalum were domesticated in India since the Neolithic period. Archaeological research also revealed cultivation of several other crops 3000-6000 years ago. These include oil seeds such as Sesame (sesamum indicum), Linseed (linum usitatissimum), Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius), Mustrad (Brassica juncea), and Castor (Ricinus communis); Legumes such as Mung bean (Vigna radiata), Black gram (Vigna mungo), Field pea (Pisum sativum), Grass pea (Lathyrus sativus), and Fenugreek (Trigonella foenumgraecum); Fibre crops such as Cotton (Gossypium hirsutum); and fruits such as Jujube (Ziziphus mauritiana), Grape (Vitis vinifera), Dates (Phoenix sylvestris), Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus), Mango (Mangifera indica), Mulberry (Morus alba), and Black plum (Syzigium cumini); animals, including cow, sheep, goat, ass, dog, pig, and horse were also domesticated.

Surpala’s Vrikshyaurveda mentioned some materials (along with their properties) and practices that were supposed to be used in agriculture for the production of crops. Some of these materials and practices need attention as our agricultural community often ignore them. A few of these materials are described below in brief.

Milk and ghee have been used for centuries. Glutamate, leucine and proline from about 40% of the total amino acids in milk. Recently, a report (Arun Kumar et al., 2002) claimed that milk sprays induced systematically acquired resistance in chilli against leaf curl (a viral disease). Milk also has been used for controlling powdery mildew. The amino acid proline has been found to systemically induce resistance in plants (Niranjan and Shetty, 2002). High amounts of endogenous proline increase contents of cytokinin and auxins. Lactoferrin protein in milk and milk products has strong anti-bacterial properties. Therefore, we can say that milk treatment requires our early attention and gives us an opportunity to rediscover its beneficial effects. (Goyal, 2003).

The use of cow dung has been indicated since the time of Kautilya. It was used for dressing seeds, plastering cut ends of vegetative propagated sugarcane, dressing wounds, sprinkling diluted suspension on plants etc. since ancient times. Indian farmers use cow dung in different ways but agricultural scientists have not completely realized its importance. Agricultural scientists think that it can be used as manure only. Cow dung is a mixture of dung and urine, generally in the ratio of 3:1. It contains crude fibre, crude protein and materials that can be obtained in nitrogen free extracts and ether extracts. The cow dung also contains micronutrients. The urine portion of cow dung consists of nitrogen, potash, sulphur and traces of phosphorous. Seed is treated with cow dung in various ways, for example it is coated with cow dung residue that contains cellulose, hemi cellulose, micronutrients, metabolic nitrogen, epithelial cells from the animals, bile salt and pigment, potash, Sulphur, traces of phosphorus and a large number of bacteria. This thin dry layer of residue on seed gets absorbed.