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Organic vegetable cultivation

A.Anandakumar


Vegetable farmers in Tumkur are reaping many benefits by shifting to ecological alternatives. They are also improving farm sustainability by diversifying crops and trees on the farms.


Sri Charan’s organic tomato farm in Anupanahalli

Urdigere and Kolala hobli of Tumkur and Koratagere taluk of Tumkur district is traditionally known for vegetable production. About 76 percent of the farming community belongs to small and marginal category with land holding ranging from one acre to two acres.  Several farmers depend on vegetable cultivation for their livelihoods.

Majority of the farmers grow vegetables as a commercial crop.They generally grow crops such as tomato, beans, brinjal, ladyfinger, potato, chillies, cauli flower and leafy vegetables. As farmers grow for markets, the cultivation is intensive involving high usage of  chemical fertilizers, pesticides and weedicides, resulting in higher production costs. Farmers are not aware of organic practices and do not follow any resource conservation techniques like soil and water conservation. Also, they lack timely guidance on improved practices and there is no platform for exchange of knowledge and learnings from each other.

Avishkar, a development organization has been working in this area since 2011. Focus of its activities has been on women empowerment, village level institutions and agriculture development activities. Avishkar has promoted around 157 SHGs and 20 Farmer Clubs in Tumkur and Koratagere taluks.

In 2017, Avishkar with the support of Save Indian Farmers,USA,promoted SIF-Organic farming project to encourage organic farming practices in the region. It supported 15 farmers during 2017-18 and 17 farmers during 2018-19 through various activities.

Farmers meet every month to discuss about organic farming issues

Two to three farmers from each village, interested in organic farming, were selected during the village meetings. Baseline data of these farmers was collected.Farmers were trained on organic farming practices. Exposure visits were arranged to successful organic farms. Farmers visited Shri Narayanareddy farm, Doddaballapura and Shri Kodipapanna farm, Hunsur Mysore district and BAIF, Tiptur.

Demonstrations were organized for promoting various organic practices, like vermicomposting and tree based farming systems. Initially, demonstrations on organic farming were taken up in 10 to 15 guntas, growing vegetables such as beans, brinjal, tomato and leafy vegetables.Use of enriched compost, application of jeevamrutha, Vermi wash, neem cake, and drenching of AMC (Arka Microbial Consortium), trichoderma, neem soap, neem oil and dasaparni were promoted. Hands on training was organized for preparation of jeevamrutha, dasaparni  and enriched compost.

Farmers’ fields are rich in earthworm population owing to application of vermicompost.

A number of innovative technologies related to organic farming were also suggested to the  farmers during the monthly meetings in the respective villages. KVK, Hirehalli and other horticulture expertsprovided the technical support.

 Farmers got support to establish vermicomposting unit, drums for preparation of plant based pesticides, solar traps, exposure and training.  Farmers were also provided with 40- 50 fruit plants and 70-80 forestry plants per acre.  Fodder species like sesbania and hemata were promoted all along the field bunds. Fruit trees and forestry species were planted all along the farm bunds and on the cropping land. Multiple cropping and crop rotations were also adopted in the cropping lands of the participants.

Results

Each farmer has cultivated vegetables in one acre each.Farmers have grown brinjal, ridge gourd, bitter gourd, tomato and beans.

Cultivation Practices Technology adoption by the farmers 
Soil and moisture conservation Soil and water management practices
 

Tree based farming

Farmers slowly understood importance of tree based farming, they are planting mixed forestry trees and horticulture plants
Seed treatment Treated with Arka microbial consortium (AMC), Trichoderma Viride and Beejamrutha.
Sowing and planting Used young seedlings, provided wide spacing, mechanical control of weeds
Soil fertility enhancement Vermicompost manure, Farm Yard Manure (FYM), enriched compost, neem cake,  Jeevamrutha , bio-fertilizers and organic manures
Pest and diseases management Use of bio-control agents and bio-pesticides

Farmers have realized the importance of soil fertility enhancement through application of enriched compost, liquid fertilizer (Jeevamrutha), green manuring and vermicompost. They have adopted seed production, seed treatment, vermicompost, application of Jeevamrutha, mulching and organic vegetable cultivation practices promptly.

Five farmers are producing vermi-compost manure.  Farmers’ fields are rich in earthworm population owing to application of vermicompost.

Green manuring with seeds of horse gram, cowpea and application of neem cake and Jeevamrutha is being practiced by all the project farmers.  This has helped to improve the soil fertility and soil organic carbon. Farmers express that the soil quality has improved. Shri Venkatesh from Alumardapalya village shared that the quality of soil has improved- soil has become soft and there is better water holding capacity.

Farmers gained knowledge in different mixed cropping systems instead of mono cropping. Crop rotation is in practice in the project area.Eco friendly production practices through IPM and INM practices were adopted, which have helped in reducing the production cost. Shifting to ecological alternatives has resulted in reduced application of chemical fertilizers, thereby reducing the amount of nitrates released into the atmosphere- one of the GHG responsible for global warming.

Chikkanagaiah is a small farmer living in Durgadahalli village in Tumkur district. He has two acres.He grows vegetables and other crops. Since his land is rainfed, he was not getting much yield because of frequent droughts.  The bore well in his land was not supplying water to the entire field since the groundwater level had gone down in the recent years.

Chikkanagaiah participated in the training and exposure visit actively organized by AVISHKAR under SIF-organic farming project.  He has cultivated leafy vegetables, beans, tomato and chilly and other creepers for home consumption. He also grew beans, tomato and brinjal, following organic practices, for the market. He sells his vegetables in Farmers organic vegetable market in Tumkur every Sunday. On an average, the family earns Rs.25000/- to Rs.30000/- net profit per year.  “Every week, I earn Rs. 1000”,says Chikkanagaiah happily.

He planted 60 lemon, 30 Moringa and 50 Meliadubia plants on his farm. All the plants have survived with good growth.  He was motivated and purchased another 50lemon plantson his own and planted at distance of 15 feet each.  Presently, plenty of fodder is available from the Sesbania fodder plants and providing fodder for livestock. In order to make better use of Sesbania fodder in his land, he has purchased two goats.  His wife, who was earlier working as a daily wage laborer in nearby villages has now given up the job and is involved in agriculture as a full time farm woman.

The sustainability of present agriculture system was enhanced through integration of tree component- called tree based farming system.  Forestry species, fruit species and fodder cultivation have increased the plant diversity of the selected farmers.  They will serve demonstrations for other farmers in the coming days.

Pruthvi organic forum has been formed. Farmers meet once a month and discuss about organic farming issues in the meetings. KVK scientists, progressive organic farmers and agriculture department staff are also invited for the meetings. Presently, there are plans to convert this forum into Organic Farmers Producer Company, the registration of which is under process. The FPO will ensure better marketing, as presently the produce is being sold in Tumkur organic outlets and selling at Farmers organic vegetable market in Tumkur every Sunday. There are also plans to open an organic outlet at Tumkur to facilitate the sale of organic vegetables and other produce.

Though there are instances of crop loss due to organic methods with few farmers, the interest of the farmers has been maintained at high level through continuous personal interactions, motivation and guidance from agriculture institutions.  In a period of 4-5 years, dry lands under the project villages will become diversified farms with increased food security, fodder availability and resilience to impacts of climate change.

 

A.Anandakumar

Project Director, AVISHKAR, Tumkur

Karnataka

Email: avishkar2004@gmail.com