>> Saturday, March 1, 2014

I don’t know if pigeons love water but my general observation so far has revealed that pigeons avoid entering into water. When ever it rains they fly away under some shady place. Yes, they can sit in rainy conditions to enjoy light rain or to wait for the command of their group leader. I don’t know for sure.

But, for sure, I can say that anyone who lives in Ranchi, knows about Marwari 10+2 High School established in the heart of the city by local Marwari Community around 1935 and taken over by the state around 1980.To my friends living outside India in other countries, let me tell that this Government School is located in Ranchi the capital of the  newly formed state of India. Being lover of all creatures some Marwari people use to feed birds by placing sacs of grains on the top. And this is the reason that hundreds of pigeons flock on the roof and come down in the afternoon to walk on the ground when students remain in their classrooms. No sooner than a student or any one of the school passes by than the pigeons fly up to sit on the roof.

Following the Mid-day meal programme the school campus became a sanctuary of crows too or any one can say since pigeons don’t show interest in cooked food it were crows to enjoy the leftovers. Some students take food carelessly and drop rice on floor. The rice on floor is collected and placed on a marginal spot where crows assemble to eat it away. At the same time pigeons remain busy in searching grains on the ground and show least interest in crows. Being cunning by nature crows not only eat cooked rice leftovers, they spot weaker and sick pigeons, approach to them and peck them by their beak so as to cause injury. Gradually the pigeon gets infection and becomes sick. The crows plan final attack on such pigeons and eat them away. Now, this is the reason why the number of pigeons has reduced gradually from this habitat.

Since last two years or so, the new Principal of the school, Mr. Braj Kishor Prasad, a noble man has made such arrangement that not a single grain of rice is wasted and thrown anywhere in the campus. Since, crows dislike grains kept on the roof and there is no cooked food anywhere left for them, they have stopped coming to this place. Thus innocent pigeons could be saved. So this was a short story about in impact of crow-population on pigeons.

Since last dew days, the people of Ranchi are experiencing a bad whether. Since the ground of the school has been lowered following the rising level of roads around, the rain water gets accumulated in the ground and in spite of many written request nobody still came forward to extend financial support to raise the ground. Since, a Government School does not have sufficient fund for such work the ground becomes a pond during rains. The local Marwari Community, as usual, sent sacs of maize and the sacs were placed atop the roof. It rained heavily in the following night. Lots of maize grains were dropped on the ground from the torn sacs and the grains had remained scattered on the ground. When the ground became a pond and the campus was filled with water, grains became soft after being soaked for the whole night. Since, pigeons probably experience it hard to break the dried gains placed on the roof; they came down and found lots of grains dipped in the water. When any one of the pigeons ate the grain he found it delicious    and then informed all the pigeons about that case. Now most of the pigeons came down and started searching soaked grains. Now see the picture taken by me through my mobile camera.

Key Words: Marwari, Government, pigeons, crows, mid-day-meal


Rescue of a bat

>> Sunday, February 16, 2014

Bats are mammals, and mammals acquire a number of adaptations that other animals. A Number of bats live in my institute and spend nights in buildings. When we go there in the morning we see numerous seeds of Drooping Ashoka, Tamarind etc on the floor. Sometimes they create problems for sweepers who leave the institution after cleaning the building properly in the evenings and have to sweep the floor again. However, it seems a pretty exercise to me because the seeds remind me of bats that inhabit my institution’s building and again because they have started coming here and inhabiting the place since the trees of Drooping Ashoka and other trees and plants planted by me long back in 1991 on the occasion of the World Environment Day are adult now.

This morning, I saw a naughty crow trickily picking something and flying up. The thing that it was knocking with its pointed beak looked like a polythene bag thrown earlier by some careless being. When I drew attention of my principal he told me that the thing may be a bat. Soon I saw that the crow had lifted the back in its beak but the same somehow escaped but was dropped on the ground. I soon approached and threatened the crow to fly away. And the crow flew away. I started taking photographs of the bat but it started hiding it with its vast wings. Some how with the help of a stick I turned it right and no sooner than it came in proper position, it flew towards the drooping Ashoka trees and was soon vanished behind leaves. Thus the poor but the cleaver bat was rescued. And yes, it did not spare me and tried to frighten me also by showing its teeth. See for yourself.

