Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Fazilka : A Forgotten Form Of Soil Regeneration Takes Root Again

Vinod Jyani, a farmer of Punjab's Fazilka district, is a happy man. His paddy crop this year has been very good, without much fertiliser or water being used - thanks to mulching, an age-old system of soil regeneration that has almost gone out of use.

Jyani, who grows wheat, paddy, millet, corn, sugarcane and fruits in his 140-acre farm, had begun to despair when he found the yield falling over the past several years. Continuous use of chemical fertiliser and pesticides had made the soil lose its nutrients, as is the case with most farm land in Punjab.

Then he learnt of natural farming techniques - not using chemicals but only biological ingredients like cow dung or cow urine - and of mulching to regenerate the soil.

Jyani tried mulching - covering the soil with a layer of dried leaves or hay to let the soil microbes multiply - on one acre on which he grew paddy.

The result had him elated.

'I got a good paddy crop this year and what's more, with 50 percent less water, which is a necessary requirement for growing rice. I plan to do grow paddy in five-six acres this year after mulching the soil,' Jyani told IANS.

Explaining the method, Jyani said he would spread the mulch made of dried leaves, grass or crop residue in the field a week after transplanting the paddy saplings from the nurseries.

'This covering prevents the soil moisture from evaporating, helping me save on water. It also makes the soil microbes thrive, which are necessary for the soil to get back its nutrients.'

Jyani is using the technique in his fruit orchards too. He covers the base of the fruit trees with biomass made of crop residue.

'Another big advantage of mulching is that it does not allow weeds to grow. The mulching cuts off the sunlight to the weeds.'

Jyani decided to take to natural farming after being convinced by the Kheti Virasat Mission (KVM), a non-government organisation based in Faridkot, which is working towards ecologically sustainable methods of agriculture.

KVM head Umendra Dutt told IANS: 'Mulching is an age-old technique that went out of use after the Green Revolution (in the 1970s). Farmers were told to burn the crop residues instead of using it to spread on the soil. This burning only leads to pollution and the ash does not benefit the soil in any way.'

According to Dutt, crops 'don't need water but moisture'. 'Mulching helps reduce use of water, keeping only enough moisture in the soil for the crops.'

Irrigation can lead to 'glut of water in the soil, thereby spoiling the soil oxidation process'.

P.L. Gautam, deputy director general of crop science at the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), told IANS that mulching had gone out of use in large farms due to mechanised farming.

However, he agreed that it was the most cost-effective technique for soil regeneration. 'The crop residues used for mulching also act as humus for the soil. It is by and large a useful method for conserving water. The soil gets recharged.'

One way, said Gautam, was through 'plastic mulching', spreading large plastic sheets on the field, which gave the same benefits.

However, according to Dutt, this method is not as useful as natural mulching because it cuts off the oxygen supply to the soil - a vital ingredient for soil oxidation.

Now other farmers in Fazilka and parts of Punjab are opting for mulching, though in small areas first, said Jyani. 'It needs two-three years for the soil to begin regenerating itself through mulching. Therefore farmers cannot afford to do it on all their land, even though they find it very useful.

'The government should give a subsidy, like they do for fertiliser, to farmers who opt for natural farming in order to tide over the initial years during the transition,' he said.

TAPI pipeline from Dauletabad to Fazilka; Talks on IPI project on April 25

1,680 km pipeline planned from TurkmenistanU.S. encouraging India and Pakistan to import gas
India to join Turkmenistan pipeline project, says Deora
1,680 km pipeline planned from Turkmenistan U.S. encouraging India and Pakistan to import gas

NEW DELHI: Seeking to work aggressively to secure its aim of energy security, India has decided to formally join the strategic U.S.-backed $3.5 billion Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project this week.Before leaving for Pakistan on Tuesday afternoon, Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister, Murli Deora told journalists here that the Indian delegation was going to Pakistan to sign the agreement for the TAPI pipeline at the invitation of the Asian Development Bank (ADB)
The Steering Committee of the TAPI pipeline is meeting in Islamabad on April 23-24. This will witness India formally joining the project; Mr. Deora said.Besides signing the Project Heads of Agreement, the four nations would also ink a Gas Pipeline Framework Agreement for the pipeline that is sponsored by the ADB.The U.S., which had opposed the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline, is encouraging India and Pakistan to import gas from Turkmenistan for their growing needs.The 1,680-km pipeline from Turkmenistan will transport 100 million standard cubic metres per day of gas from the Dauletabad gas field, of which India share is likely to be 60 mscmd.Mr. Deora said that on April 25 he would hold talks with his Pakistani counterpart to resolve the transit fee issue that had been impeding the IPI project progress. ;It will be different when the Minister takes up the topic. We expect some resolution; he said.
The rival TAPI line will run from the Dauletabad gas field in Turkmenistan to Afghanistan. From there it will be constructed alongside the highway running from Herat to Kandahar, and then through Quetta and Multan in Pakistan. The final destination of the pipeline will be the Indian town of Fazilka, near the border with Pakistan.$3.5 billion project.
The pipeline will be 1,420 mm in diameter with a capacity of 33 billion cubic metres (bcm) of natural gas annually. The cost of the project is estimated at $3.5 billion at the 2005 cost level.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Malwa Region Water Management Programme will save an estimated 49.5 billion liter of fresh Water for the year 2008-09 in the region used for irrigatio

