Soil-less farming technique turns Raj farmer's fortune around

Udaipur
5 Nov 2017

Four years back, Nand Lal Dangi was growing just 20 tonne of cucumber a year on his 2-acre land at Maharaj ki Khedi, a remote village in south Rajasthan, before he brought in the soil-less cocopit farming technique. The new farming technique has quadrupled his farm output to 80 tonnes in a year and zoomed his annual income, the farmer said. However, there was a time when it was hard for him to even recover labour cost due to crop damage and low produce. Beside arid and hot climate, the region, around 425 km from Jaipur, is fighting with a common problem of nemetode, the 40 -year-old said. Nematodes are worm like pests that feed on the root of the plants.
"After facing so much of crop damage I even invested Rs 10 lakh and purchased new soil for my farm but the problem of nemetode did not go. Against my expectations of 40-45 tonne cucumber my yield remained around 10 tonne, rest was damaged due to various reasons from pests to unfavourable weather conditions," Dangi said. Finally in 2013, the Israeli technique, about which he got to know during a visit to Gujarat, gave him a reason to smile. The farmer got a breakthrough in Himatnagar municipality in Sabarkantha district of Gujarat where he saw a company called Asian Agro company growing vegetables in cocopits. Cocopit farming is a soil-less farming used to grow crops in coconut husk.
Dangi, who had never heard the concept of soil-less farming, was so much moved by the technique that he gave up the traditional way of farming in open fields and switched to cocopit farming. Besides, he moved to polyhouse for plantation of crops and also gave up the traditional way of irrigating the fields through tubewells. He now uses drip irrigation method. With the new technique of farming, his output has grown four-fold to 80 tonnes on the same area.
"I started producing Turkish cucumber variety Yuskel 53321 Hybrid with the new technique in my polyhouses. My output jumped four-fold and as production has gone up my income has also gone up," Dangi informed. On 1 acre of land, the total input cost comes around Rs 3 lakh for one harvest. The seed and cocopit are bought from a Gujarati seed company for a total cost of 1 lakh. Another Rs 70,000 is spent on fertiliser, Rs 30,000 on pest-controlling medicines and Rs 1 lakh on labour, he said and added he mixes the nutrients with cocopit and puts 1.5 kg of mixture in polybags. Nemetodes fail to enter the bag. "I cultivate my land twice a year. So, it costs me Rs 6 lakh a year to produce 80 tonne cucumber every year. And the return I get is Rs 18 lakh," Dangi said.
Earlier the input cost was comparatively less, but the annual produce was 1/4th of it, he added. Even the fruiting period has gone up, he said, adding during summers the fruiting period begins between 35-40 and in winters 45-50. During summers it lasts for 120-130 days wheres when the seeds were sown in open field the crop cycle was of 90 days. For winters, he said the number varies. Earlier, where there was no guarantee that a particular plant will be able to produce a single cucumber, today each plant is producing minimum five cucumbers.(PTI)