When I approached

When I started taking photograph

When the camera flashed

When I turned it with the help of a stick

I could not photograph it as it flew in no time

Key Words: mammals, bat, rescue, adaptation



>> Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Invasive species are organisms that are usually transported by human beings from foreign areas. These species successively colonize native ecosystems. These have been a major threat to native species because these species show predatory behavior, cause changes in habitat and often disrupt the process of ecosystems. One example is the introduction of Australian Brush Tail Possum which caused decline in the number of native birds in New Zealand. There are a number of other examples also that justify the degrading impacts of invasive species in a new habitat. The spice cardamom is a problem in the lowland moist forests of Sri Lanka and Southern India. On the other hand, the invasion of Black Pepper is causing serious threats to the biodiversity in the forest edges of Malaysia. The Chromolaena odorata which is a shrub and which has its own values as a fallow crop in Indonesia has become the single most invasive plant in the Nature Reserves of the Tropical Regions. The Parthenium hysterophorus, a noxious weed which competes with crop plants, causes health hazards to humans and cattle. This weed is highly allergic and reportedly causes asthma and other diseases in human beings. This exotic species was introduced from the tropical America. It was first reported in 1957 from Maharashtra.

 The increasing applications of genetically engineered microorganisms and their establishments in the natural habitats are causing potential risks to the existing plants and animals. Some traits of the genetically engineered microorganisms harm the species on which most of the natural organisms depend for their survival. Secondly, the mixing of the genetic stock and the subsequent loss caused by this event and, the general competitive superiority of the genetically modified organisms lead to the degradation of biodiversity in a region.

Key Words:invasive species,black pepper, genetic stock


Protect Sparrows

>> Sunday, February 2, 2014

Sparrow birds are a family of small passerines named as Passeridae. These birds live for three short years. Their wingspan is usually 21cm and they can fly with an average speed of 45.5 km per hour. They live in families. Average body mass of a sparrow is quoted as 0kg. The length of an average sparrow is 11cm.
The common house sparrow is one of the most beautiful and active birds. These are one of the most familiar winged companions of human beings. Over the period of time these birds have evolved with us.
At one time a very common sight, in the past few years, this bird has been on the decline over much of its natural range, both in the urban and rural habitats. The decline of the house sparrow is an indicator of the continuous degradation of the environment. The house sparrow is, in a sense, an ambassador to the common bird species. The hope is that the conservation of the house sparrow and its habitat will in turn help save much of the common biodiversity, which shares the habitat of the house sparrows.
Conservation to generate awareness towards the need of conservation of these birds the World Sparrow Day is celebrated on March 20. The rationale for celebrating World Sparrow Day is not only to commemorate the event for a day, but also to use it as a platform to highlight the need to conserve sparrows as well as urban biodiversity. The event aims to bring together individuals, national and international groups. The aim is also to attract the attention of government agencies and the scientific community to take notice of the need for the conservation of the common bird species and urban biodiversity.
Scientists first started to notice a decline in the number of the house sparrow in the 1990s. Over the last few years several campaigns, outreach and awareness programmes, research surveys have been carried out to understand the decline of a species that had learned to exist in and around human habitations and was found in huge numbers in urban areas.
World wide, countries have participated in various activities to celebrate the World House Sparrow Day. Citizen Sparrow is an ongoing citizen science project in India in which members of the public are encouraged to contribute information on presence and absence of the house sparrow from different locations and for different time periods. All the observational records are plotted on a map. This can be done by an individual or a school group or an NGO and even corporate companies as a part of their corporate social responsibility. What others have done Students from schools can distribute handbills to the public and scattered millets for sparrows. In 2012, people in Bristol recorded house sparrow sightings and blogged about it.
The Chief Minister of Delhi, Ms. Sheila Dikshit, declared the house sparrow the state bird of Delhi in 2012. Addressing school children at her residence during a function organised to celebrate Wildlife Week, Ms. Dikshit said that the idea behind making the house sparrow the State bird was to protect it. The Nature Forever Society in association with the Burhani Foundation (India) started ‘SOS’ (Save Our Sparrow), which was an initiative in which they distributed 52,000 bird feeders in 2012 across the world on a non-profit basis. The Indian Postal Department released a stamp of the house sparrow along with the rock pigeon on March 20, 2010.
We can do
We can put bird boxes and bird feeders outside your house or in your gardens. Water-bowls or a bird-bath in the hot summer afternoon helps birds to re-hydrate. So we can go for making bird baths to comfort sparrows and of course, to other birds as well. We should grow plants and hedges that are native to the place so as to encourage some of the common birds to come back.We can run common bird monitoring programmes to conserve our local birds. Also, to document the current population of sparrows in gardens and backyards can be done by making a questionnaire survey involving interviews of citizens about house sparrows. One of the persons of the Verma Press Ranchi, Jharkhand, India, is contributing a lot in the conservation of birds by making arrangements for the feeding and nesting of common sparrows. After the days hectic schedules, sparrows gather on the Areca Palm trees in front of the office of Mr. Sushil Kumar of Verma Press and arrange a meeting there in which each sparrow has to reveal the story of the works performed during the day.

