March 2013

Fertilising growth

Marginal women farmers in Coimbatore and Madurai districts of Tamil Nadu enhance yields and profits with bio-fertilisers, supported by Tamil Nadu Agricultural University and Reviving the Green Revolution experts

Geetha has a family of four and was surviving on a monthly income of Rs. 15,000. A resident of Pooluvampatty, in Coimbatore district in Tamil Nadu, her 2.5-acre land provides her with vegetables such as cauliflower, tomato, chilies and shallot (Madras onions), which her husband Thangaraj sells in the local market. Until 2012 she employed conventional farming methods, till Dr. Kumutha of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), Coimbatore, convinced her to initiate production of Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi (AMF) bio-fertiliser, which would increase uptake of plant phosphorus from the soil, making more nutrients available for the plant and resulting in improved yields.

Experts from ´╗┐Tamil Nadu Agricultural University engaging in a site inspection
Together with Geetha, Dr. Kumutha set up an AMF bio-fertiliser production pit in her farm, with a capacity to produce 500 kgs of the fertiliser in 60 days. Dr. Kumutha persuaded Geetha to cultivate cauliflower with the AMF bio-fertiliser produced. The new method produced dramatic results by achieving an additional yield of 3,000 kgs of the crop; thus, earning Geetha Rs. 30,000 incremental income from a single harvest, besides cost saving through 25% decrease in plant phosphorous requirements.

An elated Geetha declares, “My cauliflower heads are in great demand in the local market because of the vegetables’ glowing colour, size and firmness.” The additional income has encouraged her to send her children to a private school in Coimbatore. Heartening enough is the fact that 50 other farmers in the region have emulated Geetha’s practice under the active guidance of Dr. Kumutha and her team.
   
Cultivators like Geetha can attribute their success to the endeavours of the scientists of the TNAU, which has been supported by the Trusts under the Reviving the Green Revolution Initiative towards the development of micro-enterprises for production of AMF bio-fertiliser in villages through empowering women. This project aims to popularise the production and usage of AMF bio-fertiliser among the small and marginal farmers of Coimbatore and Madurai districts.

Convinced by the benefits, the farmers are continuing AMF bio-fertiliser production. Their success has motivated other women to collectively and individually produce AMF bio-fertiliser. Since the production technology is very easy to adopt and investment is minimal (Rs. 3,000), farmers are inclined to go in for additional pits, which will bring them substantial additional income. Notably, the RGR Cell, Regional Centre, has arranged a marketing tie-up with Iswarya Organics, which purchases the extra AMF bio-fertiliser produced by farmers at Rs.15 /kg after fulfilling their captive need. Consequently, farmers stand to gain upto Rs. 7,500 every two months from each 500 kg pit, even if they don’t use the AMF produced in their field.