Conversations With A ZBNF Farmer

Driven in a white-coloured Volkswagen Polo you would expect an early thirties techie to play Bruno Mars, Adele or maybe Mika, if you’re  a Bollywood follower, but you’re in for a surprise as you catch a reedy voice talking about farming in an earthy Marathi. Yes, Sujay Gawand plays Padmashri recipient Subhash Palekar’s lectures on Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) as we do the two-and-half-hour long drive to his family’s farm in Murbad from Powai.

We leave behind villages named Saralgaon (the village of simple-minded folks), Tokawade (rhymes with takeaway) to reach Pendhari on the NH 222 after we have had spicy vada-pao and washed it down with jeera drink in a roadside restaurant which dots the roadsides claiming to offer you umpteen variety of dishes but has not been allowed to express their culinary skills beyond missal-pao because no one so far has asked for butter chicken!

Sujay“I have downloaded hours and hours of lectures and hear them often to catch up on the techniques of ZBNF,” says Sujay proudly, who is among the growing breed who either are hobby farmers juggling their jobs and dirtying their hands with soil or those who believe that farming is their alternative calling.  Till recently a whole time techie, Sujay having worked as a software developer in places like Connecticut and Hawai presently works as a freelancer techie and a farmer. “I am seriously into it… 80 percent into farming and the rest as a software developer,” says the man who spends three days in a week in his farm and also moonlights as a software developer for a start-up he and a friend own.

The Gawand family till about 25 years back lived in a wadi in Bhandup. “We had all sort of fruit trees, mango, chickoo, papaya etc. I still remember tasting the latex of papaya out of curiosity and spitting it soon in disgust. Thanks to creeping urbanization my father sold the wadi where now high-rise towers have come up and with the money earned acquired 18 acres in Pendhari village,” he reminiscences.

BananaFew kilometres away from Malshej ghat, farmers in Pendhari continue to grow paddy in kharif and bhindi (okra), and tur as a fence crop during rabi. Sujay has planted ‘bahuvarshik tur” which is likely to yield tur for a couple of years on 2.5 acres with various intercrops including moong and ginger. The tur plants are between 6 ft to 10 ft fed with jeevamrut and the occasional spray of dashaparni to combat the pest. “The person who sold me the seeds claimed that each plant would yield around 5kgs but I would be happy if it gave 2kgs,” says Sujay who sheds his sneakers for a gumboot as he assumes the avatar of a shetkari. “The locals laughed at me when they came to know that I was growing tur as a crop but now they come to seek my advice.”

This May and June Sujay door-delivered Haphus, Payeri and gaonthi varieties of mangoes to people in the Central suburbs and also to one family in Ville Parle. “Every time I visited my farm I lugged nearly 300 kgs of mangoes in the dickey of my car,” informs Sujay.

In fact, Ghorpade family was fortunate to have the mangoes because Sujay took matters into his hands. As family members rarely visited the farm the caretaker for decades had maintained: Kahi nahi hot. Meaning the trees hardly yielded any fruit.

Like most young urban dweller turned hobby farmer Sujay believes in the motto of share, cooperate and collaborate. Spent time with him he will provide you with hazaar ideas about crops, farming techniques, organic pesticides etc. – techniques which he has either experimented with or acquired from others experiences. Like pooling resources of like-minded farmers to concretise the floor of a local cattle owner and in turn the donor is promised complimentary cans of gomutra. Or acquiring a cow past its prime so that it doesn’t end up in a slaughterhouse. Pointing towards the new guest tethered to a tree Sujay says with pride: “That’s my new possession. Now I need not scout for gobar and gomutra.”

cowIt is always a dream of every farmer to grow paddy and next kharif season Sujay plans to sow the Indrayani variety. Once harvested he plans to leave the stubble so that he can squeeze a second crop the next season.  Being a techie Sujay’s approach to farming is like handling a project: trying to minimize the chances of human errors by researching the crop/fruit he plans to introduce, understanding the suitable weather conditions, interacting with fellow growers, accumulating information from locals etc. However, he is steadfast on the issue of never taking recourse to chemical inputs but find natural means to combat issues. Be it in search of growth promoter, fertiliser or pesticide.

