Sericulture: A Profitable Agribusiness for Farmers

Sericulture: A Profitable Agribusiness for Farmers

Introduction- "Sericulture is an agro-based business, in which we raise silk insects for the production of raw silk. In order to boost agricultural production, there are other businesses or industries in India, such as crop production, horticulture production, dairy production, poultry farming, which also support their participation to boost the economy of India. One of them is "sericulture", which we can establish from small to large scale and earn profits of millions at the least cost. In silkworm rearing, an insect, which produces a large number of silk, is reared for silk production. It is a business that makes the most profit at the least cost. We can develop this business easily with any other business. If we talk about silk production, China is the largest producer of silk. India stood second in the production of silk. About the 80% of the silk produced in the country is of mulberry silk, majority of which is produced is the three southern states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamilnadu followed by West Bengal and Jammu & Kashmir. Silkworm is mainly the second profitable insect after honeybee, which benefits the entire human race, as silkworm helps in increasing the availability of textiles. If we talk about ancient times, China sold silk moth equal to the weight of gold, but if we talk about today, then four varieties of silk are produced in our country as - Mulberry, Tassar, Eri and Muga because with time the demand for silk clothes is increasing. In view of this demand, Farmers is showing his interest in sericulture and is moving towards silk cultivation, due to which farmers are also getting more profit. In today's time, if we want to get more income along with crop production, then we can opt business related to sericulture and then we will be able to increase income of our farmers as well as we can increase the economy of our country.

Why should we do sericulture?

    There is maximum employment potential in this type of business.
    Provides Vibrancy to Rural Economies.
    It provides maximum return on minimum investment.
    It is a women friendly business.
    Ideal Programme for the Weaker Section of the Society.
    Eco-Friendly Activity.
    Proper Facilities for Seri-Culturists.

What is Silk- Silk is the secretion of the salivary glands, which are found on both sides of the dietary channel of silkworm larvae, and this secretion hardens into fine threads called silk. The cocoons with which the chrysalis is covered by the worms are used in silk production.

Economic Importance of Sericulture:

    Sericulture has other uses besides clothing.
    It’s used as operational thread in hospital.
    In sports cycle, thread can use for preparing rubber wheel.
    It’s used as thread in parachutes and rocket.
    Cocoon, protein extracted that can be used for cosmetics and medicine.
    Aesthetic materials made from waste cocoons-Flower vase, Interior decoration, Flower pot, Greeting cards, Animal toys, Garland etc.

Silkworm insect- Scientific Name of silkworm insect is Bombyx mori, Order-Lepidoptera, Family- Bombycidae. Mulberry main host tree for the cultivation of silk insect.

Life cycle of silkworm insect: - There are four developmental stages of silkworm such as egg, larva, pupa and adult.

1. Egg- Silkworm female eggs are laid in the night in clusters on the under surface of the mulberry leaves. A female lays about 300- 400 eggs popularly called as silk-seeds. The eggs are small, pale white and seed like in appearance. At the time of hatching they become black and hatch in 10-12 days during summer and 30 days during winter.

2. Larva-The caterpillar on hatching is white to dark green in color and about 3mm in length. There are 3 pair of thoracic legs and 5 pair of abdominal legs. Young caterpillars are reared in trays on tender mulberry leaves at 25- 270C. Each day, the feed is to be given 3-4 times with small quantity of leaves. The full grown caterpillar is creamy white and greenish in color and about 75mm long. The larva moults 4-5 times after every 6-7 days and become mature in 30-35 days. The matured worms are picked up and kept it cocooning baskets. The make cocoons generally within 25 hours. Fifth larva makes quick round movement of its head at the rate of 65 movements per minute while spinning its cocoon. It has been estimated that about 40-50 thousand caterpillars hatch out of 28 gm of silk seed and they require about 337-406 kg of leaves during their development.

3. Pupa- This is third stage of silkworm insect. The pupas cocoon is 38 mm. in length and 19 mm in breadth, oval in shape and white or yellow in color. A caterpillar can to produce nearly 1000-1500 meters of silk thread in this manner. The pupas are inside the cocoon is reddish-brown in color and measures 25mm. X 7mm. long. The pupal period lasts for 10-15 days. At the time of emergence of adults, it secretes an alkaline fluid which pierces the cocoon and it comes out. To obtain good quality of silk the moth are not allowed to emerge but the pupae are killed inside the cocoons either by sun heating or them in boiling water after 10 days of cocoon formation. This process is known as Stifling.

4. Adult- The Silk worm is moth of creamy white color measures about 30 mm in length and with a wing span of 40- 50 mm. The male is smaller than female. The head is small and bears a pair of black compound eyes and bipectinate antennae. The mouth parts are vestigeal; therefore, do not take food and lives only 2-3 days.  The fore wings are provided with dirty dark colored stripes and body is covered with hairs.

Rearing of silkworms-The silkworms are reared in places which should avoid dampness stagnation of air, exposure to bright sunlight and strong winds. The temperature should between 25-300C and humidity should never drop below 70% and proper ventilation should be ensured for highest productivity. The size of the rearing house depends upon the quantum and type of rearing. To cultivate silkworm, first of all we should take a good variety of seeds. Those seeds should be taken from a trusted institution only. The centers that provide seeds are called grainage. To rearing the seeds, spread them on a paper in a tray and place a mesh cloth over the eggs And when the caterpillar starts coming out, some finely chopped leaves should be placed on the tray. And gives them mulberry leaves as food. The first and second stages of the caterpillar are given a softly cut leaf. And when the caterpillar becomes mature and threads come out of the mouth, remove them from the tray and place them in the basket where they are made. No more insect should be kept in a basket of cocoon because two cocoons get entangled in such a situation. Entangled cocoons are called dupions, they do not remove thread. 

Harvesting, Stifling and Reeling- Fully prepared cocoons should be taken out of the basket and separated.  The pupa must die before the adult moth is released because the cocoon is cut off by the adult moth.  Such cocoons are called pierced cocoons. The thread comes out in pieces.  Therefore, after about 10 days of cocoon formation, they are kept in boiling water or exposed to hot rays of sun to kill the pupae inside and thus prevent the cutting of the silk thread into numerous pieces this process is known as Stifling.

Boiling- it is common practice for swelling, softening and to some extent dissolution and removal of sericin and gum. It is purified by acid and fermentation.

Reeling- The process of removing the threads from killed cocoon is called as reeling.

Conclusion- Silk which is the secretion of salivary gland of silk worm can be a very good alternate for Indian farmers in increasing their farm income as require an investment of only Rs. 12,000 to Rs. 15,000 (excluding cost of land and rearing space) for mulberry cultivation and silkworm rearing in one acre of irrigated land can generate net income levels up to Rs.30,0000/acre/ annum which is comparatively higher than traditional crop cultivation. Along with higher incomes silk growing is also more resource friendly because Mulberry takes only six months to grow for starting silkworm rearing and once planted it can support five crops in one year under tropical condition. This additional income generating activity will help the farmers to uplift their socio-economic development and bring sustainable livelihood security in the region and will facilitate in biodiversity conservation.

Anand Rao Azad
Assistant Professor
School of Agriculture
SAGE University, Bhopal (M.P.)

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