Research Notes

Rain shelters – A tool to strengthen family farming / Low cost seed testing method for small -scale farmers / Sustainability of an integrated poultry-pig-fish farming system / Wireless solar light trap reduces pesticide use in Brinjal

Rain shelters – A tool to strengthen family farming

Conventional crop production in the open field was at high risk against environmental stresses such as extreme solar radiation, high rainfall, weed competition, pest and disease incidence. These risks were at the peak due to climate change scenario. Krishi Vigyan Kendra Kollam, Kerala Agricultural University, implemented a project to create awareness among farmers about the use of low cost protective structures, for the year round production of safe vegetables.Rain shelters are constructed with low cost materials like casuarina pole or any other available material affordable by the farmers. Adequate irrigation and drainage facilities are ensured. Cladding material used was 200 micron UV stabilized polythene sheet. Sides up to 2 feet are covered with nets to protect from livestock. Proper air circulation through the structure is assured. Shade nets were spread under the roof to enable crop cultivation during summer to protect from excessive heat.

Land under shelters was ploughed and made to fine tilth. More emphasis was given to organic cultivation. Soil is mixed with FYM enriched with trichoderma. Bio control agents like pseudomonas and trichoderma were used which helped in controlling diseases and pests. Generally, pest and disease incidence was very less in rain shelters as compared to open conditions. Botanicals like neemazol is used for controlling pest. As the shelter is of small manageable area, physical and mechanical methods of pest control were very effective. Proper crop rotation and multicropping is followed. Vegetables cultivated successfully in rain shelters are amaranthus, salad cucumber, chilli, cabbage, cauliflower, radish, capsicum, bitter gourd, tomato, carrot, bhindi, beetroot, brinjal, spinach, cowpea etc.

We can produce vegetables of good quality year round, with minimal use of insecticides under the rain shelters. High value crops like cucumber, capsicum and off season production of tomato and bhindi resulted in bumper yield of high quality, with reduced pest and disease incidence. Yield of the crops was found to be higher by 2-4 times than in open conditions. Production under structures not only increased yield per unit area, but also improved quality. The shelf life of vegetables was found to be better, which could reduce postharvest losses in vegetables, estimated to be at 30 per cent of the total production.

The goals of family farming can be achieved by farming in rain shelters. This low cost protected cultivation technology has immense power for strengthening the family. Women employment can be increased. Even children can work in rain shelters as they are protected from harsh weather conditions. Younger generation is also attracted to agriculture when the whole family is engaged in vegetable cultivation in these protected structures in homesteads. The rain shelters can also be constructed on roof tops in urban areas where open land is unavailable.?

For details contact Dr.P.R. Geetha Lekshmi, Assistant Professor (Horticulture), College of Agriculture, Vellayani, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala Agricultural University.


Low cost seed testing method for small -scale farmers

Quality seed of improved varieties is an important basic input for enhancing productivity of any crop species. Existing mechanisms to meet the groundnut seed requirements of smallscale farmers is not adequate and has serious limitations.

The baseline studies in the project area (Mahbubnagar district of Andhra Pradesh) identified key problems related to groundnut seed supply system. Lack of timely availability of seed, high cost of seed and poor quality (low germination) were some of the major constraints contributing to stagnated yields of groundnut crop in the project area, where it is grown in post rainy season under irrigated conditions.

A training program on demonstration of innovative low cost seed germination test along with seed treatment was conducted in project villages for lead farmers. The main objective of this test is to recommend quantity of seed per hectare with a proper seed treatment. The germination test demonstrated was simple, inexpensive and reliable. It can be conducted at the farmer level at his/her residence without any additional facilities or equipment. It requires old newspapers and a plate.

Four layers of a newspaper are spread on the floor and sprinkled with water to wet the paper. Groundnut seeds are placed on the paper at a spacing of 2 cm seed to seed and 4 centimeter row to row. The newspaper is thoroughly wetted with water and rolled; the rolled newspaper is tied with thread or a rubber band to keep the roll intact and is placed in the plate and incubated at room temperature for 3-5 days. The paper roll should be kept wet every day by pouring adequate water in the plate. Germination count was taken five days after incubation.