Presently, in the midst of readying his plots for watermelon and pineapple, he says he is still to identify the pineapple variety he plans to zero in. “I will either go for Mauritius or Queen, not the MD2,” says he.

As he leaves me at Tokawade bus stand for a Murbad-bound bus he asks apologetically: “Hope your journey was fruitful?”

Indeed it was: for I was introduced to herbs like Akkalkada (Anacyclus Pyrethrum)—chewing the tiny flower makes the tip of the tongue grow numb for a short while; and Anantmool (Hemidesmus indicus)—the powder of its root used for skin conditions.

For an ignoramus, like me, till very recently they were just weeds.

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‘Nualgi superior, cheaper method to do farming’

Way back in 1993, T. Sampath Kumar, a qualified chartered accountant started a venture to make prawn seeds.  Intrigued, how the marine food chain developed and helped the growth of the fishes in the oceans he identified and cultivated diatoms—a major group of algae which are among the most common types of phytoplankton that provide more than 50% of the marine food chain. Over the next 12 years he relentlessly pursued research on diatoms and finally discovered that the algae produced vast amount of pure oxygen underwater by the process of photosynthesis.

Growing diatom algae in water in large quantities is a difficult proposition. That’s what Nualgi does. Developed by Sampath, Nualgi can grow diatom algae on almost any water substrate be it the sea, high saline water, fresh water, sewage water, effluent water etc.

In 2005, Kumar founded Nualgi Nanobiotech, a Bangalore-based company to manufacture nanotech products for growing diatoms for aquaculture. Nualgi contains trace, special and appropriate nutrients that can deliver in a biologically available form. Upon application to the water body in the presence of macro nutrients, like N, P, K and sunlight, phytoplankton predominately in the form of diatoms, bloom and is soon converted to live food like zooplankton, a source of nutrition to fishes and prawns.

T Sampath Kumar
T Sampath Kumar

Holder of three patents, Sampath’s bouquet of products which are exported to 15 countries include ‘Nualgi Lakes’ used for remediation of polluted water bodies, ‘Nualgi Aqua’ used in fisheries for growth of diatoms and zoo plankton in water bodies serving as food for aquatic animals and ‘Nualgi Foliar Spray’ used for boosting the efficiency of photosynthesis, providing high quality crops with greater yields and importantly doing away with chemical fertlisers and pesticides. Sundayfarmer spoke to T Sampath Kumar (60) on the efficacy of Nualgi Foliar Spray and how it’s likely to revolutionise the way we produce nutrient rich food, sans fertilizers  

What does ‘Nualgi’ stand for? Does the name have any significance?

When we started with the development of the marine food chain we started growth of a new type of algae, called Diatoms. This was a new type of algae. Hence we coined the term Nualgi. It is just a coined term.

foliarspry

How does Nualgi foliar spray work? What’s the science behind it?

Nualgi foliar spray delivers about 12 nutrients loaded on silica in the nano form directly to the chlorophyll of a leaf through the stomata. This package of nutrients helps boost the photosynthesis of a plant. Plants absorb more CO2 and make a liquid carbon pathway that is excreted through the roots to the soil as Oozuates. This helps soil microorganisms grow. They symbiotically deliver all nutrients from the soil and fix nitrogen from the air. This process is termed as Biomining. Instead of nutrients being made in factories outside, the soil microbes are the factories in the soil that deliver all nutrients to the plants.

In what crops has Nualgi been tried and do tell us about the responses from the farmers.

We have tested in all cereals, vegetables, tea, coffee, pepper, cardamom, oil seeds and horticulture crops. In fact, almost all type of crops. The results are very good with yields increasing by 20% to 100%, reduction of time of growth by 20% and better quality of crops. There are plenty of farmers in Hasan and Ramnagara districts of Karnataka who can vouch for our method.

When should the Nualgi foliar spray be used and how many times in a fruit/ vegetable crops?

For field crops 3 to 4 times spraying in the early morning on both sides of the leaves is recommended. For vegetables spraying time is reduced to 8-15 days. For horticulture crops we recommend 4to 5 times a year.

How does Nualgi impact the soil?

The liquid carbon pathway developed by using Nualgi helps soil regain their carbon contents. This helps in soil microbial growth and fertility. If no chemicals and fertilizers are added, the soil becomes more and more productive and fertile.

