Climatic Manipulation in Agriculture- A Thousands-Year-Old Practice in Bangladesh: Mohammed Ataur Rahman
Professor, International University of Business Agriculture and Technology (IUBAT), Uttara, Dhaka Email: email@example.com, Mobile: +8801820425191
Climatic manipulation is thousands year old practice in Bengal Basin. Climatic manipulation means alteration, changing, or adjustment of climatic factors to provide an appropriate environment for growth and production of crops according to their adaptation.
Nowadays for improvement of crops, selection, hybridization, and introduction of new varieties or species are followed but the most important way, the climatic manipulations are not well discussed or understood in the present day’s so-called modern industrial agriculture although climatic manipulation has been following here for thousands of years.
Climatic factors influencing the growth and production of crops are light, temperature, precipitation mainly rainfall, humidity, and wind. As the crops are adapted with these factors in different climatic zones of the earth, the genetic properties are also influenced by them.
Human are the best observer, selector, and manipulator and domesticated wild plants into crops. During the advancement of the time period, humans learned adaptation behavior. Traditionally crops have been improved with long-run trial and error method respecting the environment and thus improved production and quality obeying the huge variation within and among the species, the biodiversity, till the beginning of industrial agriculture. Before industrial agriculture, crop election and climatic manipulation are the methods followed by the farmers. The introduction of different crops to other regions was mainly respecting the environment: soil and climate and climatic manipulation was only the tool to grow crops to provide the required environment according to their climatic adaptation especially of the respective centers of origin.
Climatic manipulation in agriculture is older than that of the origin of the Caste System in Bengal. The working-class ‘Shudra’ has 37 subclasses according to their work responsibility. Among the 37 subclasses, three belongs to Betel leaf production, processing, and service-related activities and they are Barui, Tambul, and Chaurasia. The Barui are the working class for betel leaf production in the Paan boraj. The Paan boraj is the classic example of manipulation of climatic factors for the production of Paan or betel leaf, a Tropical rainforest flora.
For Paan, a unique climatic manipulation is done to give an optimum condition for luxuriant growth throughout the year. Paan boraj or betel vine house is usually having a thatched roof for protection from the sun, heavy rainfall and hails; fence around the Boraj for protection of winds and storms, humidity control and also from predators; nice drainage system for the drainage of water and supports to climb the vines up to the roof. Besides these, unique cultural practices for propagation, upkeeping and maintenance and harvesting are followed. Traditionally women are not allowed to enter in the Paan boraj as they carry diseases that destroy the boraj. Although early people did not know the scientific reasons for damage of the boraj due to women’s engagement. But present science has investigated that the women carry harmful Monilia fungus that destroys the Paan boraj.
Cultivation of Amon rice in the uplands, and Boro in the littoral zones of Beels, haors, and Baors are also important examples of early day’s traditional climatic manipulations. Boro, a cold-tolerant and water-loving day-neutral rice usually grown in the drying-up edges or littoral zones of wetlands in the dry monsoon season. Climatic manipulation usually is done through pre-wet seed soaking, germination bed preparation, and frequent watering the plants traditionally by Dhoon and Ora, etc., and nowadays by motorized pumps.
Rupa or transplanted Aman usually the Shaili rice is another good example of climatic manipulation. Basically, Amans are broadcasted short-day plants needs a longer period: Pre-monsoon, Wet monsoon, and Post wet monsoon. By adapting climatic manipulation, cropping pattern of Aman has been changed to transplanted ones a long time back and shortened the cropping period early Wet monsoon to Post wet monsoon also extending Aman in the gradated flood-free uplands by terracing to facilitate holding and releasing water making Ails or boundaries to maintain dry and wet phases as required by the rice, especially, Shaili and Asra types. Presoaking wetting, seedbed (Jalapat) and land preparation for transplantation and water management, etc. are also manipulated by the farmers traditionally, as required by the crops.
Traditional mound agriculture is another unique example of climatic manipulation. In every homestead of the Bengal basin there was raised mounds (Mada) in the open corners of the homes. The mounds used to prepare annually collecting dry clods from the clayey loam Khetlands. The mounds were coated with fresh cow-dung and rice husk or chitas. The dome-shaped mounds usually of 1.0 to 1.5 meter high and at the flat top seeds of different vine or creeper crops viz. country bean, cucumber, Snake gourd, Ash gourd, Sweet gourd, pumpkin and bottle gourds, etc. were planted and allowed them to climb on trailers or to the rooftops of the thatch houses. The mounds with inter-clod airspaces used to protect the plants from waterlogging breaking the capillaries from the upward movement of water and thus saved the plants from stagnancy. This mound agriculture used to provide the opportunity to recycle the greywater to homestead crops and also the nutrients, especially from fish and meat washed water and dish cleanings.
Greenhouse agriculture through climatic manipulation in the developed world has now become a common practice both in Temperate and Tropical zones. Many crops are produced in the greenhouses in temperate counties within artificial structures maintaining proper light, temperature, humidity, and water; supplying required nutrients to the plants although in natural prevailing weather conditions it is quite impossible. Thus, manipulating climatic factors, many high input-based commercial farming is in practice. Even in the arid dry region, many crops are being grown in the greenhouses.
Therefore, climatic manipulation is a noble way to improve crop production without damaging the biodiversity and ecosystem. It is urged that the scientists and researchers should be more conscious about the importance of different species and varieties; should not destroy the biodiversity by forced hybridization or genetic engineering for crop improvement. Let nature run with its own speed with all its diverse heritage. We must not do any harm to nature which we cannot repair. We have already lost about ten thousand varieties or landraces of rice in the last fifty years to fulfill human greed and curiosity. Will we get them back?
Different varieties have different tastes, smells, and nutrients of course. We can get the energy and the nutrients from different varieties and kinds of plants or crops. We must not neglect the low yielding Jats as we do not know what hidden or unknown benefits they provide, maybe immunity for survival. During induced or forced hybridization plants lose their immunity, characters and thus become unable to uptake the necessary nutrients which ultimately affects human health. Therefore, do not destroy the genetic characters which developed through climatic adaptation for thousands of years. Let us understand the science behind the traditional agriculture of the great Bengal basin and improve it saving biodiversity and ecosystems. Let us come out of the hybrid and chemical input-based irrigation dependent agriculture; strengthen our immunity by nutrient-rich crop production and save our biodiversity.