Published on 10/05/2011
First Update 27/03/2017
The main objective of technology based agriculture must be to reduce the input costs for small and marginal farmers and at the same time increase the yield.
Agriculture scientists would like the farmers to realise that reduction of chemical based fertilizers and pesticides can benefit both man and earth over the long run, and in particular for farmers, as a major portion of whose money is spent on buying these chemicals.
Value of waste
The focus, they believe must shift to educating farmers on the value of waste matter being generated in both their fields and homes and the technology to convert these waste into wealth. Their farm economics will definitely improve if they realise and adopt this.
It is precisely on these lines that scientists at the Myrada Krishi Vigyan Kendra at Gobichettipalayam, in Erode, Tamil Nadu have been working for the past several years in implementing a project called IFD (Integrated farm development model). Also called as LESA (Low External Input Sustainable Agriculture) the project is at present operational in about 32 villages in Erode district of Tamil Nadu.
According to P. Alagesan, Programme Coordinator, IFD is an innovative model especially designed for small scale farmers in improving farm productivity in a sustainable manner through integrating farm resources by recycling farm and home wastes. “The main concept of IFD is to integrate the animal and human wastes into useful and productive components such as for the manufacture of vermicompost, pest repellants and biogas thereby reducing input cost for farmers,” he said.
Bio pest repellants
For example, in villages, the urine and dung from cattle is usually washed into a drain or the dung is collected, dried and used as cooking fuel.
“But our IFD farmers collect the urine and dung in a collection tank and use it for generating biogas and manufacturing biogrowth promoters such as Panchagavya and Amirtha karaisal, to make bio pest-repellants,” explained Mr. Alagesan.
The spent slurry from the bio gas plant is used to make high quality manure by adding other farm wastes to it, and can also be used to breed earth worms.
“To ensure food and fodder security our research team has been conducting several programmes to emphasize the importance of kitchen gardens. The size of the kitchen garden depends upon the family size and income (usually 2-5 cents). A limited supply of water channelled through a low cost micro irrigation system ensures a good harvest,” he said.
High yielding green fodder varieties are also grown in these gardens to provide fodder to the animals. By growing these fodder varieties, the cost of buying feed has come down to nearly 12 per cent, explained Mr. Alagesan.
Technology must be farmer friendly and IFD farmers have been trained on scientific storage of harvested produce. The farmers store their harvested grains in special grain structures called ‘pucca koti’ (Hindi word) and metal bins.
These storage structures have been able to minimize grain loss to nearly 20 per cent and also protect the harvested produce from pest and pathogenic infestations. Finally, the waste generated from the farmer’s family is also not wasted. A eco-san toilet has been designed to collect the faeces and urine separately.
The faeces is covered with wood ash after every use and it falls into a soil pit and decomposes into a rich nutrient which can be safely used as manure for the field.
The urine is separately channelled to the kitchen garden where it seeps through the earth to nourish the plants.
Studies conducted in these villages have shown that about 35 per cent of external input cost has been reduced by effective utilization of farm and home wastes.
Use of biogas (2 cubic metre capacity has the potential to save about 210 kg of fuel wood per month) brought down firewood consumption. In a village called M.P. Doddi about nine tonnes of fuel wood in a month has been saved which has a direct impact on regeneration of forest area around the region.
Respiratory problems commonly encountered by the rural women in smokey kitchens have largely been minimized.
UNICEF has identified this as an innovative model and has planned to replicate it in other parts of the nation.