Do you see a future when farmers will stop using chemical fertilisers and pesticides all together?

Nualgi farming is economical and gives high yields. Farmers would definitely adopt this and stop using chemical fertilizers. Our process improves profitability of farming. The environment is saved too. As the benefits are established, even the governments will have to relook its fertiliser policy.

Organic farming which uses methods, like amrutjal and amritmiiti, popularised by Natueco, is considered very resource intensive as one needs plenty of biomass which is a deterring factor. Nualgi can be a boon for farmers who want to say ‘no to fertilisers’. In fact,  it’s an organic way of farming. Comment

Nualgi is a far superior and cheaper method to do farming as compared to other methods. We do not have any objections to people using other methods also in conjunction with ours.  Progressively farmers will realize that our method is far more efficient, yields higher quality of crops at a very nominal cost and without altering the soil biology.

For more view https://youtu.be/UFFSKgo56qo

Learning from folk wisdom

KS, my friend of two decades, an original inhabitant of Tikamgarh in Madhya Pradesh, was the one who introduced me to Ghagh. ‘His proverbs are still popular among old timers,’ he told me. and went on to give me some examples.

Weather forecasts, predictions of rain, use of  organic fertlisers in farming, behaviour of birds/cattle/insects prior to rain, interpreting the signs of the seasons, folk perceptions of astronomy and other facets of environmental knowledge systems are interwoven inseparably with everyday peasant life in the world of Gagh-Bhaddar proverbs or Dak vachan. These vachans have been in circulation in the region of north eastern part of Bihar, popularly known as ‘Mithila’, since 14th-15th century A.D.

These proverbs and folk sayings have been preserved and passed down from generation to generation in oral tradition and show that the same kernel of wisdom may be gleaned under different cultural conditions and languages.

With time these proverbs, constituting a domain of ‘rustic wisdom’, have been found in languages like Bangla, Awadhi, Kannaujia etc.

Who was Dak? Interestingly, no one has been able to identify him but the consensus is that he was a Maithil Brahmin. Dak studied the heavenly bodies, the change of seasons beside being gifted observer of nature and human beings too.

The first Maithili compilation of these sayings is Kapileshwar Jha’s Dakvachanamrit published from Darbhanga, Bihar in 1905.

In 1931, Ram Naresh Tripathi brought out the most comprehensive collection of these sayings. Writes Sadan Jha in Many Worlds of Dak Vachan: Proverbial Knowledge and the History of Rain and Weather , published by Surat-based Centre for Social Studies that Tripathi “… with an objective to revive the agrarian condition, he travelled across the country, collected sayings personally or received entries by post, searched for them in the library and also wished that the Government had paid some attention to the peasant’s knowledge of rain by establishing a separate department to maintain an account of the environment of Paus and Magh.”

Reading Dak Vachan in the 21st century can be really instructive for those who practice organic farming or those intending to do non-chemical farming. The principles and methods of farming continue to remain the same: don’t harm the Earth for profit or greed.

Here is a selection of some vachan’s:

On rain

Phagu karaai, chait chuk, kirttik nattahi taar,

Swati nattahi makh til, kahi gae Daak Goar.

“If it rains in the month of Phagun (February-March) urid is spoilt; if in the month of Chait (March-April) lemons; if in the asterism of Krittika (about middle of May) the toddy palms; and if in that of Swati (latter part of October) beans and sesame; says Dak, the Gowaala.

Shukrabar ki badri, rahi shanichar Chay,

To youn bhakhaey bhaddari, bin barse na jay.

If the clouds which had appeared on Friday continue to be present on Saturday, says Bhaddari that there is likelihood of a heavy downpour.

Aage ravi peeche chale, mangal jo ashad,

Toh barseanmol hi prthvi anandayee bar.

If in the month of ashadh Mars follows the Sun it will result in good rains resulting in joyous celebrations.

Jo badri badar ma khamse,

Kahin bhaddari pani barseey.

Says Bhaddari if one bunch of cloud breaches the other it’s likely to rain.

On distancing the crop

Kark Buwaee Kakri, Singh abolo jai,

Aesa bole bhaddari, keeda phir khaye

Sowing cucumber during the period of zodiac sign of cancer rather than during Leo, says Bhaddari, the crop will repeatedly by attacked by pests.