Key Words: house sparrow, World Sparrow Day, conservation.



A report on O. intermedia from Ranchi

>> Saturday, February 1, 2014

Oxalis intermedia A. Rich., the West Indian woodsorrel that has been reported as O. dehradunensis is found growing in and around Ranchi city of Jharkhand state of India during winters along roadsides, waste land etc. in moist shady places. It flowers during February and lives for a short period. Here is a photograph of the plant species taken by Dr. M. P. Mishra from the wild.

Key Words: Oxalis intermedia, O. dehradunensis, Ranchi



Welcome and protect migratory birds in your area

>> Saturday, January 18, 2014

India has been a pleasant home for innumerable varieties of birds about fifteen to twenty years back. Many types of birds from distant places used to visit this land and settle for some months to enjoy pleasant and favorable weather. They used to swim in water bodies, sing in our gardens and play in our fields and open grounds. But experts say that most of them have left this land due to our bad behaviour. Bad behaviour…? Yes, bad behaviour of destroying their habitats- water bodies and gardens, bad behaviour of using synthetic pesticides in our crop fields instead of using  traditional pesticides, bad behaviour of polluting our waters and air, bad behaviour of producing high pitched sound through fire crackers … and even more- cruel bahaviour of some people who kill and eat away those innocent guests.

Birds form the most important links in the chain of ecosystem of an area. If such a link is broken, it is sure to stop transfer of nutrients and energy in the ecosystem leading to a permanent imbalance. In nature every thing is related to everything. So each and every thing must always be allowed to remain at its place. Each and every organism has right to live, eat, and reproduce and to do whatever it needs to do without disturbing others. And, thus every organisms has a genuine share in nature. In case, we disturb others we are sure to be disturbed by natural forces.

Now that the country is experiencing rough winter birds inhabiting other lands where the whether is rather more rough, are packing for their short tour to this area. After some days we all can see new bird visitors in our orchards, water bodies, cropped areas and open lands. These visitors decorate different places and add beauty to the local environment.

Birds can fly across oceans, deserts, forests and mountains. Through flight, they can search out the external conditions and substances they need. Their power of flight provides them to move through atmosphere and to have quick access to almost any spot on earth. They occupy and use greater range of habitats than any other animal. They can eat in almost any restaurant of nature. It is due to the supreme mobility of birds that they can reach to infinite variety of sites where they can build their homes. As such birds can be regarded as the most successful vertebrates on earth. But are birds more successful than those humans who poison the resources they use and eat away thousands of them?

Every organism plans and lives with proper adjustment to changes that occur in nature. Squirrels and rats gather food for adverse days, and birds migrate to favorable places. Birds and many other animals as well leave a particular environment if its conditions become unfavourable. They come back again when conditions become normal. When birds leave a particular habitat and fly away to some other habitat, we call it emigration or migration. Their arrival in the new type of habitat is called as immigration.

