A green twist to paddy cultivation

A green twist to paddy cultivation

A green twist to paddy cultivation

Farmers in Davangere and Shivamogga have opted for green manure plants to improve soil fertility and decrease cultivation costs, writes Anitha Pailoor.

Dakshayanamma, a farmer in Kumbaluru in Harihar taluk in Davangere cannot remember a time when she had such a good crop, that too with such a low input. The beaming smile on her face reflects the mood of paddy growers in the region. Hundreds of farmers in Davangere district are delighted after reaping good harvest with reduced inputs. A change in the cultivation practices has been observed in about 1,000 acres of paddy field in the district, thanks to the use of legumes and other green manure plants. Green manure had earlier lost the battle to chemical fertilisers but is now being brought back in a huge fashion.

A good start

Take the example of farmers of Kumbaluru village. Six years back, they were lining up in front of the agriculture department demanding fertilisers. It was Anjaneya, a farmer with unbound enthusiasm, who decided to tread an untrodden path – organic farming. Persistent health problems, particularly asthma, had bereaved his spirit. Continuous use of fertilisers had made the soil in his field, hard and unyielding. That was when he learnt about the success tasted by BN Nandeesh, a young farmer in Shikaripura taluk in Shivamogga district, who integrated legumes in paddy cultivation.

In 2008, Anjaneya introduced legumes to his three and a half acre paddy field. The effect was visible in a span of two years – yield had almost doubled. “These green manure crops have conditioned the poor quality soil of my field,” he says. Looking at the robust growth of the crop and its acquired resistance to pests and diseases, fellow members of Sharanamuddanna Organic Farmers Group in the village decided to follow the same practice.

The year 2011 saw 10-15 farmers opting for green manuring, covering an area of 35 acres. In the next two years, green manure cultivated area increased from 150 to 300 acres. In the meantime, this practice also spread to the neighbouring Nittur village. In 2014, 1000 acres of Kumbalur and 350 acres of Nittur started to reap the benefits of green manuring.

Nourishing the soil

Green manure has proved highly effective for plantation crops. But the journey hasn’t been easy. Skeptical farmers took time to gain the confidence to use green manure in their fields. But looking at the reduced costs of production and the less dependency on labour, they are now comfortable with the green method. Green manuring reduces the growth of weeds, infestation of diseases, all the while enhancing the organic component of the soil. What more, it also increases the microbial activity of the soil, increases the water-holding capacity and reduces the salinity.  

Some of the popular green manure pulses of this region are sunhemp, dhaincha and pulses . Sunhemp is drought resistant while daincha withstands water logging and cattle as they don’t enjoy feeding on this plant. Velvet beans and cowpea are nitrogen-fixing plants, offering good biomass, while niger and horse gram,  offer good fodder and biomass.

The seeds are sown in May just before the monsoon commences. Pre-monsoon showers help in seed germination and speedy growth. About one and a half months later, just before they start flowering, these tender plants are ploughed back into the soil using a tractor cagewheel, making way for paddy cultivation.

The agriculture department and Taralabalu Krishi Vignana Kendra, Davangere are doing their bit by organising various awareness programmes. The department has also been providing seeds at a subsidised rate. Anjaneya specifically recollects the support offered by RG Gollar, former Joint Director of Agriculture at Davangere Agriculture Department, who instilled confidence in many farmers.

In fact, Gollar had seen the promise in green manure way back in the 90s when he was working in Shivamogga Agriculture Department. “Then the department went about advertising the ingenious methods to the farmers. Farmers of Anjanapura in Shikaripura taluk were the first to opt for legume farming on a large scale. Later, many villages in Shivamogga and Bhadravathi followed in their footsteps,” Gollar recalls. He opines that green manuring is suitable for all agro-climatic regions of the state and useful for all crops.

Inspired by the success of Kumabaluru and Nittur, farmers of Jigali, Malebennur and Malavatta also opted for green manuring in 2014. The same year, the agriculture department sold seeds to the tune of 12 tonnes, a steep increase from the previous year’s figure of four quintals.

V Sadashiva, Joint Director of Agriculture, Davangere Agriculture Department points to the increased awareness about organic inputs and decrease in the cattle population as the major reasons for the present trend. He feels that inspired farmers like Anjaneya of Sharanamuddanna Organic Farmers Group have helped to accelerate the process. 

“Green manure helps us to produce crops in a manner that is economically profitable, environmentally acceptable, and sustainable. Even chemical farmers have reduced use of chemicals by one third,” says Chandrashekhar, another farmer from the village. He has been using green manure for the past three years.

After lengthy queues for fertilisers and pesticides, agriculture department is now witnessing a spur in the demand for seeds of green manure.

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