Udaipur : Tired of dealing with nematodes (soil worm) problem, that ruined their land fertility, two farmers of Mewar took clue from fellow cultivators in Gujarat and adopted ‘Hydroponics’, a soil-less system of growing plants. Now within a year, cultivation sans soil, using coco peat, or coir pith, has significantly boost the yield for Dangi brothers at Maharaj ki Khedi village near Dabok. Though it took a high investment for the system setup at their two acres of land but now Shivlal and Nandlal Dangi are reaping profits with each crop. Cucumbers-tomatoes grown in their farm throughout the year is fetching them unbelievable profits.
“ Nematodes had ruined the soil quality and productivity incurring a loss of more than 10 lakhs to the farmers. They tried all the treatments suggested by the soil scientists to cure the ailment, however nothing worked” said Sudhir Verma, a senior officer in the agriculture department. They came to know that some farmers in Gujarat had resorted to soil-less farming due to similar problem. They consulted experts who assisted them in adopting the technology at large scale for the first time here too, Verma explained. “ We installed a massive poly house structure in our farm and bought cocopeats to grow plants as advised by the experts. With some of our funds and government subsidy the expense were met and we started off with the new technology” said Nandlal Dangi, the progressive farmer.
Cucumber seeds were sown in polybags filled with coir pith that comes in brick forms. Cocopeats are soaked in litres of water to turn them soil like and then filled into poly bags. Drip irrigation setup was laid to provide fertilizers in soluble form in controlled manner. One crops has been reaped after adoption of the latest technique and third is ready for cut.
“ A yield of 700 quintals per acre is expected this time and already 180 quintals have been harvested” Shivlal Dangi informed. The adoption of the soil-less system has increased productivity by more than 30 percent. Cocopeats can be used for 3 years, after that they need to be replaced. “ Soil-less farming requires an additional expense of 20 thousand per month compared to the traditional cultivation but the results are incredible and worth paying” said Mahesh Verma, the Joint Director, Agriculture, Udaipur division. “ It brings down the susceptibility to soil-borne plant diseases, reduces the use of chemicals, and enables farmers to raise up to three crops a year. Though the cost for setting up the hydroponics system is high but the higher percentage of yield and superior crop quality are the rewards” Verma asserted.
Benefits- Soil-less cultivation is the future for an ever growing world population who cannot afford to continuously plant and re-plant in the soil or risk their yields to soil deterioration. Soil-less culture involves no work using tools as spades and hoes, machines or tractors. No injury is caused by continuous cropping since it involves no soil. Such works as inter tillage and weeding are eliminated, fertilizers and watering are automatized and controlled thus reducing water wastage. Limited supply of water through drip irrigation makes it suitable for arid areas.