Andhra Pradesh

With natural mulching, Anantapur farmers avoid air pollution

Common-sense approach: A farmer shows the results of dry sowing and natural farming at Medapram in Dharmavaram mandal of Anantapur district.   | Photo Credit: R_V_S_PRASAD

Stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana has pushed air pollution to high levels not only there and Delhi, but even spread over distant Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka as wind flow brought the smog to even Anantapur, taking PPM 2.5 to dangerous levels. Farmers in Anantapur, however, are showing the way by adopting natural methods and using stubbles for mulching (a technique of adding a layer to the soil surface to suppress weeds and prevent water loss through evaporation).

Kunuthuri Padmnabham and wife Chandrakala, with a small landholding, accumulated debts using fertilizers and pesticides for groundnut and other crops, but are bouncing back. Thanks to Zero-Based Natural Farming techniques propagated by District Project Manager Lakshma Naik during last couple of years.

A mid desert oasis

A five-acre farm in Medapuram village of Dharmavaram mandal looks like an oasis with literally no crop surviving in the locality due to a dry spell till mid-September and excess fall after that. The agriculture waste - stubbles from the pearl millet crop and groundnut - were either ploughed back into the soil or used as a covering for the farmland to not allow direct sunlight to fall on the ground preventing evaporation of water.

A couple of days of rain in August was enough for Mr. Padmanabham to prepare a 2.5-acre plot for ‘Dry sowing’. He just spread all the stubbles to cover the entire plot after just sprinkling pearl millets, bengal gram, korrelu and gingelly. He began the exercise not hoping any result, but believing the Agriculture Officer Praveen’s advice. To his surprise within a week there were shoots coming out of the stubble/mulching cover and the land below it was so fertile that there were several earthworms creating the right ecosystem for the plants to grow.

Going against the grain

Proudly showing both her 2.5-acre plot - one in which there was thick vegetation and the other where Dry Sowing was done using stubbles for mulching, Ms. Chandrakala told The Hindu that they were seen by villagers as fools for adopting this method of natural farming and using only Jeevamrutham as fertilizer and Neem Oil as pesticide. “Prior to sowing we treated the seeds with neem powder and the results are in front of us,” she said, showing how interdependence of plants in a multi-cropping plot helped keep the pests away and give higher yields.

Stubble burning leads to loss of nutrients, pollution from smoke, damage to electrical poles and other thatched houses, she said. They had sown different seeds at regular intervals of five rows so that spread of insects gets arrested.

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Printable version | Mar 9, 2021 2:08:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/with-natural-mulching-anantapur-farmers-avoid-air-pollution/article29976931.ece

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