Relay solutions for food prices by Surinder Sud

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published Published on Jan 25, 2011   modified Modified on Jan 25, 2011

The recent spike in vegetable prices, due partly to erratic supplies, could well have been averted if the novel concept of “relay cropping” in vegetable farming had become popular.

This system allows growing three to seven crops of different vegetables on the same patch of land over a period to ensure a steady and regular flow of vegetables to markets.

This innovative approach, significantly, has been conceived and successfully put into practice by a 51-year-old Orissa farmer, Hrushikesh Giri of village Gopalpur in Bhadrak district, who, incidentally, holds a post-graduate degree in Philosophy but has been practising farming for the last 35 years.

Under relay farming, two crops with different maturity periods are sown in a field to begin with. When the shorter duration crop is harvested, the other crop gets better space to flourish. Once the second crop begins inching closer to maturity, another crop is planted in between its rows. Likewise, the cycle is continued for subsequent crops.

In fact, relay cropping is not the only way of diversifying vegetable cultivation to get more output per unit of land. Mixed cropping, involving planting at least two crops simultaneously, is another option that several farmers have tried out to advantage. A 38-year-old matriculate farmer, Davinder Singh of village Nakodar in Jalandhar district of Punjab, for instance, has evolved a novel concept of growing cabbage as a companion crop of onion. This allowed him to bag about 300 tonne of cabbage as a bonus without impairing the yield of onion, the main crop.

Likewise, a 50-year-old primary school-educated farmer, Indrasan Kushwaha of village Ajirma in Surguja district of Chhattisgarh, has hit on the idea of growing coriander on the periphery of soil beds on which onions are grown. This enables him to bag 2.5 to 4 tonne of coriander leaves per hectare to supplement the income from the main onion crop.

Such innovation, attributable to individual ingenious farmers show that Indian farmers are neither technology-shy nor lack the wisdom and skills to innovate or refine the available technologies to serve their specific needs. This truth has now been scientifically validated by the Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs or agriculture polytechnics).

Spread all over the country, these 589 KVKs have searched for, tried and documented the innovations conceived and successfully practiced by farmers themselves.

They managed to identify over 550 well-proven innovations by farmers. These were peer-reviewed at the zonal and central level by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). About 200 selected ones out of them have been outlined in a publication titled Farm Innovations — 2010 brought out by the ICAR’s agricultural extension division.

This collection reveals that neither age nor education level are hurdles to innovation. One case in point is an illiterate 80-year-old sugarcane grower, Jiblal Yadav of village Chehal in Koderma district of Orissa. He has evolved a new method of sowing sugarcane after sprouting the cane sets, instead of planting them directly, to save at about two weeks time which can be utilised for gur-making or land preparation.

Many astute farmers have displayed the capability to evolve crop varieties through selection from locally available land races of crops. A 53-year-old high school pass farmer, Arun Kumar Kamboj of village Chakarpur of Udham Singh Nagar district of Uttarakhand, for instance, has developed an aromatic rice variety that has good quality grains, worthy of exporting as organic basmati. He has named this long-grained aromatic rice variety “Hansraj”. Its grains are fetching premiums even in the local market and seeds are in demand from other local farmers.

Interestingly, another 52-year-old, seventh class passed farmer from Orissa is using an ordinary doctor’s stethoscope to diagnose pest attacks. Chakradhar Pradhan of Janhapada village of Bargarh district places the stethoscope on the plant’s surface to hear whether the plant is being bitten by the root borer insect. This helps him plan pesticide sprays to prevent crop damage.

Most of the innovations by farmers are inexpensive, need-based and easy to implement. Their adoption on a wider scale can benefit farmers and boost agricultural production.

The Business Standard, 25 January, 2011,

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