Gajar, ganji muri, Teeneu boway doori

Radish, sweet potato and carrot should be sown at a distance.

On oxen behaviour

Pariba bahe dhurandhar, chhati aathain har jay,

Chaudah chauthi amabaas, ayalo har bithaaya,

Barda mute khet dahay, khasai khet jaun barad paray,

Gora jhar ki mura jhar, taun nahi nik jaun khasai faar,

Issa tutai sun ho kor, laagan tutai barad le chor,

Jua tutai ta subh hoya, ‘dak’ kahaichhathi nischint soya,

Khur singh samati liya, bahu sukh kari manahi diya.

Related to a ritual known as har thaadh karab (meaning placing the plough in standing position; thaad in Maithili also means putting to rest or break in motion) symbolically marking the commencement of the agricultural season and the day falls on magh sudhi shir panchami (which is normally in mid January). On this day, plough and oxen are taken inside the inner-courtyard (angan) and un-husked rice discharged over it. Following this ritual plough along with oxen are blessed (chumaun) and considered ready for the agrarian task. During this ritual if the ox urinates then the field is likely to be devastated by floods. If it drops poos (cowdung) then there is likelihood of a low yield. If its feet or ears itch or it drops on the ground—these are ominous signs of bad times ahead. Dak says if it scatters the soil here around with its horns or toes then the house keeper will have a pleasant time tending to the fields.

On easterly wind

Purwa par jaun pachhwa bahai, bihansi ranr bat karai,

Eh donon ke ihai bichar u barsai i karai bhatar.

If the west wind blows during purwai (easterly) and if a widow chats

and smiles, one may surmise that in the former case it will lead to a downpour and in the latter the widow may get married soon.

On organic farming

Jekar khet parrey na gobar,

Unhi kisan ko jano dubar.

The farmer who can’t afford to use cow dung in his fields is considered a poor farmer.

Wohi kisanon mein hai pura. Jo chodey haddi ka chura

The one who uses bone and flesh meal in his fields can be regarded as a genuine farmer.

Gobar mael neem ki khali. Inse kheti dooni phalli.

Using cow dung, farmyard manure and neem kernel waste is likely to result in more yields.

On mulching

Gobar maela pati sadey. Tab kheti mein dana parrey.

When cow dung, farm yard manure and leaf litter decompose it gives a good yield.

…………………

Proverbs courtesy Gagh Aur Bhaddari ki Kahavaten (Dak Vachan), Edited by Devnarayan Diwedi, Diamond Books; and Many Worlds of Dak Vachan: Proverbial Knowledge and the History of Rain and Weather by Sadan Jha, Centre for Social Studies.

Ends

Terdal’s Banana Bounty

Terdal (16.5°N 75.05°E.) is a bustling municipal town of 30,000 residents in Jamkhandi taluka of Karnataka’s Bagalkot district. Lying on the Jamkhandi- Miraj road on National Highway 53, it’s one of the many so-called towns—a hybrid made up of a village and a wannabe town—one comes travelling on the highway. There no malls or multiplex here. Yes, it does boast of a polytechnic and an Ayurveda college.

If there is anything the town is famous for it’s the Terdal Shree Allamprabhu temple. Try googling “Terdal” and you’re likely to come across scores of entries related to banks IFSC code, Just Dial numbers and the name of the local MLA. The nearest big town is Jamkhandi, 18kms from Terdal while Sangli (Maharashtra) is 80kms away.

Siddappa with nephew Prabhu
Dhareppa with nephew Prabhu

Kitturs of Terdal, a family  of farmers, are writing the bright story of farming. A media which feeds on sensationalism has totally ignored the success stories scripted by the farmers nationwide. The Kitturs are believed to be originally from Kittur in Belgaum—famous for Rani Chennamma of the State of Kittur (1778–1829) who fought the British East India Company, during which a British Commissioner, St John Thackeray was killed. Prabhu Kittur, Dhareppa’s (23) nephew, is the recipient of Krishi Yuva Samman Farmer of the Year 2015 (Youth) Award, an initiative of the Mahindra Group, for his innovative farming technique of growing tissue culture bananas, using organic methods and drip irrigation. Like most youth of his age Prabhu likes to watch Hindi movies but is not able to string together enough Hindi words to form a sentence unlike his father. “My nephew dropped out of school after seventh standard and has been doing farming since then. He was just six month old when my brother, Siddapa, died” says Dhareppa (46).

