Sunderban Visit 23rd-24th January 2014

Sustainable circle “Sushthayee Chawkro” at Sunderbans

In the crisp winter afternoon, emotions surged as people of K-plot watched the street play “Prokriti Maa” (enacted by BTS employees), which delved into the realities and crises of the modern day farmer’s life.

Soon after, about 30-35 farmers gathered at the Nazrul club for a one-on-one session with our expert Tapas Mandal from DRCSC. These sessions are being held as a part of a new initiative by AID named “Sushthayee Chawkro” or the sustainable cycle.  The uniqueness of this interaction was that the participants had paid a nominal amount of Rs.20 to attend it. The idea behind is to create an ownership for the sustainable agricultural program amongst the farmers. This initiative will also help in formation of support groups of farmers who can help out their fellow farmers with their experience and Knowledge about organic farming.

Shibu, our field coordinator, had collected the queries from the farmers which were as follows:

1) How to deal with pest and diseases by organic means?

2) How to prepare the soil before the cropping season?

3) Ways and means to curtail diseases and pests in chilli, brinjal, mustard and betel leaves.

Tapasda patiently answered all the questions and suggested measures to tackle the problems. One of the farmers had brought a diseased chilli plant which had curled leaves. Tapas da diagnosed it to be caused by mites and suggested the following solution for mite infections in chillies as well as betel leaves.

500 gm-neem leaves, 250 gm- neem tree bark, 10 gm copper sulphate, 5 gm borax to be boiled together in a mud pot (metallic containers are strictly prohibited). Strain the liquid and raise volume up to 20 litres with water. Spraying the solution will effectively curtail mite infestation in betel leaves and vegetables. A note of caution- copper sulphate naturally occurs as Chalcanthite (a pentahydrate mineral) is permitted to be used in very limited amounts in integrated pest management. However, its indiscriminate use as a weedicide or to control slugs is not encouraged as high concentrations can be toxic for human and animals.

Another very effective solution to kill pests can be prepared from tobacco leaves. 50 gm of tobacco leaves were cut into small pieces and suspended in 2 litres water overnight. After boiling for about 30 min liquid was strained and leaves were discarded. 20 gm of soap (detergents and shampoos are a strict no-no) was dissolved in the tobacco extract and volume to of the solution was made up to 8 litres with water.

Two spoon full crushed garlic dipped in about 10 ml kerosene, can be kept overnight in an air tight bottle. The extract was strained (can be preserved for about a year) and dissolved in 1 litre soap water. This solution works very well for pest treatment in mustard crops. Crushed green chillies can also be added to the above solution.

Tapasda also accounted the benefits of using cow urine. He said that ten fold diluted cow urine is very effective to control fungal diseases in plants.

Tricoderma viride can also be effectively used as a biocontrol agent especially in fungal diseases.  It is a common soil fungus found in rhizosphere of the plant roots. It shows vigorous growth which competes out other disease causing fungi. Tricoderma is very effective in tobacco, potato, cauliflower etc. but not for onions, where it causes a disease. It promotes growth and induces some resistance in plants which helps them fight diseases.

Viral diseases of plants are most difficult to control. Our experts suggested that the infected plants should be removed to stop the spread of disease. 50 gm tulsi (ocimum) leaves boiled in a litre of milk, extracted and volume made up to 10 litres with water, when sprayed on infected plants help control viral diseases to a certain extent. The solution is to be sprayed 2-3 times at a gap of 15 minutes in the evening. Mixed cropping is an effective way to stop spread of diseases. Microbial infestations are very specific and usually a single microbe will almost never attack more than one species of plant. The fallow season is also helpful in elimination of diseases to an extent.

The participant farmers expressed their happiness and satisfaction about the new initiative and wanted another such session in April.

Next day, Bishaka and Polydi (field coordinators, SAP) requested us to visit the fruit orchard of Buddishwar Koyal. Buddishwarda had planted Indian Berry plants (narkeli kool) which he had procured from Mr. Humayun Kabir on an exposure visit to his farm. We were very happy to oblige. As we entered the orchard, we saw that the plant had taken their full height and were laden with fruits. Buddishwarda revealed that he had grown five plants organically, and those plants yielded higher quantity and better quality fruits. He also got a better price for the organic fruit (see the video interview of Buddishwar Koyal). Prithviraj was ecstatic when he tasted fruits from the organic and inorganically grown plants one after the other. He confirmed that the organically grown berries tasted much better than those grown with chemical inputs. Buddishwarda showed us a bottle of ‘Effective microorganisms’ that he had used for his organic venture.

Soon after we headed to Nogenabad for our next meeting with the farmers of that that area. The questions put forth by farmers were very similar to the ones in the previous meeting.  Their main concern was the brinjal plant which was very much prone to pest attack. Tapasda explained in detail about the hormone trap and how it could be very beneficial in controlling pests. Pintu was very keen to understand the scientific processes that occur on application of organic inputs and the scientific explanation of their effect on plant growth. He also expressed the need of setting up of a microbiological lab where some bacterial and fungal cultures can be maintained. He also expressed the need of setting up of a microbiological lab where some bacterial and fungal cultures can be maintained.

The idea of Susthayee Chawkro seems to have gone down well with the farmers and they are looking forward to more such sessions in the future.

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