a magazine on ecological agriculture
a one stop treasure of practical field experiences

IN THE NEWS

ICAR backs use of cow urine in organic farming

Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the autonomous body responsible for co-ordinating agricultural education and research in the country, has put a stamp over the use of cow urine in organic farming. Under its Network Project on Organic Farming, ICAR observed that cow urine can supplement the nutrient value of the soil and help in the management of insects, pests and diseases under the organic production systems. ICAR evaluated cow urine in different cropping systems. ICAR officials said that the use of fermented cow urine enhances soil fertility and it can also be turned into liquid fertiliser as a pesticide for crops. Liquid manure from cow urine is easy to make and is good for plants in comparison to artificial fertiliser.

Incidentally, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi, has received 50 proposals from different academic and research institutes to study the benefits of cow urine and milk under the Scientific Validation And Research On ‘Panchgavya’ (concoction of cow dung, cow urine, milk, curd and ghee) programme.

The decision to ask ICAR to conduct a study on use of cow urine in organic farming was taken after a high-level meeting at the NITI Aayog in October last year.

Sikkim is the only state that has officially been declared an organic state. It is India’s first fully organic state where cow dung and urine are used for farming and killing pests.

For more details: http://www.newindianexpress.com/thesundaystandard/2018/jan/07/icar-backs-use-of-cow-urine-in-organic-farming-1746498.html

Leaves from nitrogen-rich trees can be potential fertilizers

Persistent overuse of fertilizers to increase the crop yield has led to serious consequences on environment and human health. The problem has now come to full circle and the challenge ahead is to produce enough food for burgeoning population but in a sustainable manner. Scientists are now on look for alternatives to fertilizers which can substitute nutrients in soil without damaging the environment.

Now scientists at the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) have shown that application of leaves from nitrogen-rich trees in soil can increase the soil fertility and grain yield of rice and can therefore act as potential replacement of fertilizers. They have found that supplementing soil with dried leaves of nitrogen-rich trees such as shisham, amaltas and neem can increase the content of soil microbial biomass and grain yield of rice. Microbes, when abundant in soil, deteriorate plant and animal residues and other organic matter to release carbon-dioxide and other plant nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous, making soil fertile and nutrient rich.

Suitability of tree leaves was measured on three parameters. High nitrogen content, low polyphenols —substances that inhibit microbe growth— and low lignin content as it takes longer time frame for decomposition. Treatment of soil with these leaves increased the grain yield by 68 to 161%.

Scientists found that among the three trees, leaves of shisham were the best for increasing microbial density and nitrogen content in soil. However, fast decomposition of nutrients from these leaves means they are effective only for crops with shorter lifecycles. The use of combination of fast degrading shisham leaves and slow degrading wheat straw could be a preferred approach if crop cycle is longer or the intent is to replenish soil nutrients for long term.

The results of this study have been published in scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences India Section B. The research team also included Rajani Srivastava and K. P. Singh.

https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/science/leaves-from-nitrogen-rich-trees-can-be-potential-fertilizers/article23604631.ece

Farmers can boost crop yields and contribute over 1 Gigatonne of emissions reductions

A new international study shows that carbon removal from the atmosphere through sequestration by agricultural soils could deliver annual emissions reductions equivalent to removing 20-40% of cars from the roads.A study published in Scientific Reports and conducted by an international group of scientists from the Chinese Academy of Science, The Nature Conservancy and International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) has revealed how crop farming can make a significant contribution to tackling the threat of climate change, important ramifications for the UN COP23 climate talks currently underway in Germany.

Scientists have previously established that crop production depletes soil carbon through intensive tillage and the excessive use of chemical fertilizers, with an estimated 50-70% loss of soil carbon stocks in cropland soils worldwide (Lal, 2004). Since croplands can sequester more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere if farmers use improved farming practices like increased manure, cover cropping, mulching, conservation tillage, fertility management, and other natural climate solutions such as agroforestry, the international group sought to establish where in the world these activities could deliver the greatest carbon sequestration benefit.

Using a small increase in soil carbon, that experts say should be attainable in cropped soils almost everywhere, the scientists found that improved soil management in crop farming could contribute to annual carbon emissions reductions of between 0.9 and 1.85 billion tonnes per year, equivalent to the emissions of Canada and the Philippines combined, or removing between 215 and 400 million cars from the roads.

The study found that most of the world’s soil carbon is stored at northern latitudes, with North America, Northern Europe and Russia accounting for more than half of the world’s soil organic carbon stocks on croplands. In contrast, large areas of croplands in India, across the Sahel, northern China, and Australia have cropland soils that are low in carbon.

Although the capacity to increase soil carbon depends to a large degree on the types of soils and the environment, all of the major agricultural countries in the world were shown to have significant carbon sequestration potential. Whereas the United States has the largest area of croplands and consequently the largest sequestration potential, other major agricultural countries with large areas of cropland such as India, China, and Russia can make substantial contributions to mitigating climate change through soil carbon sequestration. 

The scientists also noted in the paper that there are other important benefits of soil management, including increased yields from improved soil fertility and better water holding capacity, which also support farmers with adapting to climate change. 

The study in Scientific Reports is available here:  www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-15794-8

Water hyacinth destroying lakes? IICT makes 100 tonne organic manure from it!

For years uncontrolled water hyacinth, an invasive species has posed a grave threat to the aquatic ecosystem. This invasive species that covers lakes and ponds is infamous for affecting water flow, blocking sunlight from reaching native aquatic plants, thus, killing them, becoming a breeding ground for mosquitoes or parasites and depleting dissolved oxygen, threatening life under these water bodies.

In a path-breaking move that could be adopted across urban lakes in the country, Hyderabad-based Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT) and Khar Energy Optimisers converted water hyacinth from the Kapra Lake into organic manure for farming.

Water hyacinth was being removed from the lake since November 2017, and the project is now in its final stages. Speaking to the publication, CEO of Khar Energy, Raju L Kanchibhotla said, “Around 100 tonnes of useful organic soil conditioner has been prepared, which can be used for farming with water hyacinth, removed from Kapra Lake.”

The process used to convert water hyacinth into organic manure is called Accelerated Anaerobic Composting (AAC). Here’s all you need to know about it:

  • In this process, the first step is to remove water hyacinth from the water body. After retrieval, it is dumped on the shore using an earth mover.
  • Once dumped on the shore, the roots of the water hyacinth are separated with stems and leaves and chopped into small pieces. The resulting components are then filled into composite pits.
  • A ratio of 90% water hyacinth material, 8% dung and 2 % bioculam liquid (which is bacteria) is required to facilitate the composting process.
  • The resulting mixture or compost is a paste-like material which is then removed and dried on tarpaulins (heavy-duty waterproof cloth) to turn into manure.
  • Once dry, the compost is filled into bins, packed and sent to a warehouse, where it is later crushed into a powder.