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Holistic Farming: Balancing Livestock & Agriculture Smartly

Mohanji Saxena, currently the Managing Trustee at Ayurvet Research Foundation, boasts a distinguished career. He earned a gold medal in Pharmacy from Banaras Hindu University. Formerly serving as the Managing Director of Ayurvet, he brings over three decades of experience in Animal Health. During his 28-year tenure at Ayurvet, he excelled as the head of R&D before advancing to the positions of MD and Managing Trustee. Saxena’s dedication to various sectors, including food safety, antimicrobial resistance, animal health, agriculture, medicinal plant quality improvement, and rural development, is evident through his numerous publications in reputable journals.

In an exclusive conversation with The Interview World, Mohanji Saxena shares insights into hydroponics technology and its advantages for farmers. He elaborates on the benefits of multi-farming practices and emphasizes the resurgence of traditional Indian farming methods. Furthermore, Saxena underscores the significance of adopting sustainable farming practices. Here are the key takeaways from his interview.   

Q: What technological advancements or processes facilitate the accelerated growth of paddy saplings within a seven-day timeframe?

A: Hydroponics, a technology blending “hydro” for water and “ponics” from the Greek “ponein,” meaning labor or toil, offers a method of providing seed nutrition directly through water. Essentially, it harnesses energy through water. In this system, the seed’s germplasm, situated within the seed itself, serves solely for growth purposes.

When seeds are traditionally planted in soil, approximately 80% of the germplasm is utilized for survival and adaptation to the soil environment. This process is often prolonged due to various abiotic stresses, delaying the emergence of the first three seed leaves.

Contrastingly, in hydroponics, germination occurs within a significantly shorter timeframe, typically within 24 to 48 hours. Following germination, the root, or radical, begins receiving nutrition promptly. Consequently, this stimulates leaf growth and subsequent photosynthesis initiation within seven days.

By the eighth day, a nursery of six to eight inches in height, featuring a robust root mass approximately one inch thick, can be extracted. This nursery is ideally suited for transplantation in the field, facilitated by a transplanter.

Q: What are the advantages and benefits that hydroponics technology offers to farmers?

A: In a closed system, water recirculation drives significant efficiencies, resulting in minimal water consumption. This approach not only saves land, typically reserved for nurseries, but also accelerates the nursery preparation process. While conventional nurseries take about 21 days to be ready, our method achieves readiness for transplantation by the eighth day. In the realm of paddy production, characterized by high water usage and methane emissions, this technology proves highly advantageous.

Successfully tested in Punjab and by ICAR on their own land, it presents an opportunity for transformative change. By reducing manual labor costs and enhancing yields, disease prevention, and eliminating the need for weedicide, the benefits extend far beyond monetary gains for farmers. This innovation streamlines processes, promotes sustainability, and underscores the potential for significant improvements in agricultural practices, particularly in regions where water conservation and environmental impact are paramount concerns.

Q: What are the potential benefits of multi-farming livestock for farmers in terms of income generation and resource conservation?

A: In India, our traditional system emphasizes the vital role of villages. This system involved small land holdings dedicated to growing crops such as wheat, paddy, and oilseeds. Crop rotation was a fundamental practice, complemented by the use of bullocks for ploughing fields, goats to consume residues, and ducks or hens to control insects. This holistic approach aimed at minimizing waste while maximizing value creation for sustenance.

Farmers were mindful of utilizing resources efficiently. For instance, they would reserve oil for personal use while using oilseeds and oil cake as feed for animals. Wheat was consumed directly, but its straw was combined with oil cake and salt to feed cows, with the aim of obtaining male calves. This was a priority, as male calves were valued, while female ones provided milk as a by-product. Farmers would then convert surplus milk into ghee or butter to supplement animal nutrition.

In the village setting, farmers often maintained diverse livestock alongside agriculture, recognizing their interconnectedness. Livestock and agriculture formed the backbone of the local economy. Additionally, village boundaries were lined with trees and shrubs, and crop rotation was carefully managed to maintain soil fertility. Importantly, farmers relied on composting to enrich soil quality, avoiding external inputs that could deplete the land.

Q: What are the prevailing trends shaping the multi-farming realm today?

A: The farmer now keeps only a few animals, not primarily for selling milk, but to meet his energy and fertilizer requirements. This revival of traditional Indian farming methods underscores a crucial realization among farmers. They understand that overuse of soil leads to barren land, prompting a return to these practices. This approach is also being actively promoted by the current government through initiatives such as “More crops for every drop and every square foot of land.”

Furthermore, the idea is to ensure that farmers earn a steady income. This can be achieved through various channels: selling milk for daily income, vegetables or fruits for weekly income, and other crops grown on a 90-day cycle for monthly income. For instance, crops like onions and tomatoes follow such cycles. This diversification strategy aims not only at producing staples like wheat and rice but also involves allocating land for vegetables, flowers, fruits, and timber. Thus, farmers now have multiple income streams, including selling milk, chickens, and eggs. This integrated model, reminiscent of traditional Indian farming, is more sustainable and adaptable. Farmers realize that by utilizing resources sustainably, they can meet their present needs while also catering to future demands.

Farming Renaissance - The Revival of Traditional Multi-farming Practices
Farming Renaissance – The Revival of Traditional Multi-farming Practices
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