20 Jan 2015

Meet Bhayabhai raising 16 field crops and 8 fruit trees on one hectare land

Keywords: Conservation Agriculture, Sustainable Agriculture, Biodiversity

Bhayabhai (Village Kalej) standing in his CA trial plot
In late 30s, skinny, short stature and bearded face that’s how you identify Bhayabhai working in his one hectare Vadi, in village Kalej in Junagadh District of Gujarat. Being very innovative in his farming practices and very well adaptive to new ideas, Bhayabhai was the person who was identified for trial of Conservation Agriculture. Conservation Agriculture after being accepted and adopted worldwide is still an alien practice for many farmers. It has three basic principles of zero tillage or minimal soil disturbance, maintaining permanent mulch on the soil and bringing biodiversity in raising the crops. The current agriculture paradigm when we see, consists of high input demand, be it tillage, seeds, fertilizers and water with monoculture of cereals. The phenomenon has reduced soil health across the globe over the period of time. This is where Conservation Agriculture practices come into picture.

When we accosted Bhayabhai for a CA trail in an area of 200 square meters, he readily agreed for the same and promptly asked what needs to be done for the same. Wheat was sown in his field with zero tillage after Groundnut was harvested from his field. After germination of seeds mulch was added from waste available locally. Talking about the third principle of maintaining biodiversity in his field, while one will be dumbfounded when he showed biodiversity which he was already maintaining in his whole farm of one hectare. He is already cultivating 16 field crops and 8 different horticulture plants and fodder for his cattle. In field crops he is cultivating Wheat, Maize, Carrot, Onion, Garlic, Sugarcane, Fenugreek, Indian Bean, Chilly, Brinjal, Plain Guard, Bitter Guard, Lucerne, Field bean, Napier grass, Sugar beet, Sugarcane while in tree plants include Coconut, Banana, Date Palm, Custard Apple, Lemon, Sapota, Guava, Ber.

Onion and Sugar Beet planted alternately on border bunds of Wheat
 The idea of maintaining the diversity in farming gives farmer a number of payback one gets as an understanding from Bhayabhai. Firstly household need of complete and balanced nutrition gets fulfilled, second the crops cultivated with different duration of maturity keep giving household a running income in contrast to mono-cropping, third the market volatility of prices of different crops gets coped with a variable cropping pattern if one crop falls in the market in price than other crop will support a farmer, fourth the incidence of pests seems to be lower in different crops. Bhayabhai has managed his 1 hectare land in such a manner that every inch of space is utilized and resources do not get wasted. Taking some examples from his field; he has cultivated onion and sugar beet on bunds of main crops wheat and maize, water intensive plants like sugarcane, date palm, coconut and banana are cultivated near his water pump and water carrying permanent furrows. He has also used standing crop of sugarcane in 50 sqm as support for climber vegetables like plain guard and bitter guard. He is now planning plant Ber on the boundaries of his Vadi as it can grow well in low water availability. Although the plants mentioned above is not cultivated for huge commercial returns but it is moreover to give diversity to the farm and allow his children to get fruits in their diet.

5 rows of Sugarcane with creeper vegetables mounted over and
Banana plants planted along the water channel.
The understanding of this farmer about maintaining diversity in field was like captivating for me. Seeing the fluctuation of different commercial crops market prices in Indian be it for Groundnut or Cotton what I see this practice of biodiversity farming, as one of the solution for all farmers keeping in mind maturity time of different crops keep generating income round the year. Although this replica of biodiversity farming is of  a small area but it can be a universal farming paradigm of practice, be it small or large farmer.

Glimpses of multiple crops Maize, Potato, Garlic, Fenugreek and Coriander on Bhayabhai's field