Harnessing sun hemp

Scarcity of chemical compost is not a matter of concern for Nandakumar Bujjanakeri of Munnolli in Gulbarga district. Nor is he interested in knowing the price of chemical fertilisers. In fact, he stopped using chemical fertilisers two years ago. Yet another farmer, Shrimanth Chincholi, also follows the same method. On the one hand, the prices of chemical fertilisers are increasing every year and on the other hand, there is a scarcity of the same. Farmers are in search of alternatives. One of the ways employed is the use of green manure. Sun hemp is a crucial green manure. It belongs to the leguminosae family, with the scientific name  crotolaria juncea. You can spot farmers who make ropes using sun hemp plants.

Two years ago, the Agriculture Department selected Yelheri in Yadgir district to implement the Organic Village Scheme and the responsibility for the same was given to Bayalu Seeme Rural Development Samsthe (BSRDS) of Gulbarga. The main purpose of this scheme was to promote chemical-free agriculture. “Sun hemp is one of the best alternatives. Initially, farmers doubted whether the scheme would be successful or not,” recalls BSRDS Director Subbanna Biradar.

Because sun hemp does not require too much water, two to four spells of rain are sufficient. After 60 days, ie during the flowering stage, the entire crop should be cut and mixed in the soil, enriching it. After this, different crops can be grown on the same field. “Subsequently I cut and mixed sun hemp, and the soil turned fertile. We managed to get a good yield of sunflower, jowar and safflower. Compared to chemical farming, this method saves a lot of money,” says farmer Mallinath Siragure of this village. The amount of sun hemp seeds required for an acre of land is only 20 kg and it may be sown in the scattering or single line method. As soon as the crop reaches flowering stage, all plants must be crushed with a tiller and mixed with the soil.

“In an acre, the quantity of green manure thus produced would be around 10 tons. Calculate the amount if one had to buy chemical fertilisers!” exclaims field assistant in BSRDS Siddharam Kulkarni.

The Agriculture Department is now popularising this method among farmers. In many villages, it has distributed seeds and encouraged production of green manure.
Shanthabai Malipatil, a farmer of Kusanur in Gulbarga taluk, has sown sun hemp on her four acres of land before opting for rabi crops.

Plants like sun hemp absorb nitrogen and store it in their roots. If these roots are mulched, fertility of soil increases. Some farmers are using this crop as ‘trap crop’ as part of the mixed cropping pattern. The sun hemp leaves attract insects and protect the main crop. “Farmers should come forward to make use of sun hemp as an eco friendly method.

We have already given enough seeds to farmers and many of them had succeeded in getting good yield,” points out Chandrakant Jeevanagi, Assistant Director of Agriculture.