2 Nov 2014

The Bio-control and a larger picture for Groundnut growers of Saurashtra

Groundnut a major crop in Saurashtra of Gujarat is seeing a shift to Cotton as an alternative. The major challenges which is confronted by the growers the increasing cost of cultivation and unavailability of labor during the harvest of the crop. The two reasons for increase in cost of production firstly being, high pest infestation, leading to increased use of pesticides and secondly being high cost of inputs, including labor. The groundnut which was exported from the region to other countries has now declined in mass as the groundnut is being rejected at international market due to high percentage of Aflatoxin content in the seeds, produce by soil borne Aspergillus niger.

India stands second in cultivation of Groundnut in world after China. Being a major economic crop of Saurashtra, it is seen to play notable role in direct income generation but also has supported the additional livelihood of animal husbandry as the fodder obtained from the crop is very rich for animals. Farmers majorly are affected with low yields and high production cost which is being incurred in the region for which the organization Aga Khan rural Support Programme is working. After a base line survey of the farmers it was found out that farmer are experiencing high cost of production due to exorbitant use of inputs like seeds and pesticides. The major pest which farmers are struck with is different fungal rots of Groundnut viz. Stem rot (caused by Sclerotium rolfsii), Collar Rot (caused by Aspergillus niger) and Root Rot (caused by Rhizoctonia bataticola and Macrophomina phaseolina) infesting at different crop stages.

Aga Khan Rural Support Programme in Saurashtra is working since 1984 on issues of drinking water and salinity related problems in coast line of Junagadh District. The intervention under the organization has led farmer to adopt a very simple technology of multiplication of a natural bio-control named Trichoderma viridae which can effectively be used for the control of all type of soil borne fungal disease due to its antagonistic nature. In Kharif-2013 we supported farmers in availing the inoculation i.e. 1 kg Trichoderma viridae bio-control from Junagadh University and trained farmers to multiply it at household level. The process is, mixing 1 kg Trichoderma in completely rotten manure (20kg) and mixing the same. An optimum moisture level is maintained in the mixture kept in shade for next one month by sprinkling water on covered manure. The resultant mixture is now Trichoderma enriched manure, as the live spores spreads in the inoculated manure. This manure mixed with more manure (with as ratio 1:10) is then applied in opened rows behind the seed drill so that the manure remains in contact with seed.
The above said practice was practiced by 140 farmers under supervised demonstration of the organization. After the emergence of first problem of Collar rot due to short rainfall, monitoring data was collected where controlled plot and demonstration plots were compared. In 800 square meter plot infestation rate was calculated by selecting five rows in W shape and counting plants infested with collar rot. Infestation rate was calculated by percentage of healthy plants in comparison with infested plants. Same was done in control plot. The results were very encouraging.

Figure 1: Rate of Infestation in Control and Demonstration plot comparison

In the figure 1 it can be seen the rate of infestation calculated in 40 sample demonstrations done to understand the impact of the bio-control Trichoderma in control of collar rot. The Y-axis represents rate of infestation while X axis represents plot no. It is lucid the rate of infestation was lower in treated plots. And in 10 plots it was nil and linear regression was lower as compared to control plot.
During maturity the crop faces a problem of root rot, in case of rainfall occurrence at the time of harvesting. It was seen that the demonstration plots were totally un-affected by the root rot while the adjoining demonstration plots were affected by root rot. There was rush among farmers to avail the bio-control from the organization, due to non-availability in Junagadh University from where earlier it was brought, contact private players were contacted for Trichoderma and availed to around 546 farmers. There is a very positive wave among the farmers to bring this bio-control in cultivation and I am hopeful that it will be not be a daunting task to scale the use of this bio-control. Talking about the cost reduction of with this bio-control it was calculated with the farmers how cost effective this bio-control is. It was seen farmers had to use chemicals like Mancozeb and Hexconazole as chemical control of the pest which was replaced by the Trichoderma. The cost of engagement of Trichoderma was only Rs. 75 as compared to Rs 499 for chemical control (when used in seed treatment and post emergence control) cutting down the cost of input by whopping 85% which is very remarkable and a success for us.

It is very well know that our Groundnut was rejected by European importers due to high aflatoxin content leading to discouraged prices for farmers. In a paper of International Food Policy Research  (FARID WALIYAR, 2013) it was is endorsed to use Trichoderma to control aflatoxin as use of the bio-control can reduce by 79%. In the wake of an optimistic drive towards natural control and organics all across the country, this experience with the repercussion of a bio-control seems like a tributary to the huge river of organic movement and I am hopeful for the change. 

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