There was no significant difference in germination percentage between the newspaper method and the paper towel germination method which is expensive and more difficult to get the materials at village level. This method was used to evaluate the seed supplied by various seed agencies, thereby helping village seed bank committee to assess the seed requirement.

For more details, contact Ch Ravinder Reddy, Vilas A Tonapi, SN Nigam, Belum VS Reddy and A Ashok Kumar and P Janila.

Sustainability of an integrated poultry-pig-fish farming system

Scientific integration of different farm components like livestock, fish, poultry etc., is a viable option for sustainable production of different commodities with low investment, mitigation of risk and impact on environment.

The sustainability of an ecologically sustainable livestock-fish farming technology suitable for poor and marginal farmers was studied over fifteen years. This system involving integration of three components, viz. chicken, pig and fish has been initiated in the year 1994 and has been under operation till date, in Fisheries Research centre, Assam Agricultural University, Jorhat.

A specially designed two storied animal house was constructed on a suitable site of the pond embankment for lodging the pig (downstairs) and chicken (upstairs). The floor of the chicken coop is perforated to allow direct falling of the poultry droppings into the pig sty. The poultry droppings were used for supplementing 50% of pig feed requirement. The floor of the pig sty was connected to the pond with a drain. Pig droppings and left over feed were used for fish as manure and supplementary feed, thereby reducing 70-80% of fish production cost. The ratio of chicken, pig and fish was kept at 10:1:200. Thus, the system involves low external input supply but assures production of multiple commodities from unit area through utilization of available resources.

Calculation of Benefit Cost Ratio, analysis of Cash flow pattern and Internal Rate of Return reveal that the system is economically sustainable in the long run. Additional advantages like mitigation of environmental pollution through waste recycling, avoidance of health hazards, convenience in management, reduction of risk and drudgery, add distinction to the system as a farmer friendly and eco friendly option.

In this integrated system no waste is wasted. Waste from one commodity is utilized as food source for other. External input in the form of feed for the whole system includes 100% ration for poultry and 50% ration for pig. Exclusion of external feed and manure input for fish and pig reduces cost of production of fish to the tune of 70- 80% and cost of production of pig by 60%.

For more details, contact Dr. Bibha Chetia Borah, Fisheries Research Centre, Assam Agricultural University, Jorhat, Assam.

Wireless solar light trap reduces pesticide use in Brinjal

The wireless Solar light trap was developed to help the farmers who struggled to control the fruit borer in brinjal. This innovation was developed by Mr. P. David Raja Beula, Assistant Director of Horticulture, Kadayam of Tirunelveli district in Tamil Nadu.

Sakthivel, a farmer of Arumbattu village, chose to cultivate an Indian native variety of brinjal called ‘Ilavambadi’. The native variety of brinjal is resistant to most of the diseases. The farmer did not spend any money on fungicides. However, he struggled to control the fruit borer which during early stages causes damage to the shoots of brinjal plants. He sprayed pesticide once in 7 days to control the pest.

Then in one of the farmers meetings Mr Beula introduced the wireless light trap, his new innovation. Sakthivel decided to try the solar light traps. He installed two wireless light traps in one acre of land. The fruit borer moths were collected and killed in the light trap. The collection of brinjal fruit borer moths started from 3 moths/day/trap and gradually increased to 500 moths/day/trap. Gradually, the frequency of pesticide spray was reduced from once in 7 days to once in 15 days and finally to once in 30 days. The farmer thus saved about Rs.4000 per acre. The farmer saved US$60 on the cost of pesticide while the cost of light trap was US$80.

Sakthivel harvested 10 tonnes of brinjal from one acre of land. The native variety was preferred over other hybrids by consumers for its taste and shelf life.

By using the solar light trap, the farmer not only saved money but also protected the environment and reduced the load of pesticide in the food chain.

For more details, contact Mr. P. David Raja Beula, Assistant Director of Horticulture, Kadayam, Tirunelveli District, Tamil Nadu.

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