It was a privilege of mine that on date 16 -17 April a renowned agriculture scientist, Dr Satish Subhedar who has devoted his life for promoting sustainable agriculture was with us for sharing his vast learning on sustained agriculture. Dr Subhedar provides consultancy to number of national and international organizations for efficient agriculture practices and across the India farmers get benefit from his knowledge. First time he came to Dangs and spent two full days with us to understand the local context, agriculture practices, traditional seed varieties, soil texture, and local climatic condition. In two days, Subhedar sir shared his vast knowledge with us in such a simple language that I could recall all my four years of Pantnagar.
On 16th April, after reaching of Subhedar sir he had a short discussion regarding agriculture status in Dangs. Afterwards we went to a local village for transplantation of a medicinal plant Colieous which he brought with him; he detailed POP of that plant to us and farmer also that how we need to care of this plant. With all the crops what we discussed with him, he shared the POP, best suited inter-cropping pattern, plant nutrient requirement, and economics of end product. In field we discussed number of points; I am enlisting major points –
I. Preparation, method of application, and use of Amrit pani and amrit khad
II. Simplest method to understand the quality of soil in-setu condition.
III. Methods to incorporate better crop production with water harvesting practices in hilly context like Dangs
IV. Detailing of primary, macro, and micro nutrients and its need to plant.
V. Use of other medicinal plants which are available in Dangs
VI. Rational of different agronomic practices
VII. Different crop combinations as per local context.
In the second half we visited in Timberthava village and there we had group discussion with the farmers; around 15 farmers (men and women both participated) shared their views on agriculture challenges and seasonality in Dangs.We discussed with them regarding different crops what they grow in their field (all in Kharif season only), seed rate for major crops, agronomic practices like ADAR*** system, tillage practices, nursery raising and transplanting time, use of seed (local or hybrid), and use of organic manure in field. During discussion we concluded that-
- Farmers are using 8-10 times more seed than what is actually required
- Use of organic content is very low and that is also not in proper form
- Traditional seeds are now very less in practice and replaced by hybrid seeds
- ADAR system is very much practiced by all the farmers for nursery raising and growing coarse millet
- Agriculture practices are very much labour intensive and very minimum equipment are used in field.
- Hand-holding support is very much required to improve the cropping system
- It was suggested that our team also need to think innovative approach (beyond paddy because in sloppy land pulses are far better option than paddy) and we can promote pulses in more scientific way for 3-4 times more production.
- Horticulture plants which are promoted by other agencies also, need to get better care as at present plants have very little productivity (as we have seen in cashew nut Wadi).
- Burning the dry leaves and plant residue is a wasteful practice which immediately needs to be replacing with summer tillage. Rational behind Adar practice was that it provides potassium (because it is available in ash) to the plants but that we can supplement through amrit pani.
During full day discussion I could understand that we need not to do paradigm shift in agriculture but we have to improve farmers existing agronomic practices through small value addition at each stage.
Fortunately second day during discussion all our team started with the sharing of first day experience. Subhedar Singh Ji guided us for 3-4 major crops like paddy, miller, pulses, and discussed the agronomic practices for all of them. He explored a new dimension to me that there is no need of seed replacement as now farmers are doing but with the proper spacing and agronomic practices with traditional seed and variety we can produce equal or even more than hybrid seed.
He directly hit on many of my myths and proved them wrong with scientific logic. He shared the rationale behind using amrit pani and amrit khad; for that he described the behavior of micro nutrients and interdependence on other MN. For Intensive inter cropping he gave number of combination which we can do successfully in rain fed context of Dangs. He shared that if each farmer does proper bunding than very successfully each farmer can take gram crop after paddy. Like this he shared many small but relevant tips with our team. He reinforced that each creature which exist is our earth, has its own role and by killing them we are disturbing the eco-system.
At last all I can that I was overwhelmed with Dr. Subhedar sir knowledge and vigor to share it with all of us and the best thing was I have now more faith on organic and improved practices than chemical application in our mother land.
*** Adar is a practice in most of the tribal areas across the India in which they burn all the plant residue in main field. Ash have potassium content high so that enriches the soil but beyond that has many other negative impact on soil health like- it kills micro organisms, wastage of plant residue, and more labour intensive practice.