Developing climate resilience in Karnataka

Gulbarga district in northern Karnataka has the unique distinction of being known as the ‘tur bowl’ of the state. But even though 330,000 hectares of land is put under tur, or red gram, cultivation and production every year, the yield from this crop is abysmally low. A primary reason for this is the traditional method in which it is cultivated, which exposes the crop to drought, erratic rainfall and pest attacks. It is because of this that the tur farmers don’t get returns that are commensurate with their investments in the crop.

The traditional method of growing red gram involves a process called “dibbling”, in which the seeds are sown in a straight line while ploughing the land. Unfortunately, not much attention is given to the spacing between the seeds sown, and fertilizers are also indiscriminately sprayed. Because of these, any delay in rains directly affects the yield of the crop, while simultaneously increasing the risk of a pest attack.

Taking cognizance of these problems, a new technology was developed with the aim to significantly improve the yield of the crop. Under this new method, farmers first set up a separate nursery and grow red gram saplings, which are then transferred onto the field — in a scientifically measured fashion. For instance, while planting the saplings the farmers would need to ensure a 5 feet distance between each row of the saplings, and a minimum of 2 feet distance between the saplings themselves. This spacing allows them to sow an intercrop of maize or marigold.

Vrutti Livelihood Resource Centre — with support from the Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) and the Agricultural Department, Karnataka and financial backing from the Small Farmers Agri-Business Consortium (SFAC) — demonstrated this new red gram transplanting method to the farmers of Gulbarga. This new technology has immensely benefited the farmers, and its introduction has helped reduce input cost, increase crop yield and mitigate the potential risk of crop loss due to late rainfalls.

A case in point is that of Malikarjun Patil — a progressive farmer from Gulbarga — who is a beneficiary of this new technology. The farmer from Kinnisultan village, Aland taluk, was approached by the Vrutti field staff, who introduced him to the sapling method. Initially, he tried this technique of red gram cultivation on 1 of the 10 acres of land that he owns. Commenting on the return-on- investment factor of this experiment, Patil says, “in the traditional method, I would spend Rs. 10,420 per acre on the inputs in one season, on which I would get a yield of 4 quintals. After selling this at Rs. 4,000 per quintal, I would earn a total of Rs. 16,000 from the product. In addition, I also grew green gram as (an) intercrop and this earned me Rs. 3,000 (more). My net profit from 1 acre of land was, thus, Rs. 8,760”. Though there is an additional cost of setting up of the nurseries (to grow the saplings) in the new method, but that is entirely offset by the increase in yield, and lowered costs of seeds and chemical sprays used. To illustrate this point, another farmer, like Patil, talks about his successful experience with the new technology. He says, “The input cost in transplantation method was Rs. 10,260 per acre — not different from the traditional methods we used.

However, the big difference was in the yield. I was able to produce 7 quintals of red gram with the new method, for which I earned Rs. 28,000. And with an additional Rs. 4000 income from maize intercrop, I was able to make a net profit of Rs. 21,240 per acre, which is more than double the income from the traditional method.”

The viability of this new method is reflected in the success stories of Mallikarjun and many other farmers — members of Farmers Interest Groups and Farmer Producer Organization — who have adopted these practices. They say that even with little rainfall during the early stages of the growth of the crop, the plants are able to withstand dry conditions because they begin sprouting in the nurturing environment of nurseries. Because of this, farmers can now wait out the rain-less months without any fear of loss. Moreover, they are also able to get more branches and flowers compared to the traditional method. Such is the impact of this new technology that they are planning to double the area of production by next year.

This initiative is also replicable in other red gram-growing areas, which are vulnerable to drought and erratic rainfall. A scale-up of this initiative in the Gulbarga district has been facilitated by demonstrating the systematic training of the farmers in this process, and the results because of it.

Location/Address of FPO: Krishikabandhu Farmer Producer Company Ltd, Village: Kinnisultan, Taluka Aland, District: Gulbarga, Karnataka. Phone: Baburao Patil- 09740621115.

Contact Details of RI: Vrutti Livelihood Resource Centre, No. 19, 1st Main, 1st Cross, RMV 2nd Stage, Ashwathnagar, Bengaluru, Karnataka – 560094. Phone: 080-23419616, 23517241.

Email: I Website:

Source: This article was originally published in “Krishi Sutra 2 Success stories of FARMER PRODUCER ORGANISATIONS”.

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