The Telegraph
Tuesday , February 4 , 2014
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Leaf cover on soil for better yield

- Environment NGO begins popularising mulching method among farmers to beat drought & dry season

A few tillers residing on the city fringes have pinned their hopes on the mulching method of farming for good yield despite the fear of drought every year.

The farmers have a reason to be excited for the method helps to retain moisture in the soil. Non-government organisation Tarumitra, which works for environment-related issues, has also started growing plants on its premises using this method. The organisation is trying to popularise it among the masses.

Ajay Kumar Singh (50), a farmer at Sampatchak village in Patna district started using mulching method in farming since last year. Singh has grown brinjal and banana using this method and has benefited. Singh said he didn’t have to engage extra labour to remove weeds from his field owing to the method.

“I was able to save my labour cost and used much less water by this method,” he said. He added that he used paper in the mulching method. He mentioned that scientists under the directorate of horticulture taught him the method last year.

Kanchan Pathak, the project co-ordinator of Tarumitra, said: “Mulching involves covering the soil with dry leaves or paper so that it retains moisture of the soil, reduce weed growth and protect soil fertility. First, a layer of dry leaves or paper is put on the soil in good quantity and soil is put on the layer again. The process is followed at least three to four times. The dry leaves or paper decompose in the soil with time and works like fertilisers in the soil indirectly. The high moisture content in the soil helps in the growth of microbes, which help to trap nitrogen for the plant for growth. At Tarumitra, we started organic farming two years ago but a few months back we started the mulching method, which has given great results.”

At Tarumitra, not only rice but vegetables like spinach, brinjal, cauliflower and others are being cultivated using this method.

Ghata Ambedkar (21), a former student of environment, science and water management department of AN College, said: “I learnt this method from Tarumitra. One of the benefits of mulching farming is that it stops weed growth. Weeds cause a lot of damage to the plant if not removed in time. The soil loses its fertility as weeds consume nutrients.” Ghata added that she has used the mulching method to grow flower plants at her home.

On why Tarumitra started using the mulching method, Pathak said: “The land on which we have undertaken organic farming used to be farmed with chemical fertilisers. We adopted this method to bring back essential nutrients in the soil. Tarumitra is trying to popularise this method. When school and college students visit our campus, we demonstrate mulching farming to inspire them to adopt the method.”

Nitesh Kumar Rai, deputy director (nursery), directorate of horticulture, said: “Apart from Singh, some farmers of Patna district have also started using mulching method in farming but the number is low. We are trying to popularise this method among farmers,” said Rai.

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