The Kittur family owns 19 acres. In one such acre Prabhu planted some 1800 G9 Banana tissue culture saplings in August 2013 and had a bumper crop 67,600kg of bananas. The irrigation was through drip organic fertilizers included vermicompost, Jeevamrut, Panchgavya, goat dung and biogas plant slurry was fed to the crop. The eleven-month crop was harvested in the month of August. In the rest 18 acres, the Kitturs grow vegetables, turmeric, onion, methi, palak etc. “We acquired sapling for Rs 10 each and intercropped it with marigold and chilli which also fetched us a good price,” says Dhareppa who sells the harvest at Terdal market on his own. “Marigold and Chilli gave us an additional Rs 60,000 and that too without any any added expenses.”

A farmer who likes to experiment, Dhareppa who never completed his schooling sells what he calls “organic milk” at a price of Rs 40 a litre. He has installed a biogas plant which takes care of his cooking gas requirement. “I take lot of care of my 15 cows and 10 goats give them proper cattle field,” says he. After having read an article in a local newspaper about scientist Jagdish Chandra Bose’s experiment with plants Dhareppa has been playing music to his cattle and the crops since last ten years. “Between 10pm and 4am every day I play recorded instrumental classical music and have seen an increase in the yields by 10 per cent,” Dhareppa concludes.

NPM Strategies

I came across these following strategies mentioned in a dissertation while browsing and hope this would help my readers.

Nagaraj (1991) substituted N:P:K with compost from cow dung, grass and dry leaves. Biospray of neem, glyricidia were successful against pests. Cow’s or ox’s urine spray served as a good source of growth promoter or control of insect and disease. Application of decayed material of glyricidia, touch me not weed, transplanting paddy on full moon day and spraying 10 per cent cow’s urine solution
once in fifteen days helped to get 680 kg of paddy per acre.

Shantimole (1991) reported that Glyricidia was applied for vegetables and good crop was obtained. Similarly dry leaves, crop residues, and cut grass was applied to plant’s base. Mud from forest and tanks were mixed and applied to plants. Neem cake was used for slow wilt of pepper. Mixture of garlic and sesame was used to
control yellow leaf disease of areca.

Vivek and Julie (1991) reported about the use of garlic solution against aphids, fungal and bacterial attack on turmeric. Garlic solution was also successful against cotton and fruit trees curl but growing trap crop was much better. Nutrients were supplied using cow dung, leaf compost, grass crushed and dried sugarcane, glyricidia,
neem leaves, pulse plants and mulch crops such as red gram, horse gram and groundnut. Growing intercrops such as coriander, garlic and onion controlled many insects and diseases.

Baphna (1992) reported that with the use of organic fertilizers such as oil cakes and mulches, the sapota plantation which was very weak due to the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, became healthier.

Gupta (1992) reported the results of experiments conducted by Gangopadhyay and Das on the bacterial leaf blight of rice. Cow dung slurry was found effective in reducing the disease incidence to 20-37 per cent when stale cow dung was used. Disease incidence of only 4.5 per cent was observed when fresh cow dung was used.

Bhaskar and Ashok (1993) found that application of cow dung, poultry manure, home and town compost maintained soil fertility. Weeds were not uprooted as they protected the moisture in the soil by preventing strong sunlight to fall on soil and when decomposed it became additional manure. They reported that pests like spiders, red ants, some birds, etc., did not harm the plants but acted as predators for harmful pests and rodents.

Budathoki (1993) examined that the application of cattle urine in the form of top dressing was a traditional practice used by farmers in Nepal to manure vegetable crops. The diluted solution (1:1) of fresh (preferably 7-10 days old) animal urine was applied at the Rate of 50 ml per plant which was found to be as good as urea or ammonium sulphate application.

Balasubramanian et al. (1995) identified that farmers followed cow dung coating for cotton seeds, soaking sorghum seeds in cow urine, soaking Bengal gram seeds in water and soaking sorghum seeds common salt water. Regarding plant protection measures, cow dung cake was used as burrow fumigant, displaying crow’s carcass for scaring birds and beating empty iron drums to ward off birds.

