The Cultivation of the Opium Poppy in India
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. HISTORY OF THE OPIUM TRADE IN INDIA
II. GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION IN THE WORLD AND IN INDIA
III. SPECIES OF Papaver AND VARIETIES OF
IV. CULTIVATED VARIETIES OF POPPY
V. SOIL AND WEATHER
VI. MORPHOLOGY OF THE POPPY PLANT AND STRUCTURE OF THE CAPSULE
VII. AREA UNDER POPPY CULTIVATION AND ITS YIELD
VIII. ALKALOID CONTENTS OF INDIAN OPIUM AND ITS CHIEF CHARACTERISTICS IN COMPARISON WITH OPIUM OF OTHER COUNTRIES
IX. ENEMIES OF THE POPPY PLANT
X. TECHNICAL WORK IN PROGRESS
Author: S. N. Asthana
Pages: 1 to 10
Creation Date: 1954/01/01
History of the opium trade in India
Geographical distribution in the world and in India
Species of Papaver and varieties of P. somniferum
Cultivated varieties of poppy
Soil and weather
Morphology of the poppy plant and structure of the capsule
Area under poppy cultivation and its yield7
Alkaloid contents of Indian opium and its chief characteristics in comparison with opium of other countries
Enemies of the poppy plant
Technical work in progress
When and how the opium poppy and its produce became known to the people of India is uncertain. In the ain-i-Akbari compiled by Sheikh Abul Fazl, about A.D. 1590, the poppy is mentioned as a staple crop of the spring harvest of the then Subhas of Agra, Oudh and Allahabad. Up to the period of the British acquisition of Bengal and Behar, the Dutch were the chief purchasers of opium. Instructions to make opium a part of the investment were first issued by the East India Company in A.D. 1683.
The triumphs of Suraj-ud-Daula over the European Companies in 1756 brought ruin to the Patna opium dealers. On the restoration of peace in 1765, very little opium was to be had and the price went very high. In 1767 the Companies made a joint concern of the trade, with one general agent for all the opium produced, and finally in 1773 an end was put to all these disputes when the Governor of Bengal assumed on behalf of the East India Company, a monopoly of all the opium produced in Bengal, Behar and Orissa.
From 1773 to 1793 the right to the exclusive manufacture of opium for the Company was sold annually at first, but, from the year 1781, by four-year contracts.
In 1797, the agency system took the place of the contract system and the control of the Opium Department was vested in the Board of Trade, the President of which was practically an ex officio Member of the Council.
The opium monopoly was promulgated in India by the Opium Act of 1857(Act No. XIII of 1857); the monopoly of manufactured drugs was established by the Opium Act of 1878 (I of 1878) and the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1930 (II of 1930).
After the transfer of power to the Government of India in 1947 and the promulgation of the Constitution of India in January 1950, the control over the cultivation and manufacture of opium throughout India passed into the hands of the Government of India on 1 April 1950. By virtue of the Opium and Revenue Laws (Extension of Application) Act, 1950, No. XXXIII of 1950, the three Central Government enactments, viz., the Opium Act of 1857, the Opium Act of 1878 and the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1930, now apply uniformly in all the States of the Indian Union.
A central authority, the All-India Narcotics Board, was established by Resolution No. F.235-E.0/45 of the Ministry of Finance (Revenue Division) of 2 April 1949, in order to improve and co-ordinate the various aspects of the narcotics administration throughout India. The Board is responsible to the Ministry of Finance and is assisted by a narcotics adviser and the necessary staff in the performance of its functions. In November 1950, the Government of India took the first step in a programme to unify and rationalize the system of control over the production of opium throughout the country by creating a central organization.
The Department is now controlled by the Narcotics Commissioner, Government of India. Cultivation is carried on on behalf of the Government by growers who undertake to sow the poppy, lance the capsules, collect the latex, and deliver the drug at the weighing centre at a price fixed by the Government of India. A traditional initial advance is given to the cultivators in Uttar Pradesh, at the time of sowing. The opium received from the cultivators is sent to the Government factories at Ghazipur or Neemuch, where it is chemically tested and prepared for export and internal consumption.
