Saturday, April 23, 2011

Prospects of Commercial Agriculture in India

The Indian nation is on the move. The people are astir. Agriculture is blooming. Industry is booming. The legacy of self-deprecation and self-doubt inherited from the colonial period have given way to a new-found dynamism, confidence and sense of self-determination. 

Strategy to Complement the Economic Liberalization
India needs a new strategy to complement the economic reforms, a strategy designed to take full advantage of the country’s agro-climatic advantages, huge tracks of cultivable land and large internal market to stimulate a rapid development of the rural economy.

Agriculture as an Engine for Industrialization
The rapid development of South Korea, Taiwan, and Malaysia provides ample evidence that an agriculture-driven strategy can act as a powerful engine for raising rural incomes, industrialization and employment generation. More recently, commercial agriculture has been a powerful engine for economic development in Thailand, where 70% of the population is still employed in the farm sector.

India’s Competitive Advantage in Agriculture
India possesses four outstanding competitive advantages in agriculture comparable to those of any other country in the world. 
  • It has regions which are climatically favorable for cultivation of every commercially-important plant species grown in other parts of the world – ranging from temperate orchard crops such as almonds and apples to tropical mangoes and pineapple. 
  • The country already possesses the largest acreage of irrigated land in the world with 40% of the potential still to be tapped. 
  • The gap between present productivity and proven technological potential is very large for most crops; yet even so, the country is already among the world’s top three producers of tea, cotton, sugar, food grains, groundnut, coffee, eggs and milk. 
  • Lastly, the country has an abundance of available skilled, educated, technical and scientific manpower.

Creating Rural Jobs as a Counter to Urban Migration
According to one estimate, for every ton of additional foodgrains produced in India, one new job is created in the economy. Rising productivity in agriculture can stimulate the growth of agro-industries, food processing and distribution, and demand for new industrial plants and machinery. It will also increase demand for consumer good, household appliances and tourism in the rural sector, creating a boom in related sectors.

Growing Domestic Demand
Indians consume an average of 40 grams per day of horticulture products compared to a normal nutritional demand of 90 grams. As incomes rise, the domestic market for horticulture products is projected to increase by 60% over the next six years. Overall, there is scope for placing an additional 1 million acres under horticulture crops. This will generate demand for 100 new commercial hybrid seed production units in the country.

Tremendous Export Opportunities
India has the potential to become a global leader in agriculture. 
  • Agriculture exports, including textiles, have risen from Rs 10,000 crores to Rs 40,000 crores over the past five years. 
  • Grape and mango exports to Western Europe are rapidly increasing. 
  • Floriculture is a $40 billion global industry that is projected to reach $70 billion. 
  • Exports of processed fruits and vegetable, cotton textiles, sugar, and fish have vast potential. 
  • Despite being the second largest producer of silk in the world, India’s share of world silk trade is less than 5%.

Closing the Productivity Gap
India agriculture suffers from low productivity of its soil and water resources. Raising productivity means increasing profitability. The average yield of tomato in India is 12 tons per acre versus 34 tons in the USA, but yields as high as 38 tons have been achieved by commercial farmers in India generating net profit in excess of Rs 50,000 per acre. Average net incomes ranging between Rs 40,000 and Rs 1,00,000 per acre are now being achieved by some modern farmers employing advanced cultivation practices on a range of vegetable, flower and fruit crops.

Actual yields & profits of a scientific farmer in Tamil Nadu
Yield per acre
Net Profit
Red Cabbage
15,500 kg
Rs 70,000
16,000 kg
Rs 52,000
30,000 kg
Rs 45,000

India’s Unique Opportunity
Never before has India been poised for such rapid economic progress. Never before have the opportunities been so great or the country so ready. Now what is needed is to generate a widespread awareness of the potentials at all levels of the society – among political leaders, administrators, farmers and the corporate sector

The time has come for a broad-based initiative to seize the opportunity!

  • Establish commercial farming schools to demonstrate cultivation of highly profitable crops
  • Establish integrated horticulture estates covering one million hectares of irrigated land, for private farmers to cultivate high profit vegetable and fruit crops
  • Establish integrated sericulture projects in which all the operations from mulberry cultivation to silk spinning and weaving are carried out scientifically
  • Establish intensive aquaculture estates, each of 50 acres, consisting of quarter acre intensive production ponds leased out to small farmers and landless workers
  • Establish scientifically run soil labs in every district to test
  • Encourage the private sector to acquire or lease degraded, uncultivable waste lands and to utilize advanced technologies to reclaim acres for intensive horticulture & farm forestry.
  • Widely publicize achievements in the agri-business sector to generate awareness of the enormous potential for the country.