Migration in birds is a form of adaptation in which a bird leaves a particular type of environment in adverse climatic conditions. The giant Siberian crane visits some favorable spots India every year. Monarch butterflies undertake long distance migration each year in response to seasonal changes. Some geese briefly make their summer homes in arctic but the extreme harsh winter sends them 3,500 km away to the Gulf of Mexico. Wild beasts of Saharas of Africa migrate with seasonal rains in search of fresh grazing. They move in huge herds together with Zebras and Giraffes. These are some examples of migration in animals.

Many bird populations sometimes find themselves unable to adjust with the changing condition of environment. Fluctuations in environmental conditions happen to be diverse and so sudden at times that even the best adaptations cannot keep them alive. And, they perish. The loss or disappearance of one or more species of birds due to sudden fluctuations in natural factors, natural calamities or human interference is called as extinction. Sudden changes in natural conditions have wiped out a number of species of birds in the past. Probably this was the reason why mammoths and Dinosaurs disappeared from the earth. Now, man is also changing the natural environment through his harmful practices that are leading to the extinction of several species.

Key Words : migratory, birds, migration, Sahara, Gulf of Mexico



Rust of grass- and crop plants

>> Friday, January 17, 2014

Rust is plant disease commonly affecting both lawn plants and crop plants. It is caused by Puccinia sp. It affects many different species of turf grasses in different parts of the world. Large scale damage to crops of family graminae and grases in the wild is usually caused in summer months.



Images 1 and 2 spots on leaf blades of Cynodon dactylon

On crops, Puccinia causes great damages to wheat crop with initial brown spots on leaves and stems. It initially causes light yellow flecks on the grass blades and sheaths. The flecks enlarge and elongate over time, turning yellow in color. These areas then rupture, releasing spores that are yellowish-orange to reddish-brown in color and hence it is called as rust. A severe rust disease infection can cause the entire plant shoot to turn yellowish to reddish-brown in color and slow growth of the plant, either grass or crop. 

Infection of the pathogen Puccinia occurs in moist climates with temperatures ranging from 65-86 degrees Fahrenheit and low nitrogen soils. Following cultural control tips can be recommended -

(i). Use fertilizers with adequate levels of nitrogen
(ii).Reduce thatch with core aeration
(iii). Reduce shade and improve air circulation
(iv). Avoid watering at night
(v). The use of rust resistant plants
(vi).Crop rotation can break the disease cycle because many rusts are host specific. Water deeply and infrequently to increase growth

Key Words : rust, puccinia, grass, wheat, crop



Mustard- an ancient plant

>> Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Mustard is an ancient plant belonging to taxonomic family Crucifereae. It is full of appeal for Indian, and foreign gardeners or farmers. Mustard plants are easy to grow and they produce seeds in short time. The greens parts of the plant are edible.The flowers bright yellow and attractive to see. About a dollar’s worth of seed will produce a pantry shelf full of fine and fancy mustards and more greens than we can shake a salad spinner at. Mustard in all its forms—shoots, leaves, flowers, whole seed, powdered, or prepared—is a flavorful, low-fat way to punch up any savory food. I’ve used the whole seed in pickling and cooking, tossed the tender greens in fresh salads (garnished with mustard flowers, of course), stewed mature leaves as a southern-style side dish, and crushed spicy seed to make a variety of pungent mustards.

If you’ve ever traveled to plains of India and California’s wine country in early spring, you may have seen the vineyards awash in yellow flowers. Those are mustard plants, the winemaker’s friend. Many vineyard owners plant mustard deliberately as a cover crop or let field mustard (Brassica kaber) run rampant. When plowed back into the soil, the plants act as a green manure and release nitrogen. Mustard also repels some insects (the seeds are that hot) and attracts syrphid flies, beneficial predators that attack vine-chewing insects.Mustard seed contains no cholesterol, only trace amounts of vegetable fat, and about 25 percent protein. Leaf mustard contains calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and Vitamin B. The calories are negligible in most basic prepared mustards, so you can feel free to indulge.Today, mustard is second in demand to pepper among spices in the United States. Historical records indicate the use of mustard as far back as 4,000 b.c.e., and it’s believed prehistoric man chewed mustard seeds with his meat (probably to disguise decay). From about 2,000 b.c.e. on, ancient civilizations used it as an oil, a spice, and a medicinal plant. It was introduced into western and northern Europe in the early Middle Ages.