The plant is not indigenous to the country and was imported from abroad. Papaver somniferum is originally a native of the warmer parts of western Asia from where it was taken to Greece. From Asia Minor the Arabs traders took it to the Far Eastern countries, including India and China.
There can be little doubt that the medicinal poppy is a native of Western Asia but it is cultivated at the present time not only in the original area of distribution but also in India, Iran, Turkey and Europe.
P. somniferum is sometimes found apparently wild in Britain. It is now extensively cultivated in most of the States of Europe not on account of the opium as in India, Turkey, and Iran, but on account of the capsules and of the oil obtained from the seeds.
According to Duthie, the opium poppy, unknown as a wild plant, is now generally regarded as having originated through cultivation from a Mediterranean species. The truly wild plant (var. Setigerum) is found on the northern coast of the Mediterranean. It has toothed leaves, the lobes sharp-pointed, each ending in a bristle. The flower stalks and sepals are covered with scattered bristled hairs and the stigmata are seven or eight in number.
During the beginning of the Christian era opium and its properties were universally known. During those days, opium was chiefly produced in Asia Minor and its cultivation grew into a big industry.
P. somniferum has been extensively grown in India for its milky juice, which is obtained by scarifying the capsules when fully grown but in a green state. During the middle of the eighteenth century Behar was the chief province of India which produced the best quality and the greatest quantity of opium. At present, poppy cultivation is confined to the States of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Bharat and Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh, the present acreage area being one tenth of what it used to be four decades ago.
The genus Papaver contains about 110 species with many varieties and forms, mostly natives of Central and South Europe and temperate Asia. Five species occur in Great Britain. P. rhoeas is the common scarlet poppy found in fields. Cultivated forms of this species, with exquisite shades of colour and without any blotch at the base of the petals, are known as Shirley poppies.
In India, the only wild poppy is P. croceum, which grows in the Alpine regions of the Himalayas along the borders of the glacial streams or near water at altitudes of 12,000 feet to 18,000 feet. The flowers are orange coloured. In this part of India the poppies are annual ruderals, usually growing in grain fields in the spring. Two species have prickly capsules. P. hybridum has rather small brick-red flowers and P. pavonium is much more hispid especially on pedicels and peduncles and has larger salmon or orange flowers with a dark centre. P. pavonium seems to be able to stand dry places better than P. hybridum. There are a few species also with smooth capsules.
P. dubium var. glabrum has orange or salmon flowers with a dark spot near the base of each petal. It is common in many parts of Northern Punjab. Like P. pavonium it also grows in the North West Frontier Province. P. marcostonum, P. turbinatum and P. rhoeas are common in the wheat fields of Kashmir.
The following are the three main varieties of P. somniferum:
P. somniferum var. nigrum: A wild form of the opium poppy with purple-red flowers, roundish oblong capsules, opening by pores under the stigma, with seeds of a dull greyish-black colour.
P. somniferum var album: Also a wild form with white flowers, roundish ovate capsules, not opening by pores under the stigma. Seeds white.
P. somniferum var. abnormale: A variety not infrequent in neglected poppy fields. Flowers small, streaked with dull green and red, the petals much crumpled, and never expanding fully, capsules roundish oblong, opening by pores under the stigma.
The above varieties, though very poor drug producers in their natural state, affording only two drug-yielding incisions, can be much improved by cultivation.
There appears to be at present no comprehensive classification of the varieties of the plant P. somniferum. Professor Duston sent some plants to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew,for their classification but attempts to divide the specimens into mutually exclusive groups were unsuccessful and it was reported that a satisfactory classification of the various forms could only be accomplished in the field by a careful observer and a judicious cultivator. Since then, so far as I know, no further attempts have been made to classify them. On the other hand, due to cross fertilization of different varieties, a number of hybrids and new races may have come into being.
