Bio-char, compost tea are the new recipe

By TheHindu on 16 Nov 2016 | read
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Antony John, a progressive farmer at Sakthikulangara in Kerala, harvesting vegetables from his vertical garden set up on the terrace of his house

The use of bio-char in the growing medium and the aerated activated compost tea as nutritional supplement has been a huge success.

Sakthikulangara, the seaside locale of Kollam Municipal Corporation, Kerala, is famous for fishing and fishery-related activities; as an agricultural sector, it does not evoke any enthusiasm, or never held out any promise. What with the prevailing soil and climatic conditions, which favours leaching and draining of soil nutrients into the Arabian sea and Ashtamudi Lake, the soil has high acidity making it unfit for cultivation of any kind. Moreover, the present-day nuclear-family concept with limited land-holdings of 5-8 cents, limiting space for any sort of cultivation, has made Sakthikulangara not a haven for green revolution.

All these could become a thing of the past. The initiative by Antony John, a resident of Ramankulangara in Sakthikulangara, could transform this crop-debilitated area into a hub of the new green revolution — to produce fresh, hygienic, and organic vegetables in each family being its thrust. Mr. John, a progressive farmer-scientist, much lauded and awarded by organisations such as ATMA, has been cultivating a variety of vegetables — amaranths, lettuce, kale, tomato, brinjal, capsicum, cabbage, cauliflower et al within the limited terrace area available to him, with vertical farming.

Though vertical farming is not an entirely novel concept, what makes Mr. John’s initiative different is the distinctly different inputs he uses both in the growing medium and in the nutrient supplement. He uses treated coirpith and bio-char in equal proportions to make up 95 per cent of the growing medium, the rest five per cent being the soil available in the area. Vegetable seedlings are planted in the PVC channels of the vertical unit after filling it with the growing medium; irrigation is regulated by drip method using automatic timer. Periodically, the pH factor is monitored and corrected if necessary, to maintain at required level. He also uses compost produced at his own house by converting kitchen and other domestic bio-waste, for which he has developed a simple, but efficient aerobic bio-composing unit: the unit composts all domestic bio-waste in an eco-friendly manner to produce compost within 45 days. The ooze, which starts to come out from the unit from the third day onwards is effectively utilised both for disease prevention, and disease cure.

The ooze is enriched before application with bio-fertilisers and friendly microbes, such as azetobacter and azospirilum and others and then aerated for 48 hours to make the aerated activated compost tea.

Mr. John cleverly utilised the bio-resource available, by adopted Maynard Murray’s experiments with sea water in his farming. He diluted one litre of sea water with 10 litres of fresh water and applied it in the soil and on the foliage, to utilise the 92 micro-nutrients available in sea water by spraying this sea water-fresh water mixture once in a month, he claimed that he could produce nutrient rich organic vegetables.

He claims that the use of bio-char in the growing medium and the aerated activated compost tea as nutritional supplement has been a huge success.

Bio-char reduces the acidity of the soil, protects the plants from diseases, promotes growth of friendly micro organisms, and reduces the loss of micro nutrients apart from increasing water retain-ability.

“His commonsense approach utilising the indigenous and advanced technologies available certainly is an eye opener, and his initiative can very well be the role model for all agriculture loving people, not only in Sakthikulangara but also in Kerala as a whole,” claims Sherin A Salam, Agricultural Officer, Krishi Bhavan, Sakthikulangara.

For more details: watch Youtube video presentation “New Organic Green Revolution by Antony John,” or contact him at 9447410584.

wymnj@thehindu.co.in

 

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