If burning farm stubble in Punjab and Haryana is the cause of choking people in Delhi and surrounding areas in the last few days, farmer Chandrashekar Bhadsavle in far away Maharashtra has a simple solution that can make them breathe easy, even while helping farmers boost their income.
Different departments of Maharashtra government have been using Bhadsavle’s expertise to boost farmers’ income and also stop forest fires. Agriculture experts and scientists said his farming method can be implemented and it holds a lot of ‘promise’.
Bhadsavle’s method — SRT farming — is very simple. Under the SRT (Saguna Rice Technique) technique, tillage is completely avoided and the residue of the earlier crop (in this case paddy stubble) is disintegrated into soil by using weedicides and microbial cultures.
Bhadsavle, who has a Masters in Food Microbiology from UC Davis (USA), said the current technique of farming was flawed. “What we do is indiscriminately use tillage, killing nutrients. Then we use fertilisers to boost nutrients/NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus & potash) in soil. We should instead simply increase organic carbon content of soil which increases its fertility. This can happen if you let the plant residue of earlier crop decompose in soil, it will then bring in earthworms, which will help crops,” explained Bhadsavle.
In his 50-acre farm Suguna Baug on the outskirts of Mumbai in Neral, Bhadsavle doesn’t resort to tilling or burning of crop residue, and has increased productivity in his farm year-on-year. The Neral farmer’s claims have caught on in Maharashtra, where 2,500 farmers use his technique. In fact, the results from Vidarbha — the suicide belt of Maharashtra —where cotton farmers are using the SRT technique, are overwhelming and they swear by its success.
“When I met Bhadsavle the first time, I decided to try it out on a trial basis in just 1 acre of my 5-acre field. My cotton produce had almost doubled and my income doubled as well as my input cost had reduced by more than half since I didn’t use any tilling or pesticide,” said Prakash Khobragade, a cotton farmer from Vidarbha.
Khobragade said that his savings have gone up as his crops are resilient to insect-pests and climate change. Raju Kadam, a farmer from Mulshi in Pune, said he has been using the SRT method in his 1-acre farm since the past two years and is earning a lot more too. “Earlier, I used to get 7 sacks of rice from my field, now it has gone up to 10,” said Kadam.
S Ayappan, former director general of the ICAR, who has visited Bhadsavle’s farm said: “It is a possible solution among other new techniques, but it needs to be scaled up, and adopted for different conditions.”
Vijay Kolekar, an agronomist with the Agriculture department in Maharashtra and currently working at PoCRA (Project on Climate Resilient Agriculture), a state government initiative which is a World Bank supported project, said SRT worked because retaining the stubble and having it decomposed in the soil brought out the organic content for the next crop.
Originally published in The Economic Times
Source of news : Indiatimes