Pune (Maharashtra), May 26 : Sericulture has emerged as the virtual economic lifeline for farmers in Maharashtra's Pune District.
Thousands of farmers in this region are now rearing silkworms and also continuing with their farming. Sericulture-related activity is spread across 2500 hectares in the district.
The process begins with farmers planting Mulberry saplings in the shade. Once these saplings grow sufficiently, government officials are called in to inspect the tree and the leaves.
Farmers are then provided with silicon eggs, and after ten days, silkworms emerge from the eggs.
"The silkworms have a life of 30 days and they eat mulberry leaves for 24 days. In the remaining six days, a silkworm makes his home, just as we build our house with cement and bricks. It covers itself in saliva and leaks glue. It makes 700-1200 metres of thread in six days," said Prashant Nimabalkar, an onsite manager.
The cocoons are boiled first and then, thread is spun from cocoon balls.
Chemically, silk is made of proteins secreted in a fluid state by silk worms. These worms feed on select food plants and spin cocoons. The processing of cocoons leads to the production of silk.
A single cocoon provides a thread of around 1000 to 1800 meters.
Sericulture in Maharashtra is managed by the State Government and the government earns a profit of Rs.1670 crores from sericulture from Pune itself.
"Karnataka stands first in sericulture, second is Andhra Pradesh and then comes Maharashtra on third place in the country and in Maharashtra, Pune is the largest producer of silk. Malberi is planted in 2.5 thousand hectare of land in Pune and the profit is 1670 crore from here. India exports silk to USA, UK, Germany, Spain and Russia," added Prashant Nimabalkar, an onsite manager.
Over six million people are engaged in various sericulture activities across the country.
Tussar silk is produced from Tussar silkworms (Antheraea mylitta and Antheraea proylei) that feed mainly on the leaves of locally found trees called Asan and Arjun.
India produces a variety of silks including Mulberry,Tussar, Muga and Eri depending on the feeding habit of the cocoons.
India stands second only to China in silk production, which contributes around 85 percent of the global produce, whereas India's contribution is 13 percent.
India's raw silk production has jumped from 15, 742 tonnes in 2003-04 to 18, 475 tonnes at the end of 2006-07.