Credits :
Excerpts from ICPD : A CALL TO THE NATION - Commercial Agriculture as an Engine for Rural Development, Industrialization and Full Employment

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Making in-house manure: Coir Pith

Thanks to a coir pith factory adjacent to our farm, we were able to procure 78 tractor loads of unprocessed coir pith waste. We are planning on decomposing it in the next couple of months so that we have good quality, home-grown manure for this years planting season.

Berg Top Coir factory, Sivagangai, a subsidiary of a dutch company.

Everything is for grabs!

The first tractor gets loaded up by a JCB...

...while others wait for their turn.

We employed a total of 10 tractors and a JCB. Our farm is approx 6 Km away from factory and 10 tractors ensured continuous loading of coir pith.

JCB compacting the material.

Covering up the load (we do not like to 'waste' waste )

Once the goods were on the farm, it was time to process it. First, we made a sieve to filter out undesirable items like plastics etc..

Karan Singh and Sher Singh - our coir pith sieve architects..

15 ft by 10 ft beds were made - 15 ft was divided into 5 sections. The height of bed was maintained at 6 inches. In other words, 15 cubic ft = 100 Kg of coir pith waste.

Sieving in process..

First bed complete..

..and many more. We re-used the pit marking pegs to divide the bed into 5 sections.

After dividing the bed into 5 sections, the 3rd section was evened out and a layer of pleurotus sajor was put on it for rapid decomposition. We got 300 gm packet (enough for a 100 Kg layer) from TNAU Madurai. I assume most Agri colleges should be able to supply it.

Mixing pleurotus sajor with water so that it does not fly off (it was a windy evening)

Solution was poured onto the coir layer and then abundantly watered.

Then another layer of coir pith was put on top of pleurotus sajor layer.

A layer of Urea (1 Kg for 100 Kg of coir) was placed on top of second coir layer.

We continued doing this 2 more times. Overall, 600 gm of pleurotus sajor and 2 Kg of Urea was used for a total of 500 Kg of coir waste.

..and then it was covered with palm leaves to reduce moisture loss.

...and marked it with the date. We shall check on it after 2 months. In the meanwhile, we will continue watering it to enhance the decomposition process.

I know this is a long post, but would like to summarize the process once more.

1. Make 15 ft by 10 ft by 0.5 ft bed. 10 ft by 3 ft by 0.5 ft bed should be approx 100 Kg
2. On a layer of 100 Kg sieved coir, put 300 gm of pleurotus sajor. Water it
3. Place another 100 Kg of sieved coir. Water it.
4. Put 1 Kg of urea and evening spread it. Water it.
5. Repeat step 3.
6. Repeat step 2.
7. Repeat step 3.
8. Repeat step 4.
9. Repeat 3. So totally, you should have 5 coir layers and 2 layers of pleurotus sajor and urea each.
10. Compact the mount with a spade or any other flat implement.
11. Cover it water coconut or palm leaves for rapid decomposition and to contain moisture loss.
12. In 2 months, you should be able to get coffee colored compost. Ensure continuous watering during the 2 months.

Material - FREE.

Transportation - Rs 30,000 for 78 loads and a JCB. Rough calculations indicate that we may have procured 100 tons of coir waste i.e. Rs 0.30/Kg

Inputs - Urea: 2Kg (Rs 6/Kg)
          - Pleurotus sajor: 600 gm (Rs 40)

For a bed of 500Kg (5 layers of coir), total input expenses is Rs 52 i.e. Rs 0.10/Kg.

Total cost of production - Rs 0.40/Kg

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Solving the mystery of FPS (Foot,Pound,Second) and CGS (cm,gram,second) systems!

Apart from paddy waste manure, we also plan on making some coir manure from coir pith waste. Fortunately, there is a coir factory near our farm that manufactures coir pith and the plant manager was kind enough to give us 80 tractor loads for FREE. We procured the waste last week and we are in process of sieving it before we decompose it.

The process became even more interesting when we referred to "experts" in the field regarding the bed sizes we should make. We talked to 5 different professors and their proposed bed sizes ranged from 3m x 3m to 6m x 3m and the height ranged from 6 inches to 1 ft. However, the most intriguing part was that all of them talked about 100 Kg of waste per layer (it is a multi layer process), and 300 gms of Plurotis/layer and 1 Kg of Urea/layer.

