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Biologicals for Higher Farm Production

M H Mehta

There is a dire need to reduce input costs and improve farm productivity in a sustainable manner. The 20-20 model, using new generation agri-bio inputs can be taken up to help farmers in meeting such a goal. Together with bio-fertilizers and bio-pesticides, scientific bio-composts from agro wastes have demonstrated great potential to improve farm productivity at lower costs in eco-friendly way.


The sustainable developmental goals of United Nations greatly emphasize the need to transform our current input heavy food system to more sustainable system.  In a country like India, where majority of the population still depends on agriculture, farming by eco agricultural methods is the way forward.  Eco agricultural practice seems to be the best way to address the challenges like hunger, malnutrition, poverty, environmental degradation and climate change.  Eco-agriculture is still evolving. Development of new generation bio inputs like bio-fertilizers, bio-pesticides and bio-composts will play a significant role in the coming years.

Application of biocompost on the field

Among the 8 millennium goals, eradication of poverty and hunger and environmental sustainability are perhaps the most prominent and complementary.  The Green Revolution changed India and many other countries from being food deficit to food sufficient / surplus state.  If we look at the challenge that agriculture sector has to face during the next few decades, it is clearly to double the food production by 2025 and triple it by 2050 on less per capita land, with less water and under environmentally challenging conditions. However, the current scenario of agriculture projects a bleak future. Indian farmers spend nearly Rs.2 lakh crores on inputs like seeds, fertilizers, pesticides. Around Rs.50000 crores goes as fertilizer subsidy. Excessive use of chemical fertilizers has reduced soil fertility and our soils are hungry for organic carbon.

It is time for the Eco-agri Revolution – a revolution that is sustainable, balanced and farmer-friendly. There is an urgent need for eco-friendly and effective alternatives which are available at low prices and are easily accessible.  Fortunately, several new/alternative developments offer much hope.

The alternative model

A few years back, our team of young scientists of the NGO – The Science Ashram – while interacting with farmers, met with some unexpected feedback.  In many of the areas, farmers using heavy doses of pesticides and fertilizers, were ready to listen to the talks about the harmful effects and the decreasing net income and environmental problems.  However, they kept asking – “are there any alternatives?”  When explained about the new generation agri-bio inputs, their simple reaction was “you make them and give to us. We want to try”.  This compelled the team to start a production unit (Gujarat Life Sciences) of agri-bio inputs.

There is now a better understanding of Multi Microbial Consortia technology which can substantially improve crop productivity and at the same time reduce the agrochemical input costs.  Further, new method of preparing high quality bio-compost from agro-wastes, FYM etc., can greatly improve the availability and quality of nutrients of assured standard and much needed Carbon to the soil.  Another startling development has been in the area of bio-pesticides.

A 20:20 model has been worked out based on a number of field demonstration studies in different parts of India, Africa and Far Eastern countries.  A model in which input cost can be reduced by nearly 20 percent and at the same time the crop production can be enhanced up to 20 percent is possible and can be a boon to farmers in most parts of the world.  This is the model, which can be easily adopted in an evolutionary way.

Experiments at a banana farm in Chapad, Gujarat

In the recent past, the 20:20 model is emerging as perhaps the most practical and popular model with the farmers.  It is realized that though the environmental problem and the high costs of chemical farming are noticed, all the chemicals cannot be wished away or stopped overnight. On the other hand, farmers who suddenly tried to switch over to organic farming often faced disappointment and problems, which did lot of disservice.  Between these two extremities, the 20:20 model has shown the practical and positive way and easy adoption.  It is also seen that after the first year of 20:20, the bioorganic inputs use can easily be doubled in the next two years by many progressive farmers and make 100% organic products.  Such farmers may be in different agro-climatic conditions and with different crops.

Field demonstrations

Broadly, bio-inputs range can be classified under three main categories: Nutrient management (bio-fertilizers, enriched bio-compost, multi-microbial combination of bio-fertilizers and bio-fungicides in the soils); bio-pesticides (multi microbial bio-pesticides, botanicals, pheromones etc.) and growth enhancers (amino acids, micro nutrients, seaweed extracts, growth promoters and hormones, etc.). It is possible to enhance the farm productivity and at the same time lower the input costs through the use of agri biotech products.

Field demonstrations were carried out with a tripartite arrangement involving an Agricultural University, a private biotech company and an NGO. The three partners were  Navsari Agricultural University in South Gujarat, Gujarat Life Sciences (Pvt.) Ltd. (GLS), a new generation agri and enviro biotech company and The Science Ashram, an NGO with a wide network of farmers. Various products were taken up for field demonstrations. The typical products involved are – enriched bio compost, bio pesticides, bio fertilizers, etc.

Table:- 1 – Typical productivity enhancement data using multi microbial products, bio-fertilizers and bio-composts 

Crop Location Result
Banana Agricultural University- Navsari, Trichy-Tamil Nadu 25% more production with 20% reduction in urea dose.
Rice Bangkok – Thailand,

Vapi-Gujarat

Increase in production from 14 to 19%.
Maize Gauteng – South Africa 25% more production, 25% less Urea.
Castor Kutch – Gujarat Increase in yield by 17-22%.
Papaya North Gujarat Up to 21% increase in yield.