Over the years, mustard has been imbued with curative powers. It’s been called an appetite stimulant, a digestive aid, and a decongestant. Because mustard increases blood circulation, it’s often used in plaster form to treat inflammation. Folklore has it you can even sprinkle mustard powder in your socks to prevent frostbite.All mustards come from the Cruciferae, a family that includes broccoli and cabbage. Brassica nigra, B. alba, and B. juncea produce black, white (really a yellowish-tan), and brown seeds, respectively. The black seeds of B. nigra are used for moderately spicy mustards. French cooks use them to make Dijon-style mustard—it can be called true Dijon mustard only if it is certified to come from that city, which has the exclusive right to produce it. In West Indian dishes, black seeds are fried until they pop. The black variety produces less-desirable greens, and is really intended to be grown for seed.
White seeds—B. Alba—are the primary ingredient in traditional ball-park mustard, and it’s the most common and the mildest of the three. The white seeds also have the strongest preserving power and are therefore the kitchen gardener’s choice for pickles, relishes, and chutneys. White mustards are not typically grown for their greens. Brown mustard, the hottest of all, is used for curries and Chinese hot mustards, and frequently for Dijon-type mustards. If you’re growing mustard for the greens, choose B. juncea or an Oriental variety like ‘Giant Red’.

Key Words: Crucifereae, green, yellow, seeds

Credit: vegetable gardener


14 Food Resolutions to Bring in The New Year

>> Monday, December 30, 2013

As we enter 2014, there are still nearly one billion people suffering from hunger. Simultaneously, 65 percent of the world's population live in countries where obesity kills more people than those who are underweight. But these are problems that we can solve and there's a lot to be done in the new year!

2014 was declared the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF) by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Food Tank is honored and excited to be collaborating with FAO around highlighting how farmers are more than just food producers--they're teachers, innovators, entrepreneurs, environmental stewards, and change-makers!

And negotiations are continuing around the new Sustainable Development Goals that will replace the Millennium Development Goals. It's our hope that the new goals will help not only reduce hunger and poverty, but find ways to improve nutrient density and improve farmers' livelihoods.

In addition, the issue of food loss and food waste is gaining ground thanks to the U.N.'s Zero Hunger Challenge, which calls for zero food waste, as well as the good work of many organizations including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Feeding the 5000, the U.N. Environment Programme, and who are showing eaters, businesses, and policy-makers solutions for ending waste in the food system. 

And youth are taking the lead in pushing for a more sustainable food system. Young people like Edward Mukiibi, who is helping Slow Food International's 1,000 Garden in Africa's program gain momentum. In addition, the Young Professionals for Agriculture Research and Development (YPARD) is helping connect agronomists, farmers, researchers, and activists around the world. Food Tank will also be announcing some exciting work around mobilizing youth in 2014!

Through concrete action, hope and success in the food system is possible.

As Nelson Mandela said, “sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great.”

Together we can be that generation and find solutions to nourish both people and the planet!

Here are 14 food resolutions for 2014:

1. Meet Your Local Farmer
Know your farmer, know your food (KYF2) aims to strengthen local and regional food systems. Meeting your local farmer puts a face to where your food comes from and creates a connection between farmers and consumers.

2. Eat Seasonal Produce
By purchasing local foods that are in season, you can help reduce the environmental impact of shipping food. And your money goes straight to the farmer, supporting the local economy.

3. End Food Waste
More than 1.3 billion tons of edible food is wasted each year. Tips to reduce waste include planning meals ahead, buying ‘ugly’’ fruits and vegetables, being more creative with recipes, requesting smaller portions, composting, and donating excess food.

4. Promote a Healthy Lifestyle
Many diseases are preventable, including obesity, yet 1.5 billion people in the world are obese or overweight. Promote a culture of prevention by engaging in physical activity and following guidelines for a healthy diet. Gaps in food governance must also be addressed to encourage healthy lifestyles, including junk food marketing to children.

5. Commit to Resilience in Agriculture
A large portion of food production is used for animal feed and biofuels--at least one-third of global food production is used to feed livestock. And land grabs are resulting in food insecurity, the displacement of small farmers, conflict, environmental devastation, and water loss. Strengthening farmers' unions and cooperatives can help farmers be more resilient to food prices shocks, climate change, conflict, and other problems.

