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Grasslands of Bundelkhand

 
  Kans, an invasive, perennial grass (seen in white), has an affinity for Bundelkhand's black soils

In the plateau and hilly areas of central and southern Bundelkhand are found large stretches of grasslands, officially classified as 'permanent pastures and other grazing land'.

As figures in Land Use in Bundelkhand show the largest area of land under such classification in Bundelkhand (and indeed in the state of MP as a whole) is found in Sagar district, followed by Chhatarpur.  Considerable grasslands are also found in Damoh and Tikamgarh.

Significant area of permanent pastures is not found anywhere in UP Bundelkhand districts, except in the southern portion of Lalitpur district.

The area under permanent pastures has been reducing rapidly, due to high livestock population and pressure to bring more area under cultivation.

In MP, another reason for reduction of  land officially classified as grazing land is the 1999 decision of the Digvijay Singh government to reduce land reserved for grazing in each village, or 'charnoi' land,  from 7.5% of total land to 5%; in 2001, it was further reduced to 2%. As a result, an estimated 4 lakh hectares of grazing land in the entire state became 'surplus' land available for distribution to landless households.

Comparing figures quoted by Raj Kumar Tyagi in Grassland and Fodder Atlas of Bundelkhand, a publication of the Indian Grassland Fodder Research Institute (IGFRI), Jhansi, with District-wise Land Use Statistics for 2004-05 (Union Ministry of Agriculture, May 2008) we see that in 20 years, from 1984 to 2004-05, area of Sagar district reported to have been covered under grasslands reduced from 1.26 lakh hectares to 75,800 hectares; in Chhatarpur, it reduced from over 92,000 hectares to 67,500 hectares; in Damoh, it reduced from over 63,000 hectares to 34,000 hectares.

The greatest reduction appears to have taken place in Tikamgarh, where area under permanent pastures was reported to have been over 66,000 hectares in 1984-85 and only 14,900 hectares in 2004-05.

The most common grasses of Bundelkhand are doob (Cynodon dactylon), lumpa (Heteropogon contortus), mushial (Iseilema laxum), kail (Dichantium annulatum), guneria (Themeda quadrivalvis), sain (Sehima nervosum) and the kans (Saccharum spontaneum) weed, discussed below.

Kail and mushial are found in black soil in plain areas and are not rated as fodder as highly by local people as lampa and guneria, which grow on red and yellow soils found on plateaus and hill slopes. Guneria is sold in large quantities in the rainy season. 

A study of the nutritional quality of grasses conducted by IGFRI, Jhansi, reported in Grassland and Fodder Atlas of Bundelkhand, observed that in general, the grasses have poor crude protein content, and copper, zinc and iron content are also below requirement of livestock.

Kans

In addition to weather-induced shocks, Bundelkhand's farmers have to deal with the menace of kans (kansa), an invasive, perennial grass that grows up to three metres in height. Found across South Asia (it provides a natural habitat to the Indian rhino in Assam), where it is known by several names such as kas, kagara and ikshugandha (in Sanskrit), kans and 'seems to have an affinity for Bundelkhand soils'.

It is particularly seen after a season of abnormal rainfall, and grows rapidly in poorly cultivated soils; it does not generally grow in fields continuously cultivated and carefully prepared for the wheat crop.

Once its long and tenacious roots gain a firm hold, it becomes almost impossible to remove, and flourishes for 12 to 15 years, after which it loses its vitality and the land becomes fit to plough again.

Kans is used as roof-thatching or fencing material. It also has some ayurvedic medicinal properties and can be used as an organic pesticide, but these applications are not well known in Bundelkhand, where it is considered a curse; anything that tends to cripple farmers 'such as over-assessment of land revenue, natural calamities, loss of cattle, etc.' is regarded as favourable to growth of kans, reported the Banda district gazetteer.

No permanent or sure remedy has been found to prevent appearance or growth of kans.

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