Rajasthan farmers find grass is greener on their side

Rajasthan farmers find grass is greener on their side

The state has vast tracts of desert and nearly three-fifth of the area is covered by the Thar desert, also known as Great Indian Desert. Though it does not have large tracts of land available for cultivation, agriculture continues to be biggest source of livelihood followed by dairy as the state has to its credit to the largest livestock population in the country.

But due to difficult climatic conditions and shrinking grazing land, green fodder for livestock is in short supply, affecting output. This compelled the farmers in Shyorana village in Bharatpur district to look for new methods.

They developed a lucrative agriculture business model out of fodder cultivation.   The annual leguminous fodder crop, berseem, has worked wonders at Shyora­na situated in Sewar Panchayat Samiti of Bharatpur district by bringing the nondescript small village of only 90 households, to prominence in Rajasthan as a hub of green fodder production. The fodder for milch animals and its seeds are supplied from Shyorana throughout the district, bringing prosperity to the farmers.

Tractor trolleys with berseem from Shyorana can be seen travelling daily on the main road leading to Bharatpur, where it is sold in large quantities.

Several positive factors such as wide adaptation by farmers, high quality, good nutritive and digestive value coupled with multi-cut nature and high production have made berseem an the ideal species for supplementing the nutritional requirement of the cattle in the region.

Thanks to a supportive intervention made by the Lupin Human Welfare and Research Foundation, berseem, botanically termed as Trifolium alexandrinum, is
today grown in agricultural fields measuring 300 bighas in Shyorana, fetching an annual income of Rs 25 lakh to Rs 30 lakh to the local farmers. Besides, its seeds earn  Rs 10 lakh to Rs 15 lakh annually.

Lupin HW&R Foundation Exectuvie Director Sita Ram Gupta said that his
corporate social responsibility organisation began encouraging the agriculturists in Shyorana to take up berseem farming about eight years ago, in view of the
helpful soil and environmental conditions. The Foundation helped the farmers in getting loans on easy terms for purchasing seeds and agricultural inputs.

“From the modest farming of berseem for feeding their own cattle, the farmers today have reached a stage when they are earning huge profits from the sale of their produce and have also established as many as 17 model dairies with 10 buffal­oes of the improved Murra breed. From these dairies, 1,000 to 1,500 litres of milk is being supplied to the market everyday,” he said.

Gupta said that berseem is grown every year in October-end and its first harvest is obtained by November-end. From then onwards, berseeem is obtained at multiple times from the fields and sold in the markets throughout the winter season. When the crop matures in the beginning of summer, the farmers stop cutting it and wait for its seeds.  They are sold at  Rs 100 to Rs 125 per kg.

Even the first harvest of berseem provides about 20 quintals of green fodder from a single field, fetching the monetary returns of Rs 10,000 to Rs 12,000 easily in the market. The output

increases by 20 per cent during the second harvest  of the crop because of good quality of soil and availability of clean water.  Farmers who have good irrigation facilities get up to five harvests, claimed Gupta.

The production stabilises during third and fourth crop-cutting. At the end of the crop season, farmers get about 160 kg of seeds from one bigha of land. Gupta affirmed that berseem has an edge over other fodders in view of the fact that it supplies abundant nutritious green fodder. The merit of the crop lies in its
multi-cut nature, long duration of green fodder availability, high green fodder yield, good forage quality, high digestibility and high palatability results in significant
increase in milk production. Berseem is known as milk multiplier.

Moderately cool climate is good for the growth of berseem and it grows well on differentf soils from medium to heavy loam. It possesses moderate tolerance for salinity and can be used for reclamation of saline land. It has also been advocated as the most economical way to bring saline land into use.

The Shyorana farmers have also reali­sed the significance of nutritive value of berseem and are successfully utilising this quality for the dairy activities. In the 17 model dairies established in the village, modern techniques are used for taking care of the cattle, sprinklers have been installed for bathing of buffaloes and a biogas plant has been established for preparing porridge as the animal feed.

Giving berseem as the fodder to the cattle has nearly doubled the milk production from these dairies. Farmers are growing berseem at least once in two years to improve soil productivity and reclaim the saline land. Farmers such as Chakradhar Singh, Tejpal Singh and Mohan Singh have started berseem farming on a commercial scale and installed machines in Bharatpur for cutting the green fodder.

Gupta said that apart from supplying protein, calcium, phosphorus and other minerals, berseem enriches the fertility of the soil and improves its productivity. It results in the economy of nitrogenous fertiliser in the next crop. In view of these positive factors, berseem farming has been taken up in half-a-dozen nearby
villages such as Sukhawali and Kumhan and the farmers there prefer to purchase seeds from Shyorana.

The transformation is visible in the improved standards of life of the local farmers. Big houses have replaced the old and ramshackle mud huts and farmers’ children have started getting higher and technical education in Bharatpur and other big cities.

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