Broadly speaking, the many varieties of Indian opium poppy may be separated into two well-defined races by the colour and texture of the capsules. One has capsules of an opaque green in deeper or paler shades. This comprises the subza-dheri varieties. The other has glaucous capsules, more or less densely coated with an opaque white powder. This is the sufaid-dheri group. The sufaid-dheri race may be indifferently used for late or early crop, and, with the exception perhaps of the Kaladanthi variety, the later crops may not be wanting in vegetative vigour; however they will be found to yield much less opium. Under a March sun, the latex of the subzadheri is very rapidly exhausted and scarcely half of its normal opium content can be extracted. This species has, however, special adaptability for early sowing. The characteristics of the two species are probably due to the difference in the texture of the capsule-that with the white powdery coating better resisting evaporation action in high temperature and a dry atmosphere than the other.
The cultivated varieties of P. somniferum commonly grown in Uttar Pradesh are:
PLATE I - Figure 1. A capsule with a leaf of variety Kalidandi. The stalk of the capsule has turned black. Figure 2. A capsule with a leaf of variety Haraina
Teyleah variety or Telia, Haraina, Hariala, or Herera
This is a favourite variety with many of the cultivators though far less generally grown than it deserves.
For an early crop, it is certainly one of the most productive sorts. It has oblong ovate capsules with a pale, olive green colour, without powdery coating (plate I, fig. 2).
Sufaid-danthi or Katha Bhabutia
This is one of the most generally cultivated of the several varieties grown in the agency, though as a rule less productive than the teyleah variety for early crop. It is, however, far superior to it for late cropping.
Kutila, Katila or Kotila or Chansura, Ghanghabaha, Chirrah or Bhagbhora
The varieties are better than any of those ordinarily cultivated for withstanding hailstorms and high winds, because of their much reduced and narrowly segmented foliage of thick and dense texture. They also, better than any of the other common cultivated varieties, resist the blights to which all are more or less subject. The varieties will do well in a sandy loam. The capsules are oblong-ovate and glaucous (plate II, fig. 4). The latex is red at the time of lancing. Sometimes there are bristles on the flower stalks.
This is also an excellent variety though less cultivated than any of those mentioned above. It differs chiefly from the last ones in having thinner and less narrowly and deeply cut foliage. It requires a strong and retentive clayey loam and more moisture than the other varieties.
Kaladanthi, Karria, Damia, Kalidanthi, or Kalidandi
This is an excellent variety and more generally cultivated than either of the two last named. It is well marked by the peculiar bluish-black colour acquired by the flower stalk soon after the fall of the flower (plate I, fig. 1). This is a less robust variety than any of the preceding. It produces, however, a great quantity of opium. It has a less protracted season than any of the other varieties and gives better returns as an early than a late crop. The capsules are oblong-ovate and glaucous (plate II, fig. 2), the latex slightly reddish at the time of lancing.
Subza Kaladanthi or Haraina Kalidanthi
This is a new race of the preceding variety. This variety cannot stand heat and excess of moisture in the atmosphere or the soil. It is good as an early crop on light well drained soil. Later in the season, the heat becomes too strong, the capsules shrivel and lose their colour, drying up prematurely and yielding little opium (plate II, fig. 3). It differs from the preceding varieties in having capsules of an olive green colour.
Same as Kalidandi but with smaller plants and produces more opium than the Kalidandi variety (plate II, fig.5).
Produces a large amount of opium but requires a well manured soil of the strong clayey-loam sort. In light sandy soil it is less productive, the capsules are also smaller, of an ovate-oblong shape, and they are scarcely distinguishable from the common sufaid-dheri variety. It has large, roundish, ovate and glaucous capsules.
This is a new race, derived from the common sufaid-dheri. It is much less subject to the common poppy blight than any of the old varieties. However, it does not produce much opium but its opium contains a high percentage of morphine. This is an important property aside from the comparative blight immunity. Its several good qualities recommend it for experiments on a small scale with a view to its selective improvement.
This is another new race of the sufaid-dheri variety which is little affected by blights and pests. This important quality is attributable to the more highly oxygenized state of the tissues than that of the normal forms. It is quite possible that by experiment and selection it may be developed into a good opium producer.
This is an excellent hybrid, very robust and producing large and uniform capsules of a roundish-oblong shape.
This is also a hybrid which may become a good opium producer. It resembles its female parent Monoria in general appearance and form of capsule, while the texture of the capsule is quite the teyleash type, of a deep opaque green colour.
