Low External Input Sustainable Agriculture

I am a LEISA farmer

I hail from a farmers family. My father and forefathers were all arecanut growers. I studied in a rural area for ten years and completed post graduation in Agriculture from UAS, Bangalore. After working in a private company for a few years I took up to farming on my own piece of land. My land had red lateritic soil. Though it was good in micronutrients like Fe, Mn, Zn and Cu, it was poor in Potash. Initially I used Muriate of Potash based on soil test results. After two years I found out that application of Potash had not improved yield level considerably. I felt that it was also affecting the earthworm population.

This was a time when many voluntary organisations were propagating organic farming methods. I got interested in it and started attending all the related seminars and workshops. I also became a member of organic farming association of India. Now after 6 years organic farming has become a way of life.

After reading farm magazines like LEISA India I changed my thinking. I am a LEISA farmer. The one-acre model ( “Rudraaradhya”  model) in LEISA India inspired me a lot. I along with 4-5 farmers went to the farm and saw it.

With more and more understanding of organic way of farming, I also started small level innovations. For example, I prepared a concoction of eucalyptus and soapnut for managing pests in vanilla and pepper. This proved to be effective. One more idea which proved useful was the use of newspapers for mulching.

Earlier, I used to mulch using areca leaves, husk, coconut fronds, dryleaves etc. But owing to their multiple utilities as a source of fuel and locally available material for making cattle sheds,  it was difficult to procure these materials in adequate quantities. One day, I observed that a piece of paper fallen in our orchard, was slowly getting decomposed. It was also acting as food for earthworms. This triggered me to try using newspapers as a mulch, which otherwise I was selling them for a song.

I spread each double folded newspaper on the ground in between plants and cover this with fallen coconut frond, so that they don’t fly away. Over this, dry leaves are spread. In about a month, the whole lot will decompose, except the top layer. The operation is repeated year long. I have experienced, four main benefits form this practice: 1) Food for naturally grown earthworms, (2) moisture retention (3) weed control (4) temperature retention during night-especially beneficial during cold winters.

This technique is also being tried out by my other friends in their farms.

Source: Mr. Vinayaka Rao B.R. Sagar Taluk,
Shimoga District, BELUR — 577 401,

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