Agroecological Innovations by Farmers in India

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Introduction

Farmers are considered to be the feeders of any nation. Indian farmers are not apart from them, they work days and nights to create bread and butter for human as well as for feeding animals too. Farming innovations have been started since ancient times by farmers. In modern era, they are devising many new farming models to achieve their respectable life. These types of agricultural innovations are dependent upon ecological conditions of that particular area, so they practice accordingly. Such type of agro-ecological innovations well suit and add considerable benefit to their farm income. This article deals with such examples in which farmers have developed new models and definitions of farming by their own hardships. This manuscript will provide good background of such practices so that many new budding and traditional farmers to grow and nurture themselves in better way.

Integrated farming system with special reference to beekeeping

About 20,000 species of bees are present in the world. Only 8 spp are recognized as ‘Honey bees’ by entomologist.

Five important species of honey bees are as follows:

  • 1. The Rock bee, Apis dorsata (Apidae).
  • 2. The Indian hive bee, Apis cerana indica (Apidae).
  • 3. The little bee, Apis florea (Apidae).
  • 4. The European / Italian bee, Apis mellifera (Apidae).
  • 5. Dammer bee / Stingless bee, Melipona irridipennis (Meliporidae).

Beekeeping/Apiculture (derived from latin word ‘Apis’- Bees) is the maintenance of honey bee colonies, commonly in hives by humans. A Beekeeper/Apiarist keeps bees in order to collect their honey and other products that the hive produces (including beeswax, propolis, pollen, and royal jelly), to pollinate crops, or to produce bees for sale to other beekeepers. A location where bees are kept is called an apiary or "bee yard." Bees collect nectar and pollen from plants. Nectar is the raw material for honey preparation & pollen is a rich food for the bees.

The plant which are visited by bees only for nectar are: Tamarind (Tamarindus indicus), Neem (Azadirachta indica), Eucalyptus spp., pungam (Pongamia pinnata) etc.

 The plant which supply pollen to the bees are: Sorghum( a rich source), maize, roses, citrus, apple, peach, plum, guava, mango, coconut etc.

Cotton supply both nectar and pollen to the bees.

Integration into farming system

Advantages

  1. 1.      Does not require land to be owned and rented
  2. 2.      Feed is not an issue
  3. 3.      Beekeeping does not compete with livestock and other species for resources

Crops that benefit from pollination services

Oil seeds crops:-

Mustard-crop, Rapeseed, Sunflower

There was significant yield increase of 127.27% in brassica sp. managed by Apis cerena

Fruits and nuts

Apple (2 colonies per hectare), Pear, Palm, Almond, Litchi, Asom lemon

  • 4 Apis cerena colonies gave optimum yield of litchi with 123.9% increased
  • 52.2% yield increased in asom lemon

Vegetable crops

Cauliflower crop, Carrot, Coriander, Onion flower etc.

Benefits derived from Apis cerena pollination were 3- fold in onion flower

Pulse: Pigeonpea

Forage crops: Berseem, Alfalfa

Fibre crops: Cotton, Sunnhemp

Beekeeping is an agro-based activity which is being undertaken by farmers/landless labours in rural area as an integrated farming practice. Beekeeping supplements income & employment generation and nutritional intake of rural population. Honey bees have been offering services to the society through ensured pollination in cross-pollinated crops as well as by providing honey and a variety of bee hive products.

Value of additional yield from pollination services by honey bees alone is abt 15-20 times more than the value of all hive products put together. The potential benefits due to bee pollination in the form of increase in yield of various crops vary from 5-33150%. Unemployed youth can start this business with minimal funds (Rs 1-2 lakh). Income from 100 Bee colonies is around Rs2.50- 3.00 lakh per annum. Export of honey products attracts foreign exchange. Hence beekeeping may be adopted as an enterprise by anyone after getting training on the subject.

 

Story of Bharat bhai

 

Bharat bhai from Valsad Dist of Gujarat has adopted beekeeping. Today he is the youngest master trainer at the age of 25. He initially cultivated only rain-fed crops such as rice nachini (ragi) and black gram. After being trained in beekeeping, he understood the role of bees played as pollinators and their resulting impact on increasing farm yields. As a result of honey and the increased farm yield. His income has jumped by 40% in just one year.

Bee man of Maharashtra

Shrikant Gajbhiye is the founder of Bee the change, which offers free beekeeping training to farmers and forest populations in Maharashtra. He argues that when bees are kept along sides farming activities, production increases b/w 20-200 per cent besides, of course getting to sell honey in the market. In the last few months, ‘Bee the Change’ has trained more than 500 farmers and forest populations and currently network counts 50 trainees.

Bees are an investment with high returns; the crop yield increases and products become healthier.

 

Bee toxicity: - Most of honeybees are susceptible to many groups of pesticides. Small farmers use manual sprayer/ duster for treating small crop area. Result in continuous exposure of Honeybees to pesticidal poisoning.

Location of bee hives: - not located in and around fields where pesticides are to be applied. Advisable to move bee hives to safer location.

Pesticide formulation: - dust formulation more hazardous than sprays

Selection of pesticides: - organic pesticides are less toxic to bees than inorganic ones

Time and method of harvesting: - most dangerous when bees are actively foraging.

Integrated farming system in Maharashtra

Components of Integrated farming system

  • Agriculture
  • Fish farming
  • Poultry farming
  • Dairy  farming
  • Azolla unit
  • Fodder unit

  

Poultry with fish farming

In poultry farming, rearing 500 desi birds unit. In pond, application of poultry manure in the pond provides a nutrient base for dense bloom of phytoplankton, particularly micro plankton which helps in intense zooplankton development. The zooplankton has an additional food source in the form of bacteria which thrive on the organic fraction of the added poultry dung.

Fish farming: The stocking rates vary from 8000 - 8500 fingerlings/ha and a species ratio of 40 % surface feeders, 20 % of column feeders, 30 % bottom feeders and 10-20 % weedy feeders are preferred for high fish yields. Ponds should be stocked in the month of March and harvested in the month of October - November, due to severe winter, which affect the growth of fishes.

Fish farming

Stocking pond: 0.5 acre

Dairy farming

In dairy unit, five crossbred animals are present it includes 2 H.F and 3 jersey

Fodder production

Maize: CP 8-10%, TDN 60 %, Production land: 1 acre

Hydroponics and Azolla production

Azolla rich in protein almost 20-25% CP on DM basis.  It has essential minerals iron, calcium, magnesium, and appreciable quantity Vitamin A & vitamin B12. Fresh azolla can be mixed in commercial feed in the ratio of 1:1 or given directly. It is found that milk production increased by 10-12 % when they are feed with azolla.

Fruits tree: Ber, Amala, Pomegranate, etc

Seasonal Floriculture:

Marigold in boundary of farm 3 feet width, Drumstick tree, etc


Conclusions

It has been already found by many research workers that integrated farming system, which has come out as a farmer’s agro-ecological innovation, improves the income of farmers in better way with very minimal investments. However, the net amount of income depends upon many factors such as market, resources, etc. If such practices are considered by large number of farmers, it is certain that they will be benefitted.

 

Note: Photos are taken from internet sources; author doesn’t claim it to be his own.

 
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