Sandpha, or Dhadhua or Bhabhua
The plants are higher than any other variety with big capsules of roundish-oblong shape. This variety yields little opium.
A variety grown in Eastern districts. It has long leaves with the two basal lobes falling down the leaf stalks. Capsules oblong-ovate with rough surface. Does not yield much opium.
PLATE II - Figure 1. A diseased plant affected by leaf curl disease. The leaf can be seen entirely twisted with the deformed condition. Figures 2 to 5. Different kinds of capsules from different varieties
The Madhya Bharat and Rajasthan poppy differs considerably from the Uttar Pradesh poppy. It has a straighter stalk, simpler stem, sharply toothed leaves, of much thinner texture and the usually red or purplish coloured flowers, with fringed petals and rather largesized oblong or ovate-oblong capsules, crowned with broad stigmatic rays. The main varieties grown in that region are:
Bhatphoria or Dhaturia
Average height of the plant 3 feet 6 inches. Capsules 3" x 2?" roundish elongated, light green. Poor opium yield.
Height 4 feet or less. Flowers white with pink or dark pink border. Size of capsule 3" x 2", round, oblong and flattened a little on top. Colour of capsule dark green. Yield more opium and less seed than the Dhaturia. Colour of opium light brown.
Hybrid of the above two varieties
Petals red and white. Often white only, but mixed also. Average height of plant about 4 feet.
Flowers white and red white in colour. Capsules small and elongated, slightly flattened at the top. Size 3" x 2". Opium yield more and seed less in comparison to Dhaturia. Colour of opium dark brown turning black.
Flowers white, petals 2?" long, not furcated. Capsules elongated, light green and shining. Opium of a dark shade. Seeds white. Produces more seed than Ghotia or Chaglia.
Petals 2?", white or with pink border. Capsules round, dark green. Colour of opium as in Telia. Produces less seed than Telia but more than Chaglia.
Petals 2?", red or pink with white dots at the bottom. Major portion of the petal is coloured. Shade of opium lighter than Nos. 1 and 2. Average yield highest of all. Seeds white.
Kasturi or Tejani
Scarlet red flowers. Very poor yield of opium. Seeds red.
The poppy in India is grown on almost all kinds of soils, viz. clayey (Kali Matti), sandy loam (Domat I), loamysand (Domat II), sandy (Bhoor) and sandy clay but the plant prefers a soil of a sandy loam type. Such soil presents a uniform appearance and is fairly retentive and easily cultivable and productive.
The clayey type is rather hard and it is difficult to pulverize it properly for the young roots of the poppy plants to penetrate it. The sand on the other hand does not retain water which quickly percolates down and, therefore, the moisture retained is insufficient for the healthy growth of the plant.
The fertivility of the soil can be improved just by effective drainage. Insufficient tillage, root injuries of young crops, insufficient supply of sap and the surcharging of the plant with an over-diluted food due to water logging has a most deleterious effect on the poppy. The plants become poor and stunted, the leaves are narrow of a palish green colour. The stalks are spare and simple and tend to flower prematurely giving a low amount of capsules.
To the opium poppy cultivator the weather is a very important element. A hailstorm, for example, and by no means a severe one, will ruin his crop while a heavy rainfall between the period of scarification of the capsules and the collection of the latex will leave little or none for collection. High or gusty winds are also detrimental during the opium season because they dry up the plant and thus check the exudation of latex. Whatever latex flows dries quickly so that when the capsules rub together, the opium is lost. Dull, cloudy or rainy weather tends to reduce, not only the quantity, but the quality of the drug exudations.
Stems from 2 to 5 feet high, simple or divided, smooth, rarely setigerous, leaves oblong or ovate, toothed and lobed, rarely pinnately lobed, from 4 to 15 inches long by 1? to 9? inches broad (plate V, fig. 1). Flower from 2 to 8 inches in diameter, white to various shades of purple to scarlet, sepals 2, petals 4 entire, toothed to deeply fringed (plate VI, fig. 1), capsule ovate to oblong or roundish to ovate, stigmas 3 to 16, radiating, sessile, and crowning the top of the ovary, seeds whitish to purply black.