Gothi (1996) reported the effect of buttermilk on some crops. Buttermilk sprayed on twenty five day old rain fed crop of groundnut resulted in the higher yield of pods and fodder compared to the control. On cotton and sesame crops, it helped to survive the water stress period of 47 days caused by delayed rains.

Ramesh et al. (2007) reported that farmers used FYM as the predominant source of organic manure followed by Narayan Devaraj Pandey (NADEP) compost, biogas slurry, green manure and cow horn manure, bone meal, poultry manure, neem cake and karanjee cake were used as manures from off-farm resources. Spraying of neem oil (32.6%), cow urine (18.4%), and fermented butter milk (16.3%) were the most frequently used methods of pest control by organic farmers.

Rajak (1993) delineated the dysfunctional consequences of pesticide usage such as development of resistance in pests to pesticides, resurgence of pests, elevation in the status of minor pests, harmful pesticides residues, undesirable effects on non target species’, general environmental pollution and ecological imbalance.

Extracts courtesy “Non-Pesticidal Management in Crops: Community Managed Extension, Processes and Impacts” by
Mahesh Malgatti

Worm Friendly

It’s taken me five long years to realize that my farm is truly a haven for earthworms—gentlest of the soil loving insects and a boon to farm owners who believe in the ‘no chemical’ policy. Farmers who think that the soil which gives fruits and vegetables is like their own bodies, not to be tampered by synthetic chemicals.
This Sunday while digging the foot of the coconut palms plant to make place for place nursery grown black pepper climbers I came across earthworms thick as a pencil and measuring around a foot. Thanks to my persistence to use only home-made pesticide and fertiliser it has been possible to get such huge –sized earthworms.
If you too have similar stories, do feel free to share them on this blog.

Going the EM way

It’s about two weeks now since I’ve been using EM at my farm having learnt about its efficacy from users. It’s too early to know the difference it has made. I thought why not share the info about EM with you what this is.

Discovered by Dr Higa of Ryukyus, Okinawa (Japan), EM or Effective Microorganisms is a specific group of naturally occurring beneficial microorganisms with an amazing ability to revive, restore, and preserve. Microorganisms are tiny units of life that are too small to be seen with the naked eye and they exist everywhere . Microorganisms are crucial for maintaining the ecological balance. They carry out chemical processes that make it possible for all other organisms including humans to live. These are friendly guys of the microbial worlds known as beneficial microorganisms and a not so friendly group called pathogens that are harmful and capable of producing disease, decay and pollution.

Effective micro-organisms (EM) consist of common and food-grade aerobic and anaerobic micro-organisms: photosynthetic bacteria, lactobacillus, streptomyces, actinomycetes, yeast, etc. The strains of the micro-organisms are commonly available from microbe banks or from the environment. There are no genetically engineered strains that are in use. EM has been introduced in India very recently and has been in use in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra since couple of years with excellent results. At least that’s what farmers have told.

Current research indicates that EM cultures can suppress soil-borne pathogens, accelerate the decomposition of organic wastes, increase the availability of mineral nutrients and useful organic compounds to plants, enhance the activities of beneficial micro-organisms, e.g., mycorrhizae, nitrogen fixing bacteria, and reduce the need for chemical fertilisers and pesticides. EM helps to increase beneficial soil micro-organisms and suppression of harmful ones.

EM is a combined culture of aerobic microorganisms (requiring oxygen to survive) and anaerobic (requires no oxygen to survive) that co-exist together to the mutual advantage of both (symbiosis). It combines with the existing microorganisms within the soil and works in tandem to build a healthy living soil. A trade mark product used to identify this particular mixture of beneficial organisms, EM is not toxic or pathogenic and is safe for humans, animals and the environment. EM has been used on many different soils and crops over a range of conditions. EM is not a substitute for other management practices. EM technology is an added dimension for optimising our best soil. Marketed by Marble Org India, EM is available in one litre and five litre packaging.

How to make it?

