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Sustaining agroecological farming practices – Need for support

M.N.Kulkarni

There is an encouraging trend in farmers returning back to traditional practices, that are eco-friendly which provide sustainable production. There is a great need and urgency for spreading the knowledge and providing adequate support if farmers have to switch to agroecological farming on a large scale.


Coconut fronds are chopped and applied to orchards

Traditional practices are still relevant today.  They are the backbone of small and marginal farmers. Switching over to modern practices, many farmers have stopped adopting traditional practices.  However, some farmers are still continuing to adopt these practices. Also, with  increasing focus on organic farming, one can hope that these traditional practices of resource management regain their importance.

Application of Farm Yard Manure, a traditional practice is being adopted with value addition. FYM is converted into enriched compost by adding compost culture, rock phosphate or through Nadep method. Earlier, in northern parts of Karnataka, cattle urine was collected and poured into the manure pit, enriching the manure. Today, this practice is fast disappearing.

There are some efforts by the mainstream agencies in reviving and promoting traditional organic practices. For example, Government of Karnataka through its organic farming project promoted preparation of enriched compost by providing compost culture. Farmers were also trained to prepare organic urea by mixing sand with cattle urine. Shri. K.R.Rajashekharaiah, an innovative farmer of Koragere village, Chikkanayakanahalli taluka, mixes cattle urine with ash and uses it as manure.  He has noticed good results.

There are several other practices that are useful but not being practiced. For example, application of tank silt which increased the water holding capacity of soils; winter ploughing which helped in incorporating crop residues and weeds into the soil, sheep penning etc. Sheep penning, however, is still prevailing in traditional sheep rearing regions.  In very few places, we can see cattle penning (Raichur district) and donkey penning, (Tumkur and Arasikere). Large quantity of dung and urine get recycled back to soil which otherwise would have gone waste.

With growing awareness farmers have started to chop the coconut fronds into small pieces and put them back to soil.

Resource Recycling

In the context of climate change and raising cost of inputs, recycling of resources is gaining much significance. One can see a lot of awareness among farmers on the proper use of crop residues, manure, cattle urine etc. Around a decade back, one could see burning of crop residues in farmlands.  This was very common scenario in sugarcane growing regions like Belagavi, Bagalkote, Mysore etc. Now, farmers have understood the nutrient value of crop residues and converting them into manures, so that nutrients are recycled back to soil.

Once the crop residue goes out of a farm or burnt, nutrients in them are gone forever. Earlier, in coconut belts such as Tumkur, Hassan, Mandya, Chikkamagalore etc, farmers used to sell coconut fronds at cheaper rates, thus losing the nutrients.  With growing awareness, farmers have started to chop the fronds into small pieces and put back to soil.  Professor Nanjundappa  (Tiptur, Tumkur district) an educationist turned organic farmer, chops the coconut fronds into small pieces using a chopping equipment and applies them to the orchard.  He is also engaged in creating awareness on zero cultivation and recycling of resources, since ten years.

Ravikumar grows fodder to feed his farm animals

Similarly, nothing goes out of the farm of Sri. Malleshappa Hakkalada, a small farmer residing at Kamplikoppa village, Dharwad district.  He has adopted tree based farming and is cultivating fodder on bunds. All the crop residues are converted into compost and applied back to farm.  Leaf litters of fruit trees are mulched back into the basins. He also has four dairy animals.  This has helped him to adopt biogas unit with the support from local gram panchayat. Fodder is fed to animals. In turn, dung is produced and fed to biogas unit, slurry from the biogas unit goes back to FYM pit and then to the field. “Only grains, milk and fodder root slips go out of my farm” says Malleshappa.

“My dependency on external resources is very less. I have chaff cutter and use the fodder efficiently and apply waste decomposer for FYM pit.” asserts Mr. Ravikumar, a small farmer at Sagaram village, Madugala Mandal, Vizag district, Andhra Pradesh.  He has seven cows and two buffaloes.  He is growing fodder on one acre.  About eight tons of farm yard manure produced in his farm is applied for growing crops.  He uses waste decomposer, adopts azolla cultivation for efficient recycling of resources. Ravikumar has adopted multiple cropping system in his seven acre farm with Guava, coconut, banana, paddy and fodder cultivation.

Way forward

Agro ecological farming is still seen in pockets. For efficient recycling, at least one dairy animal, few small ruminants (goat/sheep), fodder, tree fodder on the bunds and converting crop residues into compost are required.  Many external agencies do encourage and promote alternative methods, but they get limited to the project requirements and project periods. For example, NABARD in its initiatives on climate proofing of watersheds, focused on efficient recycling of resources through green manuring, silt application, deep ploughing and vermicomposting. The Department of Agriculture and KVKs promote value addition to FYM by supplying compost culture for preparation of enriched compost. Therefore, there is a great need and urgency in spreading the knowledge on a larger scale. Also, adequate support needs to be provided if farmers have to switch over to agroecological farming.

 

M N Kulkarni 

Addl Chief Programme Executive

BAIF Institute for Sustainable Livelihoods and Development

C/O: TRICOR,

Koneru Lakshmaiah Street

Mogalarajpuram

Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh

Email: mnkulkarni65@gmail.com