PLATE III - Figure 1. A poppy plant of the variety Katila. The leaves are alternate and highly segmented with a terminal flower. A bud can also be seen coming out of the axil of the leaf. Figure 2. A plant being eaten by the cutworm. Two cutworms can be seen in the figure. One is actually clipping the leaf. Figure 3. A cutworm. Figure 4. A plant destroyed by cutworm. The leaf, except for the midrib, has been eaten away
The pericarp of the capsule consists of three distinct layers (plate VI, fig. 3), the outer of epidermal tissue, forming the skin (technically called the epicarp), the middle one composed of several layers of hexagonal cellular tissue (technically forming the mesocarp), and lastly the inner, and, from our point of view, most important layer (technically called the endocarp), composed of loose cellular tissue permeated by a fine network of reticulated and dotted vessels, forming probably organs of absorption. The stigmatic ray is composed of four distinct layers, first a deep layer of loose cellular tissue, invaded by a network of spiral and reticulated vessels from the midrib. The epicarp is formed of a single layer of colourless thick walled vessels, ultimately forming an almost horny membrane with numerous stomata. The middle or mesocarpa zone, consists of a loose network of hexagonal cells, the intercellular spaces of which are everywhere invaded by the latex and absorbent vessels -first by the latex or drug secreting vessels. A longitudinal section of the pericarp will show an irregular but compact network of vessels of which the majority are from 500th to 800th inch in diameter and thus afford a considerable drug secreting capacity. This system is much less developed in the capsules of the plants with low opium yield. The latex is generally present throughout the plant in articulated, laticiferous tubes, frequently having sieve plates on the transverse or lateral walls.
The poppy in India is grown in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Bharat, Rajasthan and in Himachal Pradesh. The total area under poppy cultivation in the opium seasons 1951-52 and 1952-53 with the total produce and its average yield is given below:
|Total area in Acres|
|Total produce kgm.|
|Average yield per acre|
PLATE IV - Figure 1. A poppy flower with four petals. The sepals have dropped off. The young capsule can be seen surrounded by a number of antheridia. Figure 2. Transverse section of a capsule showing the position of seed. Figure 3. A diagrammatic section of a portion of the capsule (after Scott). a. Epidermis. b. Middle zone of pericarp. c. Endocarp. d. Milk system of endocarp. h. Lower stigmatic layer. 1. Pollen grains
The total area under cultivation in the year 1953-54 is as follows:
VIII. ALKALOID CONTENTS OF INDIAN OPIUM AND ITS CHIEF CHARACTERISTICS IN COMPARISON WITH OPIUM OF OTHER COUNTRIES
As early as 1907 the attention of the Government of India was directed to the possibility of increasing the demand for Indian opium for medicinal purposes. The greater part of this trade was at that time in the hands of Turkey where the opium produced was much richer in morphine content than the Indian product; nevertheless, the Government of India thought it possible that this difficulty might be surmounted. One of the reasons why Indian opium was so much inferior in this respect to the Turkish product appeared to be that the opium, from which Indian medicinal supplies were made, was selected in the most haphazard way. Nothing was then really known regarding the locality from which it came, from what seed or in what manner it was grown, or for what reasons the plants had been considered suitable for selection.
A large number of samples of opium collected in 1909 from the various opium growing districts of India were sent to the Imperial Institute in London. The systematic investigation of Indian opium by the Institute conclusively showed that much of the opium produced in India contained sufficiently high percentage of morphine to render the drug suitable for medicinal use in Europe or for the manufacture of opium alkaloids.
Further samples were dispatched to the Imperial Institute in 1915. Some of the results obtained in the examination of these selected samples are summarized in the following table in which the opium is arranged according to the percentage of morphine present:
|In dry opium|
|Variety of poppy||Morphine||Codeine||Narcotine|
Katila and Telia
From the above results it will be seen that the percentage of morphine varied from 9.57 to 14.25, the average being 11.37. The average amount of codeine present in these samples comes to 3.26 and that of narcotine 6.06. Taken as a whole, therefore, the composition of Indian opium is very satisfactory. Out of the samples examined, opium from the Katila poppy was found to be of very good quality, the percentage of morphine ranging from 11.59 to 13.62. Opium from the "Baunia" poppy gave from 9.57 to 13.44 per cent of morphine with an average of 11.13 per cent, and that from "Posti" poppy gave from 9.34 to 14.25 per cent.
