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Drip irrigation works wonders for pulses

Dr G Shankar of Rallis India says Shivaji Kendre is an example of a new generation of Indian farmers who blend technology with conventional wisdom to take Indian agricultural practices into the modern age

Extra space between saplings allows the plants to grow well.jpegShivaji, a young farmer growing pigeonpea (toor or arhar) in Kumta village in Latur district in the state of Maharashtra, showed personal initiative, courage for experimentation and perseverance when he attempted an innovation in the cultivation of pulses that has never been tried before – drip irrigation.

Pulses in India have traditionally been a rainfed crop, and most farmers use minimal irrigation. Yet when Shivaji’s pigeonpea crop was about a month old, he took the help of Jain Irrigation to put up a drip irrigation facility on his 2.5-acre plot. Seeing Shivaji’s example, some of his friends followed suit.

These young farmers of Kumta have used BSMR 853  variety seed (of 160-day duration), sown in paired rows with spacing of 6 feet between rows (fig 1). Within the pairs of rows, the distance was 1.5 feet (fig 2). Each plot received 40kg of DAP and 19:19:19 water soluble at 4 kg per acre on the 60th day. The drip is used for 2 hours a day, once in an interval of 15 days. The frequency is slightly altered depending on the rain and the moisture level in the soil.

Attempting drip irrigation on chickpea crop.jpegWhen we visited the plot, we saw the crop in full bloom and with very good growth of lateral branches. According to Shivaji, the normal yield of this variety of seed under standard conditions of sowing is just 4 quintal / acre. With drip irrigation, the yield has increased dramatically – he is expecting as much as 10 quintal /acre.

Shivaji also explained another benefit – by regulating the distribution of water by using the drip method, he could double the area under irrigation using the same amount of water.

Shivaji has spent Rs20,000 per acre on drip irrigation. On this he will get a 50 per cent subsidy from the government. He and his friends are confident that the cost of the drip can be earned back within the first season itself.

Shivaji Venkat Kendre.jpegFor this group of young farmers, this experiment is just the beginning. They are now exploring the possibilities of growing chickpea (chana) with drip irrigation (fig 3). In this plot, the drip lines have been located every 4-5 rows. As per the calculation, it takes about 2 hours to irrigate each row, and then the pipe is shifted to the next row.

The final results of the drip irrigation experiments are not in, as the crop has not yet been harvested. But the farmers who are part of this uncommon initiative are very optimistic that they will see a much higher level of revenue and prosperity by employing this simple method of drip irrigation with pulses.

Dr G Shankar is general manager (customer relations) at Rallis India.
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