So the mystery was how in the world can you have 100 Kg of waste in beds that are almost twice as much in length and height. There had to be some missing link some where. Fortunately, I still remember my Class 9 physics formula - Density = Mass/Volume and the two engineers in the house (my dad and  I) got working.

So we got a carton and filled it up with sieved waste and weighed it. Mass was 5.8 Kg and Volume was 0.865 ft ^3..In other words density was 5.8/.865 = 6.7 Kg/ft^3
Having established the density, and keeping the magic number 100Kg constant, we found that the volume of bed should really be approx 15ft^3

What we found was that the dimension of bed should have been 5ft by 3ft (and 1 ft height) and NOT 5m by 3m. Unfortunately, the flaw in TNAU guidelines still exists and probably scores of batches have graduated without realizing it and our so called experts are following it blindly. 

It is amazing how information spreads fast but misinformation spreads faster. In this day and age, where information is available by googling, one needs to be diligent about interpreting information. Maybe I should bring this up to the TNAU dean - maybe I will be conferred with an honorary doctarate :)

Mounds of Coir waste

Coir Pith block that was transported accidentally (probably a reject). People practise floriculture on this in the west, especially Europe!

Sieved Coir waste which will undergo decomposition soon.

More info on cooking some coir manure in another post - stay tuned!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Making some in-house organic Manure: Paddy Waste

We are planning on making some manure in-house which should decrease some of our manure expenses. We went on a 'rice straw collection' spree last month and were able to gather 10 tipper loads (approx 10 tons) for a total of Rs 6000.
We have dug 8-10 pits which are going to be used as compost pits during dry season and as rain water harvesting structures in monsoon season. The pits are spread out across the land close to cultivation areas.
Conscious effort was made not to dig out fertile land to make these pits; there were several 'low lying areas' formed after removing bigger boulders. Using a JCB, these areas were made deeper.

8L of Activated EM solution is required per ton of waste.
Expected Waste conversion to manure = 25%

1L of EM = 20L of activated EM = Rs 280
Cost of Input material (EM solution and Jaggery) = (8L/20L)*280/250  ~ Rs 0.45/Kg
Cost of Paddy Waste = Rs 600/250Kg = Rs 2.4
Total Cost = Rs 2.85/Kg
Compare this to various composts that are sold in the market for Rs 5-6. (Not to forget that a lot of places are selling sand instead of pure compost in order to increase their margins.

One of the several low lying pits that was converted into a compost pit/Water harvesting unit This is one of the smaller pits. The biggest one is close to 15 m x10 m x 2m 

Everything is up for grabs!

And our workers attack the grub!!

Loading the final one..

A couple of loads of rice straw in one of the bigger pits. As of now, we have filled up 10 pits with straw. We will add EM (Effective Microorganism) for rapid decomposition of straw.

EM is nothing but a bacterial solution. 1 Kg of Jaggery and 19 L of water needed to be added to this solution and kept in a 20L can for 10 days. You need to open twice daily in the morning and evening (for 5 mins) to get 'Activated' EM that can be used directly with the paddy waste.

The last step would be to cover the pits with soil for a couple of months. Come summer, we should have some good quality, in-house manure!
More updates then..

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Finally..light at the end of one long dark tunnel!

We had applied for 2 horticulture connections [tarrif IIIA (1)] in late December. After waiting for a couple of months, we finally got to see the EB poles erected on our land.
Along with the EB application, we had to submit the following for a new connection -

1. Patta copy
2. Adangal copy
3. Certificate from Horticulture department stating we are going to undertake horticulture activities.

Total expenses incurred for 2 connections was Rs 88,000 which includes labor, material, and execution of the line (approx 200 m from the existing pole).

There were a total of 5 poles erected.

Lines are finally up!

First leg completed.

EB technician giving the final touches..

Second leg complete..

Once we had the lines and poles erected, EB department would not give us a meter unless we constructed a pumphouse to protect the meter.
So we spent another week, constructing a pump house (approx 8 ft x 7ft). We plan on housing a labor or two in the pump room for additional security.

Sher Singh, our resident electrician giving the final touches - connecting the meter to the grid.

Three phase power looks good to me!

So, the next step is to test the water yield and conduct the 'endurance' test since our irrigation schedule is going to be 10-12 hours daily. After having established the depth at which we will erect the pump at, we will buy two 7.5hp pumps. Then we should be all set to irrigate!

More info on the motor in another posting.