Women farmers with Lavanya Reddy || Neo Science Hub

Breakdown to Breakthrough with Natural Farming

The farming families were in dire financial trouble, hunger and poverty were staring at them. Due to a large loss, they sold their farm land for only Rs.95,000; that’s when they realized what prompts farmers to commit suicide. Meet Lavanya, a successful woman farmer from Nagarkurnool, a new district, 125 kms away from Hyderabad. She started off with meager earnings of Rs 11 per year a few years back to now, a whopping Rs.11 lakh after adopting novel agricultural methods.

Lavanya had almost decided to quit farming, but for her husband’s resolve in continuing.

When she undertook cultivation using traditional ways, her profit was paltry, prompting her to consider new farming methods in order to boost her profit. By using intercrops farming, she was able to grow 30 different types of crops on four acres of land. She would not buy seeds from the store and instead save the seeds from the crop she grew organically.

Lavanya started off with chemical farming. Red chili, cotton, and other crops were grown. When they went to sell the crop at the market, the returns were not too satisfactory.

Women farmer Lavanya Reddy || Neo Science Hub
Women farmer Lavanya Reddy || Neo Science Hub

That’s when the husband-wife duo learned about Subhas Palekar, a Green Revolution pioneer based in Maharashtra, and his organic agricultural techniques.

Lavanya’s husband adds, “Where we’ve lost, there we’ll find.” “We found an advertisement of Subhas Palekar. We cultivated fire cracker flowers on a half-acre plot of soil using his technique, and then gradually shifted to red chilli. Red chilli cultivation is well-known in our village, and they are cultivated naturally”

About her challenges, she stated, “When we sold our piece of land, most people were de-motivated. There was no one to tell us about organic farming or farming procedures. We didn’t have a cow when we first started natural farming, so we had to rely on our neighbours for cow manure, urine, and other materials. In our property, we plant 40 different crop species such as red chilli, paddy, and dal. Slowly but steadily, we acquired a cow, and I am glad to tell that, in comparison to other farmers, we are profiting more.”

Many college students and KVK scientists come to our farm to learn about natural farming. We have our own brand, Lavanaya. If any farmers require assistance, they are welcome to come here, and we will gladly assist them.

The four pillars of zero budget natural farming (ZBNF) :

Jeevamrutha is a fermented microbial culture. It provides nutrients, but most importantly, acts as a catalytic agent that promotes the activity of microorganisms in the soil, as well as increases earthworm activity; During the 48-hour fermentation process, the aerobic and anaerobic bacteria present in the cow dung and urine multiply as they eat up organic ingredients (like pulse flour). A handful of undisturbed soil is also added to the preparation, as is inoculating native species of microbes and organisms. Jeevamrutha also helps to prevent fungal and bacterial plant diseases and is only needed for the first 3 years of the transition, after which the system becomes self-sustaining. 200 liters of Jeevamrutha is sufficient for one acre of land.  Apply the Jeevamruthha to the crops twice a month in the irrigation water or as a 10% foliar spray.

Bijamrita is a treatment used for seeds, seedlings or any planting material. Bijamrita is effective in protecting young roots from fungus as well as from soil-borne and seedborne diseases that commonly affect plants after the monsoon period. It is composed of similar ingredients as Jeevamrutha – local cow dung, a powerful natural fungicide, and cow urine, a strong anti-bacterial liquid, lime, soil.

Bijamrita Application as a seed treatment Add Bijamrita to the seeds of any crop: coat them, mixing by hand; dry them well and use them for sowing. For leguminous seeds, just dip them quickly and let them dry.

Mulching– There are three types of mulching:

Soil Mulch: This protects topsoil during cultivation and does not destroy it by tilling. It promotes aeration and water retention in the soil. Palekar suggests avoiding deep ploughing.

Straw Mulch: Straw material usually refers to the dried biomass waste of previous crops, it can be composed of the dead material of any living being (plants, animals, etc). To improve soil fertility– provide dry organic material which will decompose and form humus which is activated by microbial cultures.

Live Mulch (symbiotic intercrops and mixed crops): It is essential to develop multiple cropping patterns of monocotyledons (monocots:Monocotyledons seedlings have one seed leaf) and dicotyledons (dicots: Dicotyledons seedlings have two seed leaves) grown in the same field, to supply all essential elements to the soil and crops. For instance, legumes are of the dicot group and are nitrogen-fixing plants. Monocots such as rice and wheat supply other elements like potash, phosphate and sulphur.

Whapasa – moisture: Palekar challenges the idea that plant roots need a lot of water, thus countering the over reliance on irrigation in green revolution farming. According to him, what roots need is water vapor. Whapasa is the condition where there are both air molecules and water molecules present in the soil, and he encourages reducing irrigation, irrigating only at noon, in alternate furrows ZBNF farmers report a significant decline in need for irrigation in ZBNF.

Other important principles of ZBNF and points to note

Intercropping – This is primarily how ZBNF gets its “Zero Budget” name. It doesn’t mean that the farmer is going to have no costs at all, but rather costs will be compensated for by the income from intercrops, making farming a close to zero budget activity.

Contours and bunds – To preserve rain water, contours and bunds should be made to promote maximum efficacy for different crops.

Local species of earthworms. Palekar opposes the use of vermicompost. He claims that the revival of local deep soil earthworms through increased organic matter is most recommended.

Cow dung– According to Palekar, dung from the Bos indicus (humped cow) is most beneficial and has the highest concentrations of micro-organisms as compared to European cow breeds such as Holstein. The entire ZBNF method is centre on the Indian cow, which historically has been part of Indian rural life.

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