Water—A key to Second Green Revolution
“Malwa Region Water Management Programme” by Zamindara Farmsolutions

Mark Twain at the start of the 21st century once said ‘Whisky is for drinking, water is for fighting over," his gloomy view on the water side of the equation later has been endorsed by United Nation in 1999 when Mr. Klaus Toepfer, Director-General of the United Nations Environment Programme said “A future war over water is a distinct possibility”. But Progressive farmer of Fazilka believe to turn down this statement by adopting state of the art irrigation practice to improve yield with minimal use and without wasting water.
First Green Revolution overcame the problems of low yields, pests and lack of scientific farming practices to make India self sufficient in terms of food grain. The second Green Revolution will have to overcome a far tougher problem- the shortage of water.

Biggest ever project taken by any individual to save 49.5 billion litre of fresh water in Punjab
Intense use of water and depleting water tables have created a situation where even advanced states like Punjab are finding that the lack of water is now the main impediment to the second Green Revolution. Current irrigation practices are based on flood irrigation whereby the farmer uses Canal/ Tube Well water to flood the plot to be irrigated. This practice is flawed because (a) The uneven level of plots means that large quantities of water and power are wasted and (b) All plants are flooded with water rather than being given water according to their requirement. This alternate wetting and drying with a fixed irrigation interval, irrespective of soil type and climatic demand resulting in over or under irrigation under different soil and weather situations. Here it is important to note that about half of the total fresh water used for irrigation in Asia is used for rice production because of flood irrigation methods[1].

Vikram Ahuja, a progressive farmer and Director, Zamindara Farmsolutions (ZFS) from the region on the launch of “Malwa Region Water Management Programme” quoted “an estimated India’s total landmass under cultivation is varying from 45-48%; food demand has increased significantly with the increase of population. We need to look into some value addition techniques in our existing crop and irrigation pattern to increase productivity, which should be economical for the farmers and best in Indian, and for Malwa region context best is Water Management”.

ZFS, India’s first ISO- 9000 certified agricultural services company, is adopting a science driven approach to help solve the problem. ZFS’s commitment to farming goes beyond profits and it is building active collaborations between agricultural universities, equipment suppliers and farmers. In terms of saving to the farmers are;

  • 25% higher yield

  • Lower expenditure on fuel/energy in pumping out water

It is based upon their state of the art, agriculture automation process;
(a) Use sophisticated Laser guided instruments for leveling - Preliminary research indicates that each centimeter level gap removed per acre can save upto 10,000 liters of water. Assuming an average gap of 10 cm this translates into a saving of 1,00,000 liters of water per acre. Multiply that by the 30 irrigation’s required for a rice crop and the potential saving could be 3 million liters (30,00,000) litres per acre per rice crop.

(b) Use of Scheduling Soil Metric Potential (SMP) based irrigation can yield a saving of upto 3,00,000 liters of water per acre.

Combining the two could yield a best case of figure of saving 33,00,000 litres per acre per year. ZFS is attempting to cover 15,000 acres this year- if it achieves its targets the water savings would be phenomenal.
Detailed Calculation
(A) Estimated water saving due to LLL per centimeter/per acre on each irrigation = 10000 liters
Average minimum level gap is 10 centimeters
Water Saving 10000 x 10 = 1, 00,000 liters/ one acre/each irrigation
(Minimum number of times irrigation is required on rice field = 30)
Water saving on one acre for only one crop = 30, 00,000 litres
ZFS will laser level targeted 15000 acres this season
15,000 x 30, 00,000 = 450, 00000000 litres

(B) Estimated additional water saving through’ Scheduling soil metric potential based irrigation SMP
Water savings thro’ above (tensiometer) per acre = 3, 00,000 litres
15000 Acres x 3, 00,000 = 4500000000 (B)
(A+B)(Total water saving on 15000 acres = 495, 00000000 liters (49.5 Billion)

This significant saving will help the Malwa belt of Punjab to fight against global warming.
Zamindara Farmsolutions seriously took the recent warming by United Nations about the Ug-99 wheat virus. This fungus virus is capable of wreaking havoc to wheat production by destroying entire fields. The virus, if it reaches Pakistan, could easily reach here in Fazilka, as wheat fields in the Pakistani Punjab are separated barely by a few yards from Indian wheat fields in districts like Ferozepur Amritsar, and Gurdaspur that lie on the Indo-Pak border. ZFS after taking expertise opinion from Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, also planning to start campaign to spread awareness about Ug-99 wheat virus to the farmers. “For us our country’s food security is our prime concern and this is a right time to take all initial measures” said Vikram Ahuja.

The border state abounds in wheat fields and is one of the largest wheat producing districts in the state and country.
[1] Kukal, S. S., Hira, G. S., Sidhu, A. S. (2006) Soil matric potential-based irrigation scheduling to rice (Oryza sativa)., Department of Soils, Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, 141 004, Punjab, India, Irrigation Science, 2005 (Vol. 23) (No. 4) 153-159