Thursday, 21 March 2013

Potato Cultivation Model for Drought-Affected Areas

Anup Singh Dhurve, a smallholder farmer, had been cultivating potato in his small backyard plot for the last 10 years. All that Anup Singh could allocate for the potato cultivation was a 4x4 meter piece of land which he irrigated with the waste water from the house. Until last year, the highest potato harvest that this small plot had yielded was 35 kilograms in spite of the heavy dose of chemical fertilisers. Naturally, Anup Dhurve was pleasantly surprised while harvesting a bounty of 90 kg potato from this field, which he achieved with the help of SAFBIN!

Radish grown along with Potato
Anup Dhurve, a progressive farmer of Katigahan village of Mandla district of Madhya Pradesh, has been associated with SAFBIN programme which works on innovative ways of meeting the challenges of climate change to rain-fed agriculture. Anup Singh, one of the 800-odd tribal farmers, is being assisted by SAFBIN on developing locally viable agriculture practices that suit the frequently-experienced climatic variations in Mandla district.

“SAFBIN suggested a new method of cultivation of the traditional variety of potato involving ridge and furrow method”. Anup Singh says that he could irrigate the potato field only twice this year as against the normal four times due to severe water shortage. SAFBIN helped Anup Singh to prepare and administer Matka Khaad – a simple and cheap soil enrichment solution made of cow urine, cow dung, gram flour and jaggery (molasses). While irrigating the land, Anup Singh mixed Matka Khaad with irrigation water.

While detailing on the process that was adopted, Anup Singh said that he followed a new practice for treating the seed that he had purchased from the local market. After cleaning, the seeds  of traditional red potato were soaked in lukewarm water for 30 minutes and then dried. The treated seeds were covered in hay and stored in a cool and shady place. When the seeds germinated on the tenth day, they were planted on the line ridges. Before cultivation, the land was ploughed thrice and approximately 20 kg farm yard manure was administered.

The spacing between potato plants and the ridge line formation of plants made irrigation more efficient as water could reach the ends of plant lines faster. When the potato plants reached a height of 4-5 centimetres, plant hills were covered with raised soil beds which enabled faster growth of roots. Soon potato plants grew faster and stronger. Anup Singh quickly realised that the spacing between the ridges could be used for cultivating more vegetables. He planted radishes along the channels which also grew robustly.

The new system of potato cultivation was far better than the traditional potato cultivation practice which was only random planting of seeds on flat beds in a line. The new cultivation system possessed several advantages including more efficient irrigation, spacing that allowed growing of other vegetables and use of low-cost manure. This year Anup Singh spent only Rs. 60 on the potato cultivation as against Rs. 300 which he used to spent on an average in the previous years. His harvest of 90 kg, roughly 56 tonne per hectare, is way more than the average potato production of 35 tonne in Mandla district.

Rejoiced over the bumper crop Anup Singh says “the new method of potato cultivation helped me grow sufficient potato for my family’s need for six months. Also, I did not need to buy radish from the market for two months”. Until last year, the small piece of land used to yield only as much potato for meeting the need of 2 months.

“Before SAFBIN came to my village, none of us knew about agriculture practices that required less quantity of water and money and more importantly, capable enough to withstand the fury of climate change. Now I will grow more vegetables using the ridge and furrow method”, Anup Singh says. Mandla is one of the drought prone districts of Madhya Pradesh with scanty rainfall and extreme temperature variations. Of late, farmers have become vary of cultivating vegetables due to frost in Kharif – the season when most farmers cultivate vegetables.

By Sunil Kumar Pandey
District Project Officer, Mandla, Madhya Pradesh

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