How to Improve Crop Quality by Agronomic Means
Quality of crops can be improved/maintained by adopting suitable/appropriate agronomic means during production and processing of crops
1. Preparatory land tillage
Right preparation of seedbed improves the quantity and quality of crops by receiving the beneficial effects secured from conservation of moisture, destruction of weeds, aeration of soil, utilization of organic materials to the best advantage, pulverization and loosening of the soil and the firming of the soils that are loose.
2. Selection of good variety
In selecting a good variety, the qualifications like adaptability, yield ability, purity, quality of product for market or, feeding purposes and disease and insect resistance should be considered.
3. The use of good seed
Not only must good seeds belong to a good variety they must have strong germination, proper size and development, uniformity, freedom from seed-borne diseases, freedom from noxious and other weeds, and freedom from mixtures with other crop seeds with strong vigour.
4. Time of sowing/planting/transplanting
The time of sowing/planting/transplanting of various field crops is governed by the environmental requirements for the crops and by the necessity of evading the damages of diseases and insect pests. Time of sowing/planting/transplanting must be accomplished within the optimum period of sowing of the respective crops.
5. Rate of sowing/planting/transplanting
The objective in spacing crop plants is to obtain the maximum yield on a unit area without sacrificing quality. The rate of sowing is governed by the ultimate stand desired. Grain quality is affected only to slight extent by usual variations in seeding rate. For quality the optimum sowing/planting/transplanting rate is the only option.
6. Depth of sowing/planting/transplanting
Seedlings will emerge from greater depth in sandy soil than in clay soil and in warm soil than in cold soil. Depth of planting may be an important factor determining the seedling emergence of many grasses and small-seeded legumes. It is better to optimum for the best practice of depth of planting that is available in the farmers’ field.
7. Thinning/gap filling
In order to maintain optimum plant population in direct seeded crops, if necessary thinning/gap filling operation needs to perform. Similarly in planted and transplanted row crop gap filling will be necessary to regulate plant population for high yield and quality product.
Fertilizers are applied to the soil to promote greater plant growth or better crop quality. In order to control crop quality fertilizer recommendation should strictly be followed. If possible organic and inorganic fertilizers should be tried in combination. Products from organic farming are better in quality. Recommended doses of fertilizers both organic and inorganic ones should be applied in proper time and by appropriate methods in order to achieve desirable biochemical qualities like nutritive values, baking quality, milling quality, cooking quality, taste, eating quality, aroma etc.
Weeds cause a direct loss to farmers: (1) they lower the selling value of land, (2) they reduce crop yield even crop failure, (3) they increase the expense of cultivation and harvest, (4) they impair crop quality and thereby reduce the market value of cops, etc. For quality point of view timely weed control must be done to avoid presence of impurities like weed seed in the produce.
10. Irrigation and drainage
Irrigation and drainage are the essential for crops. Optimum soil moisture condition must be maintained in all stages of crop growth by providing quality of irrigation water and draining out excess rain water.
In the cultivation of crops soil mulch is formed on the surface of the soil to prevent the loss of water by evaporation through capillary movement from down to upward. In dry land fanning the use of artificial and natural mulch has beneficial effects on the yield and quality of corps by utilizing soil moisture most effectively when needed by the crop plants.
12. Earthing up
Some crops require earthing up operation for their quality produce. For example greening in potato due to exposure of potato tuber to sun which enhances the production of solanine in the tuber. Solanine formation in the tuber impairs biochemical quality of potato. It is toxic and not edible. Similarly in groundnut pegging formation and fruit setting, seed formation and seed growth are hampered resulting in poor yield and poor quality. Earthing up operation is also necessary to check lodging of sugarcane and sugar inversion.
It is one of the important operations in sugarcane to check lodging and sugar inversion. Timely operation is suggested.
14. De-topping and De-suckering
These two operations are practiced to upgrade the quality of a number of crops such in tobacco, tomato etc. Without these operations the quality of these crops will deteriorate.
Pruning is done in many horticultural crops. Tea is regarded as an agronomic crop. The yield and quality of tea are seriously affected if this operation is not done timely and properly.
Rouging is the removal of off-type and undesirable plants from the crop field. Generally this operation is done at the reproductive stage especially at the flowering stage of the crop plants, this operation is applicable for food, feed, fibre and other crops also for improving the physical quality by eliminating foreign matters such as other food gains, varietal admixture and weed seeds.
17. Harvesting and Threshing
Harvesting of crop should be done at the proper time to get the greatest yield and at the same time ensure a product of high quality. Untimely harvesting, whether or not avoidable, will often allow all or part of the crop to be a total loss or to be seriously reduced in yield and quality. Premature and too late harvesting must be avoided. A crop should be harvested at the time when the product will „give the hugest yield of the highest quality. Time of harvest and moisture content are the major factors for quality deterioration in cereals, pulses and oil seeds.
18. Drying, processing and Size Grading
Physical quality produce is affected by moisture content, impurities and foreign matters etc. Drying and cleaning are the two operations which remove excess moisture for safe storage and separate impurities and foreign matters from the produce. The grading of agricultural production lot marketing and consumption in judging requires special skill quite different of judging of crops for seed purposes.
19. Control of Insect, Pests and Diseases
Although this operation is not within the periphery of agronomic principle but for agronomic, practices like crop production it is essential to adopt these means for protecting the crop. Tito yield and quality seriously be affected, even there will not be harvest, if insect pests and diseases would not be controlled timely by any control measure.
20. The agronomic means as mentioned in 1 to 19 cannot be avoided if high quantity and high quality of crop produces are targeted depending upon the requirements of kind of crops/varieties.