23 Nov 2014

Experiencing the partial SCI (Cotton) wonder in water affected with salinity


System of Rice Intensification, practice which I came across for the first time when I was graduating
In the picture it can be seen that the lateral branch which is
held on left side is 3.6 foot long emerged from base of
the main plant 
from GBPUA&T (Pantnagar),  how the crop equal crop geometry of 25*25 cm increases the production in Rice. Though the practice is now accepted for all type of crops with basic principle of maintaining equal crop spacing not only row to row but also plant to plant giving a plant equal room to spread in all the directions and thus reflecting in productivity. When I joined Aga Khan Rural Support Programme in Gadu Spear Head Team in Junagadh District, I was new to the practice as I had just theoretically known the practice but to implement the practice was something a far-flung thought to me. I was supercilious whether the practice will be successful for other crops too (I had known it to benefit Rice and Gram by experiential sharing by my close friend and colleague Yogesh Bhatt in Dangs). When the idea was first discussed with the cotton growing farmers in the Bhatia Cluster (Dwarka District, Gujarat, Western India), as usual there was high apprehension among the farmers for the principle of SRI, there were many reason given by the farmers of not adopting the same. In usual practice farmers here cultivate cotton at a spacing of 5 foot (152 cm approx) between rows while the distance between plants varied from 1.5 to 2 foot (46-61 cm approx). It was a tough task to persuade farmer to increase their spacing between the plants three folds in case of plants to plant spacing and 1 foot between row to row (the recommended spacing for cotton in SRI is 180 *180 cm or 6’*6’foot ~ as per Dr. Satish Subhedar). Forget about the farmers our own Extension workers did not wanted it to happen. As per them this will decrease the trust of the organization in the area and farmer will not listen what we suggested. 

I did not want to lose trust of farmers in the region and my recent joining in AKRSPI sent me to the
The plant of cotton grown in 4' * 4' foot spacing
irrigated in water with salinity as problem
back foot to promote the same. But it was Rajesh (Cluster Manager) who suggested to atleast ask farmer to maintain 4’*4’foot (122*122cm) spacing atleast for a very small area. After a lot of persuasion we could manage just one farmer to adopt 4*4 foot spacing, against the recommended 6*6 foot in a small area of 100 square meters. The farmer named Devabhai Alabhai Varu is from village Gojinesh. This is is to be noted that Gojinesh village lies on the west coast of Gujarat in Dwarka District and this particular plot identified is rarely 1.5 km from sea line, with irrigation water of poor quality, ranging a total dissolve solids from 500 to 1400 depending on season after rainfall. The farmer was again apprehensive initially though he took the suggestion as he was working with organization as Extension volunteer. The variety raised was obvious Bt Cotton, along with the recommended spacing the farmer, maintained proper nutrient supplement of manure and chemical fertilizers and timely pest management treating all its area equally.

We waited for the  crop to come in full bloom and I visited the plot when the balls started to bust and the team AKRSP-India was surprised to see the results. I will explain what I saw in little technical terms:
  1. The lateral branches which had come out of the main shoot of cotton in the identified area had covered the whole space and looked like a separate plant altogether with average length of 3’4” foot while in the control plot the lateral branches were weak and had average length of 1’5” foot.
  2.  The length of the plants was on an average 6’5” foot (198cm) while in control plot it was average 5’8” foot.
  3. The ball number measured in the random 5 plants was 115 per plant in the demonstration plot while in the control it was 82.
  4. The test weight of 5 balls taken from 5 random plants each from control and demonstration plot came out to be 124gm and 143gm per five balls respectively.

The plot was further used for field frontline demonstration for the farmers of villages in the vicinity to show the apparently seen magic of System of Cotton Intensification. The farmers were excited to see the results of the same. Although the constraint being that the practice cannot be adopted in all the cotton growing villages due to the extensive demand of water by Bt Cotton whether or not SRI plot. It is planned that in drought affected villages the indigenous variety Dhummad (Black Cotton), Baralakshmi, will be tested with the SRI technique as farmers used to cultivate local variety in drought situation and it used to give better response to drought then Bt Cotton. I am very hopeful for the next Kharif season to come. It has given confidence to me for carrying our SRI (System of Root InIntensification /System of Crop Intensification) in four other crops namely Wheat, Cumin, Coriander and Gram in the west coastal region of India which is affected with salinity of irrigation water if successful with the same endeavor, I am sure it will also be established that SCI can work in adverse water salinity problem. This reminds me words of Dr. Subhedar “Mother nature is ready to give all its bounty but one need to be careful with it how we should take it”.

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