SATHYAMANGALAM: It is yet another success story from the field of an organic farmer, this time from Sathyamangalam. S. R. Sundararaman has come up with a low-cost, easy alternative to drip irrigation.
By planting of sugarcane and a few other crops in strategic fashion he has not only reduced water usage by about 60 per cent but also increased the soil carbon content. In the process he has had a robust yield.
While planting sugarcane in ridges, he separates the first two ridges with a three-foot furrow. Between the second and third ridge he maintains a six-foot furrow, and alternates the system. Along with sugarcane, in the furrows, he plants `multi-variety seeds'.
The seeds are of jowar, bajra, maize, horse gram, cowpea, castor, gingelly, `sanapu' and `thakkaipoondu', which when grows to equal sugarcane in height `usually after 30 days' he plucks them to place it near sugarcanes' stems as biomass. In short, he forms mulches in the three-foot furrows.
The benefits of the method, Mr. Sundararaman says, are three-fold: "One, the multi-seed variety plants prevent growth of weeds. Two, the plucked plants turn biomass, enriching soil's carbon content. And, three, the plants prevent early shoot borer pests from attacking sugarcane." As far water-conservation, after mulching the three-foot wide furrows, he waters sugarcane only through six-foot furrows, effectively reducing supply by almost 30 per cent.
After the first mulching, the farmer repeats the plant-growing process, this time only on six-foot furrows.
"For the second time, I sow the 10 varieties to raise additional biomass."
This time the plants grow for about 60 days before equalling sugarcanes' height. (Height is an important factor because the plants should not shadow sugarcane.) Once there is parity in height, the plants are cut, turned into mulches as before.
In the now-cleared furrows, Mr. Sundararaman forms two-foot wide bunds to raise the plants for a third time. The raising of bunds, he says, is also to regulate water flow.
"After the first mulching, I stopped water flow in three-foot furrows. This time, after the formation of two-foot bunds in six-foot furrows, I'm left with only four feet for water flow, saving another 30 per cent. In all, I save 60 per cent of water," he explains. Besides water management, there is the benefit of additional nutrition.
"Mulching ensures nutrition management as well, for it keeps the soil cool. They are air-conditioned rooms for microbes." The mulches also ensure easy administration of root-protecting microbes, he adds.
"They also act as national highways for microbes, which move quickly to sugarcane roots using the biomass and dampness." These methods, Mr. Sundararaman says, have helped him almost zero external inputs to agriculture and erase the necessity for drip irrigation.
He adds that the technique can be used for turmeric, banana and vegetables with minor modification. The yield: he says, "Please come to my farm to see it for yourself. " He can be reached at 98427-24778.