As the debate about the degrading air quality due to the burning of crop residue by farmers in Punjab and Haryana intensifies, one Maharashtra farmer has been riding waves of change with his unique technique of farming.
This technique is helping over 2500 farmers across Maharashtra yield manifold and earn profits.
At the same time, it is eco-friendly and doesn’t require farmers recourse to the traditional technique of deliberately setting fire to the straw stubble, after harvest. Thereby, not contributing to the menace of air pollution.
Maharashtra farmer Chandrashekar Bhadsavle’s method, SRT (Saguna Rice Technique) farming avoids tilling completely and lets the residue of the earlier crop (in the rice crop’s case– paddy stubble) disintegrate into the soil with the help of weedicides and microbial cultures, reported the Economic Times.
His technique has earned him the post of an advisor to the various departments of State government of Maharashtra government to help boost farmers’ income and avoid forest fires.
With a masters degree in Food Microbiology from UC Davis (USA), the farmer who has been reaping benefits on a 50-acre farm, Suguna Baug on the outskirts of Mumbai in Neral, points the apparent flaws in the current system of farming.
“What we do is indiscriminately use tillage, killing nutrients. Then we use fertilisers to boost nutrients/NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus & potash) in the soil. We should instead simply increase the organic carbon content of soil which increases its fertility. This can happen if you let the plant residue of earlier crop decompose in the soil, it will then bring in earthworms, which will help crops,” he told the publication.
His technique of not tilling or burning of crop residue has boosted his farm productivity consistently year-on-year.
Today, over 2,500 farmers across Maharashtra are replicating the model of farming. What is extremely rewarding is that farmers from the infamous suicide belt of Maharashtra, Vidarbha, have seen tremendous prosperity after adopting the method.
A cotton farmer from Vidarbha, Prakash Khobragade, spoke to publication sharing his success story, “When I met Bhadsavle the first time, I decided to try it out on a trial basis in just 1 acre of my 5-acre field. My cotton produce had almost doubled, and my income doubled as well as my input cost has reduced by more than half since I didn’t use any tilling or pesticide.”
Today Prakash proudly acclaims how in addition to saving money, his crops are successfully withstanding pests and climate change.
Another Mulshi Farmer, Raju Kadam, who has been using the SRT technique on his 1-acre farm since the two years expresses how his field productivity increased from giving him a mere seven sacks of rice to 10 sacks now.
Former director general of the ICAR, S Ayappan, told ET that while the technique is one of the possible solutions to fight pollution, it will have to be scaled up and customised to adapt to different conditions across the country.