The data clearly established that there is enhancement in productivity, and reduction in input costs of agro-chemicals. It is thus clear that a comprehensive model can be made available to the farmers, where substantial reduction in input costs and at the same time improvement in the productivity can be achieved.  That this can be done through eco-friendly inputs is another big advantage for sustainable agricultural practices.

It may be noted that in explaining this model, the data for some typical bio products are given as indicative.  Right combinations from any standard suppliers can be used.  Farmers can also develop their own bio-composts from their farm wastes, FYM etc., by using standard microbial cultures.

Disease control with use of bio-pesticides and bio-fungicides

CROP LOCATION RESULT
Brinjal Saurashtra / Trichy – Tamil Nadu Use of Mite-No-Mite has given control over mites and upto 15 days there was no need to spray again.
Cotton Central Gujarat Alwar – Rajashtan 80-85% control in various pests using Neem-A-Life
Groundnut Saurashtra 90% control in fungal diseases with Tricholife + Superlife
Roses Mauritius, Central Trichy – Tamil Nadu Use of Mite-No-Mite – 90% control  on mite problem.  Excellent Growth.
Potato Central Gujarat, Bihar By using Wonderlife-G in soil, disease control upto 94% and upto 22% increase in yield

In-situ bio-composting from crop residue

Crop residue burning and inadequate amount of soil organic carbon (SOC) is a worldwide problem. The North Indian states are known for crop residue burning resulting in degradation of soil, air pollution and health problems. Farmers in this region in a hurry for the next sowing, which is less than 20 days of harvesting rice/wheat, resort to such practice.

Years of field work and R&D indicate that in-situ bio-composting with multi microbial mixture offers the best and practical solution for dealing with crop residues. Using multi microbial mixture, a field demonstration on in-situ treatment on the rice stubs was carried out at a farm in Haryana.

Similar problem with disposal of banana and other crop residues are increasing.  Banana post harvest waste disposal is a huge problem and was discussed often at farmers meetings in typically intensive belts, like Anand in Gujarat and Trichy in Tamil Nadu.  Both these areas are well known for high density banana plantation.  After the harvest of banana fruits, the stem and other materials are simply thrown away on the roads.  Later, even this became difficult due to labour shortage.

While interacting with the farmers, a need to have a system to recycle the post harvest banana waste was emphasized.  The major emphasis was on using the biomass (along with a large quantity of water in the stems) for soil enrichment in-situ.  A field demonstration was carried out at a banana farm between Vadodara – Anand banana belt, using multi-microbial mixture.

The outcomes are clear. Within 20 days, there was partial decomposition of agro waste (e.g. rice straw, banana waste). The C/N ratio reduced and soil water retention improved. Besides these, in-situ treatment has other advantages like saving labour cost and input cost and better retention of micronutrients.

Conclusion

It has been seen in a number of situations and under different agro climatic conditions that the proper use and application of good bio-compost becomes the main and perhaps the most important input for higher and sustainable production of different crops, both for conventional as well as organic farming practice.  In fact, organic farming cannot be practical without the proper management and application of bio-composts.  Scientific bio-composting with multi microbial consortia technology should become standard practice for preparing most valuable agri input for sustainable farming.

It has been possible to develop and demonstrate that a multi-microbial consortia culture consisting of various combinations of Azotobacter, Azospirillium, Torulosporaglobosa, Bacillus Coagulans, Celullomonas sps, Pleurotus sps, etc., can be applied very effectively for productivity enhancement in a sustainable manner. The major functions of such a culture, when applied to agro-wastes is improvement of  N-fixation, P-solubilisation, plant growth enhancement  and anti-fungal activity.

The bio inputs are low cost, farmer-friendly and ecofriendly and a boon for sustainable agriculture.  Contrary to the earlier beliefs, they have clearly shown higher productivity in many different situations such as Bihar, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Kutch-Gujarat, etc. In fact, it was proven that during the crisis, the new and appropriate technologies were adopted by the small and marginal farmers quickly. And these models emerged even more cost effective and eco-friendly in a typical un-irrigated field.

References

Mehta M.H., ‘Eco Agri Revolution – Practical Lessons and the Way Ahead’, 2017, New India Publishing Agency (NIPA) (www.nipabooks.com)

Ahlwat R.P.S. et al “Scientific package of organic cultivation for various crops”, November 2007, National Conference on Agronomy, Navsari

Mehta M.H., “The 20-20 Model, Agriculture Year Book – 2009”

Dr. M. H. Mehta

Chairman – Working Group on Eco Agriculture – ICFA – New Delhi

Ex. Vice Chancellor – Gujarat Agricultural University

The Science Ashram / Gujarat Life Sciences – Vadodara (Gujarat)

E-mail ID: – chairman@glsbiotech.com

Website: – www.glsbiotech.com