Take a 20ltr bucket and add the following:

  • 18lts Warm water (chlorine free)
  • 150 ml of Natural Vinegar
  • 150ml Whiskey or ethyl alcohol
  • 150 kg of Molasses (Chemical free gur)
  • 1ltr EM liquid concentrate (Rs 285)

Stir thoroughly. Keep the bucket in shade and leave it covered for four days. On the fifth day you will smell a sweet-smelling liquid brown in colour. This mix will make a non-toxic chemical free insect repellent. It can be used to prevent pest and disease problems in the garden. It acts by creating a barrier around the plant thereby protecting it from insects. The mix can be enhanced by including garlic, hot peppers or aloe vera. These are chopped or mashed before adding to the mix.

How to use it?

Pour a ltr of the mix into the farm sprayer along with 14 ltrs of water. Spraying can begin from seed germination or plant establishment and before pests and diseases can be seen. Spray weekly either in the morning or after heavy rains for best results.

As a foliage application apply twice a week spraying directly on to the plants ensuring through wetting. As a soil application spray once in 10 days. As a compost application apply to the compost heap to cut troublesome odours and flies as well as improving the compost process and quality.

Keep reading the posts I shall keep you updated my farm is faring with EM sprays.

Ends

Thanks Darwin

Charles Darwin in his book The Formation of Vegetable Mould, through the Action of Worms, with Observations on Their Habits gave the world its first understanding of the fundamental role of earthworms as geologic agents for the transport of soil- a picture of surface rocks being gradully covered by fine soil brought up from below by the worms, in annual amounts running to many tons to the acre in most favourable areas.  Darwin’s calculations showed that the toil of earthworms might add a layer of soil an inch to an inch and half thick in a ten-year period.

Ever since then farmers world over have domesticated the earthworms-using the crawlies to make vermicompost and reducing their dependence on chemical fertilisers. Congrats to the tribe for it shows they care for the earth. Soon I too will join the tribe.

My compost pit, made of Cuddapah stone slabs, is ready and waiting for its would-be residents. I have made elaborate plans. Beside plant materials I’m going too add crushed eggshells, dust collected from flour mills and tap water (for moisture).

I’m told that it takes nearly three months for the vermicompost to be ready. I raise a toast to Charles Darwin.

Poultry Manure

On my way to my farm I regularly come cross an Emu farm and have always wanted to visit it out of curiosity. But haven’t done it so far because I’m always in a hurry. Either to reach the farm, having kept away for over a week, and on my way back home not wasting a minute so that I can catch  the next local. Having read a report on the benefit of using chicken poo, I intend to visit the farm and shake hands with the Emus! Meanwhile, I have asked my village friends to check out poultry farms in our neighbourhood and their willingness to sell poultry manure.

Why?

Because floriculture and horticultural crops respond well to poultry manure. Crops absorb the nitrogen in poultry manure similar to urea. So they need lower doses and proper irrigation.

Poultry manure is a more concentrated source of crop nutrients, especially NPK and calcium. Being naturally organic, it does not need composting and can be applied directly to the fields from the farm, said Prof. D. Narahari, former Head, Poultry Science, Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, Chennai to The Hindu.

“The fertilizer value of one tonne of dried cage poultry manure is equivalent to 100 kg urea, 150kg super phosphate, 50kg potash, 125kg calcium carbonate, 30 kg sulphur, 12 kg sodium chloride, 10kg magnesium sulphate, 5kg ferrous sulphate, 1kg manganese sulphate, zinc sulphate and other trace minerals each and is available at a cheaper rate than other market available inputs,” explains Prof. Narahari.

Biotech farming

“Biotech products immensely help improve plant conditions”

A weekend farmer I came across a biotech plant growth regulator, Magic Gro, and used the same while planting the sapling and later as a foliar spray. A year later I have found that my plants are much healthier compared to my neighbour’s who planted the saplings almost at the same time. Intrigued, I quizzed Dr Ganesh Kamath of Organica Biotech (www.organicabiotech.com) on Magic Gro which facilitates availability of essential ingredients e.g. vitamins, amino acids, plant growth hormones, micro nutrients, plant stress relievers and essential microbes to improve over all plant conditions.

In what way do biotech products, like yours help in enriching a plant?