The comparison of the samples of opium from the same variety of poppy does not permit any satisfactory conclusion to be drawn as to the cause of the variation in the amount of morphine present, and it can only be concluded that apart from variety there are other conditions which have an important influence on the quality.
The results, however, clearly and conclusively indicate that opium of exceptionally good quality can be obtained in India.
Indian opium has a great advantage over Turkish and Iranian opium, in so far as Turkish opium contains less than 1 per cent of codeine on the average, and Iranian opium about 2.5 per cent, whereas Indian opium, apart from its high morphine content, gives an average of 3.5 per cent of codeine.
The results encouraged the Government of India and the Opium Department and, therefore, from 1916 onwards further experiments were conducted in order to determine the varieties of poppy, the kinds of manure and soils, and the methods of cultivation best suited for the production of opium of good quality. Useful results have been obtained. It is now definitively proved that the first and second exudations from the lanced poppy head bring with them the bulk of morphine, and that it is possible to divide the whole produce of the crop into two parts, the first half for medical purposes and the second for Excise purposes. The first scarification is always the richest, the second is distinctly poor in morphine and in subsequent scratchings the morphine gradually decreases. Herein lay the reasons why Indian opium had so far been said to be poor in morphine. In Turkey, only one scarification is made apparently, when the cultivator catering for the medical market obtains by his single serpentine scarification nearly all the opium suitable for his purpose. In India, the cultivator rarely makes less than four. When all these scratchings including the first one, are mixed together, even though these may be rich in morphine, the total bulk of opium becomes low in morphine content. It is now established that India can produce plenty of medicinal opium of high morphine content so long as care is taken that cultivators do not mix the opium from the first and subsequent scarifications. The method of collecting opium of first and subsequent lancings has been practised by the cultivators in India for the last two years with good results. We can supply opium to all the countries in the world who want it from India with any morphine percentage ranging from 9 to over 12 per cent. Last year medicinal opium was supplied by us to the United States, the United Kingdom and France. These countries had nothing but good words to say both for the quality of the drug supplied, the method of packing and dispatching and the promptness in executing all the orders.
PLATE V - (Top left) Ripe field ready for lancing. Five persons ore going in a line lancing the capsule . (Lower left) A close-up view of the method of holding the capsule and lancing it. (Top right) Latex being collected in a shovel. (Lower right) The field after the capsules have been lanced
Work has also been carried out to determine whether the amount of codeine and narcotine also varies in the opium of successive lancings and increases in proportion with the falling off in morphine content in the successive lancings, since codeine and morphine are very similar in chemical constitution. In general, however, it is seen that the percentage of codeine does not vary very much in the opium of successive lancings. It shows a slight increase in the later lancings but the increase is not sufficient to account for the falling off in the morphine content. Narcotine, however, falls off in a manner very similar to what we have observed in the case of morphine but the falling off is not so marked.
It follows that the opium of the first and second lancings will still contain practically as much codeine as ordinary Indian opium and thereby will keep up the reputation of Indian opium for high codeine content.
The poppy is a delicate plant and needs utmost care and attention during the entire period of its growth from the seedling stage until the capsules ripen. Unfortunately, the poppy plant has many enemies against which it has to fight during its life period. Apart from natural calamities like sunburning, hail and frost, it has also to suffer from many insects, birds and other animals. Fungus and virus diseases also take their toll.
No sooner do the seeds germinate and the seedlings sprout two to four leaves, than a small insect locally known as Dhirkuor Gadhiya starts the trouble. This insect hops from one plant to another and clips off the young terminal shoot with the result that the plant is incapacitated for normal growth.
The cutworm (plate V, fig. 3) often commits havoc on the growing crop. Its ravages extend in the dry season from November to January. These cutworms remain burrowed in the soil during the day and come out only at night to carry on their depredations. In the night I have seen hundreds of these worms on the leaves of the plants which they cut (plate V, fig. 2). The entire leaf is eaten away by these cutworms except the midrib (plate V, fig. 4) and the affected plants die after a few days. The loss from this worm is sometimes enormous. The only remedy is to flood the fields with water. By doing so these cutworms float on the surface and are picked by their enemies-the birds.
