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Drought Mitigation Technologies & Practices

The central question for farmers in Anantapuram district is how to manage moisture stress and save crops when rains are not timely and delayed. If this question is answered then all other problems are mangeable. For the past few years AF has been looking at this central question in several ways and developing, promoting and popularising various drought mitigation measures. In this direction the following measures were implemented during the reporting period. 

During kharif 2015, AF’s preparedness could help in successfully reaching out to over 11,000 farmers. It had a very positive impact on farmers in an otherwise a severe drought year. Further, the Government could be influenced on the importance of contingency cropping at least for easing fodder crises in a drought year.  

AF's Drought Mitigation technologies and practices involve three major initiatives:

  • Timely sowing of crops under insufficient soil moisture condition
  • Providing protective irrigation during prolonged dry spells and
  • Promoting farm implements for drought mitigation & drudgery reduction

 

Timely sowing of crops under insufficient soil moisture condition 

With scanty rain fall during the sowing season (July), the soil moisture was not enough for sowing normal crops like groundnut, millets and pulses. AF tried to demonstrate technologies & techniques that could help farmers  overcome the adverse situation.

Ananta Planter 

Due to mechanization, tractors have replaced the traditional draught animals used earlier for farm operations. In every village, 5 or 6 big farmers own tractors and hire them to other farmers. Hence, small & marginal farmers, who form a large chunk, compete with big farmers to hire tractor drawn planters in order to complete sowing before the short lived soil moisture dries up. However, the tractor owners prefer to hire them to big farmers. The traditional planters available in the village are not very efficient and  are not able to meet the urgent demand of sowing in the villages. 

Ananta Planter is a new equipment designed by local Agriculture Research Station. It is 4 times more efficient than traditional planters, hence very helpful in low rain fall conditions in which the soil moisture dries up very quickly in just 2 or 3 days only. But the Ananta Planter was originally designed for sowing only groundnut. So, AF improved the Ananta Planter design to sow millets and pulses as well and it was successfully tested on the farmers’ fields during the previous year. 

Watering furrows & manual sowing technique 

AF introduced this technique  last year on a very small scale for establishing lesser plant density crops like castor and red gram. A water tanker of 5,000 litres capacity is required for sowing castor and red gram on one acre of land. Shallow plough furrows were opened every 6 feet and seeds were manually dibbled in the furrows. Water drawn from outside in a tanker was let in the furrows using pipes and the furrows were closed with a plank. The method was demonstrated on 46 ha of land belonging to 100 rain-fed farmers in the project area. This method works well provided it rains within 20 days after sowing. However, the efforts did not yield the anticipated results this year as the dry spells lasted for more than 50 days after sowing. Providing protective irrigation right from germination to growth stage was not possible because of water scarcity and also made it economically unviable. The experience of previous year revealed that this technique is viable when the dry spell does not exceed 20 days. AF has been trying to work out possible improvements on its research farm for the next kharif season.

Providing protective irrigation during prolonged dry spells

During the last year kharif season AF scaled up demonstration of protective irrigation to red gram crop on 375 ha of land belonging to 900 farmers using tractor drawn tankers. An average yield increase of 30% was observed. AF also succeeded in proving that cement lined farm ponds store water, stop seepage and are of great help for protective watering of tree crops during dry spells. These results encouraged AF to continue popularising these techniques not only among farmers but also all stakeholders including NGOs, research bodies, policy makers, and government officials etc.
 
During the current season the focus was on extending protective irrigation using farm ponds to annual crops like castor, red gram, groundnut etc. AF also tried the following options right from sourcing the water to methods of irrigation on the field.

Cement lined farm ponds:

During the current reporting period AF provided support for lining the farm pond in the form of material (cement) to 42 farmers who had already constructed the farm ponds with support under MGNREGS. 18 of them got filled up with rain water during June 2015 and were used for protective irrigation for about 19 ha for tree crops during dry spells in July and August. As there were good rains towards the end of September all the 54 farm ponds including 12 ponds lined during the previous year were full with rain water. The farmers expressed that they could definitely provide protective irrigation with the available water on the farm itself and reap good yields even though they do not receive rain in October and November. AF prepared itself to demonstrate the usefulness of the farm ponds in protecting rainfed crops from droughts. These demonstrations will be carried out in the next quarter during dry spells. 

Tractor drawn Micro (Protective) Irrigation Units:

During the previous year, AF designed and developed mobile micro protective irrigation units using a truck with tanker. It was to demonstrate protective irrigation as a technique to save the rainfed crops during the long dry–spells. Last year AF innovated and tried tractor drawn tankers which are locally available in the villages for protective irrigation. Using this method, AF demonstrated protective irrigation for red gram on 375 ha of land. This year AF improved it by fitting sprinklers and mini drip irrigation system for increasing water use efficiency. AF will test these units in October & November during dry spells.

Sharing of ground water among farmers

AF has been promoting mutual cooperation among SMG members for the past 2 years. This initiative not only helped the members in reducing the cash transactions in agriculture operations through exchange of labour, implements and bullocks, but also created fraternity among families in SMGs. This year, AF encouraged GSMS members to explore the possibilities of sharing of water by SMG members with irrigation facilities with neighbouring rainfed farmers for providing protective irrigation during dry spells. Farmers with bore wells positively responded to the idea. The initiative of ground water sharing for protective irrigation with neighbouring farmers was started in August 2015. It increased affinity and mutual cooperation among farmers. AF will put in conscious efforts to share these experiences across the district to encourage more and more farmers to join hands in this water sharing endeavour.

Promoting farm implements for drought mitigation & drudgery reduction

AF has been constantly searching & researching on farm implements that could help small & marginal farmers to retain moisture while reducing drudgery, particularly for women.  During the reporting period AF promoted Sub-Soiler for better moisture retention and Cycle Weeder for performing weeding operations with ease.

Sub – Soiler 

Sub – soiler is a tractor drawn implement which is used to make a very deep cut (up to 80 cm depth) into the hard soil to enhance the depth of top-soil. AF tested it on 40 ha, with deep ploughing before sowing. It is expected that such very deep ploughing will help in absorbing more rain water and retaining moisture for longer time than the normal, and will improve deeper penetration of roots. Castor and Red gram intercrop was sown in such deep ploughed forms.  The results of the experiment will be seen after the harvest. This experiment need to be continued for two more seasons before concluding its efficacy. 

Cycle Weeder

The Cycle weeder is a simple implement innovated by a progressive farmer in Karnataka State by using a bicycle wheel for smooth and easy movement of the weeder on harder soils for weeding and inter-cultivation. AF took some MSMS members on exposure visit to the farmer’s farm in Karnataka during previous year. The women MSMS members were quite impressed with the weeder. AF adapted the design to suit local crops and got 70 cycle weeders manufactured by local skilled agri-implement makers. These weeders received excellent response from, particularly, women small farmers and wage labourers. Usually weeding operations, a heavy back breaking job, are done by women.  Cycle weeders do not need constant bending and make the weeding much less strenuous and its efficiency reduces the drudgery, especially for women, immensely. A lot of farmers started to purchase these on their own once they have seen and experienced it benefits. They are also inexpensive costing only about Rs. 1500 each!

                

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