6. Eat (and Cook) Indigenous Crops
Mungbean, cow pea, spider plant...these indigenous crops might sound unfamiliar, but they are grown by small-holder farmers in countries all over the world. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that approximately 75 percent of the Earth’s genetic resources are now extinct, and another third of plant biodiversity is predicted to disappear by the year 2050. We need to promote diversity in our fields and in our diets!

7. Buy (or Grow) Organic
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has found that at least one pesticide is in 67 percent of produce samples in the U.S. Studies suggest that pesticides can interfere with brain development in children and can harm wildlife, including bees. Growing and eating organic and environmentally sustainable produce we can help protect our bodies and natural resources.

8. Go Meatless Once a Week
To produce 0.45 kilograms (one pound) of beef can require 6,810 liters (1,799 gallons) of water and 0.45 kilograms (one pound) of pork can require 2,180 liters (576 gallons) of water. Beef, pork, and other meats have large water footprints and are resource intensive. Consider reducing your "hoofprint" by decreasing the amount and types of meat you consume.

9. Cook
In Michael Pollan’s book “Cooked,” he learns how the four elements-fire, water, air, and earth-transform parts of nature into delicious meals. And he finds that the art of cooking connects both nature and culture. Eaters can take back control of the food system by cooking more and, in the process, strengthen relationships and eat more nutritious--and delicious--foods.

10. Host a Dinner Party
It’s doesn’t have to be fancy, just bring people together! Talk about food, enjoy a meal, and encourage discussion around creating a better food system. Traveling in 2014 and craving a homemade meal? For another option try Meal Sharing and eat with people from around the world.

11. Consider the ‘True Cost’ Of Your Food
Based on the price alone, inexpensive junk food often wins over local or organic foods. But, the price tag doesn’t tell the whole story. True cost accounting allows farmers, eaters, businesses, and policy makers to understand the cost of all of the "ingredients" that go into making fast food--including antibiotics, artificial fertilizers, transportation, and a whole range of other factors that don't show up in the price tag of the food we eat.

12. Democratize Innovation
Around the world, farmers, scientists, researchers, women, youth, NGOs, and others are currently creating innovative, on-the-ground solutions to various, interconnected global agriculture problems. Their work has the great potential to be significantly scaled up, broadened, and deepened—and we need to create an opportunity for these projects to get the attention, resources, research, and the investment they need.

13. Support Family Farmers
The U.N. FAO has declared 2014 the International Year of Family Farming, honoring the more than 400 million family farms in both industrialized and developing countries, defined as farms who rely primarily on family members for labour and management. Family farmers are key players in job creation and healthy economies, supplying jobs to millions and boosting local markets, while also protecting natural resources.

14. Share Knowledge Across Generations
Older people have challenges--and opportunities--in accessing healthy foods. They're sharing their knowledge with younger generations by teaching them about gardening and farming, food culture, and traditional cuisines. It’s also important to make sure that older people are getting the nutrition they need to stay active and healthy for as long as possible.

CREDIT -  Danielle Nierenberg- Food Tank

Key Words - New Year, Food Tank,scientists


CGF: Act to end rainforest destruction!- a request from GREENPEACE

>> Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Help save Sumatran tigers from extinction!The Indonesian rainforest is disappearing at an alarming rate — pushing species like the Sumatran tiger and orangutan to the brink of extinction. As few as 400 Sumatran tigers remain where there were once thousands.

Meanwhile many palm oil producers are bulldozing Indonesian rainforest at a rate of acres an hour. And that palm oil ends up in products from companies like Procter & Gamble, L’Oreal and Colgate Palmolive.

These companies are all part of an organization called the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) that could require its member companies to stop buying palm oil linked to rainforest destruction — completely transforming the palm oil industry.  But the CGF won’t act unless the public demands it.

Take action now to help send 75,000 messages to the Consumer Goods Forum by December 10th. Tell the CGF to require that its member companies commit to stop buying palm oil linked to forest destruction.

Key Words: Sumatran tigers, Proctor &Gamble, Customer Goods Forum


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