The cricket, Gryllotalpa vulgaris is often a very serious pest, cutting over with its mandibles plants almost fully grown.
The caterpillars of a moth also prove very serious enemies to the growing crops, their ravages extending from December to February. In this case also irrigation dislodges them from their soil haunts and they are eaten away by their natural enemies: the Indian crow and myna.
Rats, rabbits, monkeys, blue bulls and parrots also destroy the crop considerably. The poor cultivator has to save his crop during the day from monkeys and parrots and during the night from rabbits and blue bulls. In good irrigated fields, rats are not a great menace because they are easily dislodged from poppy fields. They run to make their homes in an adjoining field where they find less danger from water and better food like wheat or gram. The damage from blue bulls is sometimes very great. Once they get addicted to the poppy leaves and stems containing latex they will not eat anything else. Apart from eating them, they also destroy the plants by breaking them with their strong hoofs while running through fields. Hindus consider it irreligious to kill them. They consider killing it as bad as killing a cow.
In sunburning ( Moorka or Joorka), the leaves get dried and wither, with more or less discoloured purplyblack or brownish veins, the pith decaying from above downward. Plants exhibit these symptoms, both in poor and rich soils, when the weather is hot and there is a deficiency of moisture in the soil. Under these conditions the roots fail to keep pace with the leaf transpiration.
Frost is also sometimes very destructive. During heavy frost the thermal balance of the protoplasm of the cells is lost. The protoplasm, in such cases, shrinks and the cells die. The only remedy for this appears to be to water the fields profusely the morning after the frost when the plants will again try to regain their proper balance and the crop may be saved. There is hardly any remedy against hail except the prayers of the cultivators.
Injuries caused by fungi
The most serious poppy mould is Peronospora arborescens. It is, however, not so destructive as its other species Peronospora infestens to the potato. The less succulent structure of the poppy is evidently unfavourable to any rapid or general extension of the mycelium. The disease is commonly known as Chirrah or Agiya.
The pale rose coloured patches of this thread mould are very common on the poppy during moist, warm weather. In the opium godowns and, in fact, on opium everywhere, it finds a favourite media covering the surface with its rosy web of mycelia when left for any time undisturbed (plate IV, fig. 2).
Other species of fungi reported on the poppy plants are Trichoderma viride, Sporotrichum Sp., Cladosporium herbarium, Rhizomorpha Sp., Mucor mucedo, Aregma moniliforme and Phelipea indica. None of these, however, cause any serious damage to the crop.
Poppy plants suffering from leaf curl disease are very frequently found in the fields. Sometimes it is devastating. The symptoms are identical to the potato and tobacco mosaic and it is surmised that this may also be a virus disease (plate II, fig. 1). The only method of eradication is to pluck the diseased plants as they appear and burn them. Plants with gangrene and root canker are also occasionally met with.
The poppy crop, as grown by cultivators, consists of a wonderful assemblage of types intermingled with each other and intercrossed and the work of sorting these out and testing the relative value of each appears to be necessary. The cultivator's field involves too large a scope for the personal element and is not a suitable basis for comparative experiments.
It is already possible to say that there is a very wide divergence between different races with regard to the morphine content of their opium. The highest figure of morphine obtained from a pure race is over 14 per cent. With diminishing consumption of opium every year by 10 per cent with a view to completely prohibit its use for quasi-medical purposes by the year 1959, the excise opium in India will go out of market. Our main effort at the present moment is, therefore, to find out those varieties which will give opium of high morphine percentage for medicinal purposes. At the same time we are not to lose sight of the cultivator and his profit. It is, therefore, equally essential to isolate a race which, with a high morphine content, will also give a high average yield. This will not only be beneficial to the cultivator but also to the Government because the land thus saved will be utilized for growing other crops like wheat, gram, etc. Experiments on large scale are, therefore, being conducted to achieve this object. Attempts will also be made to discover a variety which, with all the above advantages, may also be disease resistant