We advise the farmer to pre-treat their seeds with biotech products before sowing. Distinct advantage of doing this is that the germination is faster and practically there is 100% seed germination provided the seeds are not damaged physically.  Soil application of biotech products helps in increasing root density, root propagation and also increases the number of white roots and root hairs. Better root structure ensures better assimilation of food and other essential micro nutrients for the plant.  During the flowering and fruiting phase, we advise foliar spray application of biotech products. This helps in improved photosynthetic activity of the leaves, lesser number of flower drops and fruit drops. Every plant has an inherited genetic potential and a good biotech product application will help that plant reach its genetic potential naturally, which effectively is higher yield, better quality of produce and a healthy soil

Chemical-based plant growth promoters are all-pervasive. How are they different from the biotech products?

A chemical based plant growth promoter normally works on one single aspect of the plant cycle, whereas a biotech product will work on the total plant system helping it to achieve same or even better results as compared to a chemical plant growth promoter minus the side effects on the soil or the overall plant growth system.

Are biotech products necessary for fruit giving plants, crops etc? If yes, why?

Yes, in fact biotech products are very important for a fruit giving plants and crops.  Previously a farmer’s concentration would always be around achieving higher yield of their final produce but in recent times more and more farmers are looking to improve their quality of the final produce. Today the farmer knows that having good yield is not enough but also having high quality of their final produce with lower chemical residues is important too. In today’s time having a high quality produce with a longer shelf life ensures them better compensation.  A good biotech product plays a very important role in achieving and maintaining the quality of the fruiting plants and crops.

Are farmers aware of the benefits of biotech products?

The new breed of farmers are slowly getting aware of the benefits of an effective biotech product. But in reality much more has to be done in terms of educating the farmers about the benefits, especially the illiterate farmers.  There is also a problem of several “snake oil” type of products which are sub-standard and low on functionality which are being sold in the market that make the job of education more difficult.

Is cost, between chemical and biotech products, a deterring fact  for farmers to switch over?

Most farmers calculate the cost of a product by the price per bottle/pack. But it is very important the farmers start calculating the cost of a product in terms of number of applications and the area covered per application. For eg. price of an effective biotech product could be Rs. 500 per pack while the price of a chemical PGR could be Rs. 200 per bottle. In the first case you need to use only two packs per crop cycle i.e. Rs. 1000 in total whereas in the latter case you are required to use ten bottles for the same area per crop cycle ie. Rs. 2000 in total.  There are other benefits of using biotech products viz. less chemical residue in soil, lesser pest attacks, safer for the consumers etc.

Biotech growth promoters like Magic Gro have been around since how long? Who are the other players besides you in the Indian market?

Biological growth promoters have been here since last four decades. Many agriculture universities used to provide the microbial culture like Nitrogen Fixing Bacteria and later Phosphate Solubilizing Bacteria and Rhizobium in small plastic packs to the farmers.  The problem was that the results of such applications were highly variable.  Even today, some of the microbial culture products give favourable results only when the environmental conditions are specific. Scientists have discovered many more natural, safe and powerful organisms which can perform exceedingly well in terms of overall plant growth. The market is flooded with many biotech products, but sadly over 95% of them are low on functionality.  People fail to understand that coming out with a biotech product is not easy and requires a lot of R&D strength.

Vermicompost or biotech products. How are they different?

It is like comparing apples to oranges.  Vermicompost is a fertilizer which is organic in nature whereas a biotech product is not a fertilizer. People try to confuse the market; just because vermicompost or any other compost has some organism does not mean it is a biotech product. But when you mix a specific high functionality biotech product in vermicompost then yes, it can be called a “biotech grade vermicompost”. Vermicompost can be used to replace or reduce chemical fertilizers.

Tell us more about Magic Gro users in India and elsewhere.

We have users located in different climatic and environmental conditions in India and abroad. Many grape growers in and around Sangli are using our product for their vineyards. The average cost for treating an acre of a vineyard with our biotech product is around Rs. 2800 per season and the average extra profits which the farmer gets are to the tune of Rs. 30,000. Many potato growers are using our biotech product for blight problems. The average yield goes up by 28%. The sugarcane farmers can recover the cost of our biotech product within the first one month of seed sowing. The sugarcane seeds are dipped in our product solution and then sowed which helps in complete and faster germination. Average yield goes up by 10 to 40 tons per acre. Onion growers use our product for a very distinct advantage which is longer shelf life of the final produce and the complex aroma of the onion which is missing nowadays.