Even after spraying pesticides a number of occasions on her kapas (cotton) crop, Maharashtra’s Anuja Deshmukh couldn’t get yield.
“Sucking pests like mealy bugs and aphids attacked the cotton crop and wouldn’t die even after a number of spraying. For a four-month season, I needed to spray pesticides as much as seven occasions. However, I discovered that their resistance to chemical pesticides had additionally elevated,” Anuja tells The Higher India.
The 45-year-old farmer had tried totally different choices to do away with pests and failed. So when she heard of bio-pesticides — a sustainable various to chemical pesticides — round 5 years in the past, she was sceptical in regards to the outcomes.
“On the time, I couldn’t consider that utilizing bio-pesticides could be of any assist. However since this was our final resort, I considered giving it a strive. Initially, I sprayed solely 20 p.c of my crop with it, and I acquired good leads to flowering and my yield elevated as much as 30 p.c,” she says.
For Anuja, the outcomes have been so unbelievable and bountiful that she switched to majorly utilizing bio-pesticides for her crops. At this time, she sprays them on most of her crops, corresponding to cotton, soybean, mulberry, and oranges, grown on 12.5 acres of discipline.
“In bio-pesticides, microorganisms eat the pests, so there is no such thing as a likelihood of resistance. Spraying bio-pesticides even as soon as is adequate. It not solely will increase our yield but in addition saves us Rs 10,000 per acre in pesticide bills in addition to further labour prices. Our bills have decreased by one-third the quantity we used to spend earlier than,” she says.
“Employees additionally needed to face pores and skin irritation whereas spraying chemical pesticides and contracted illnesses. Fortunately, with these bio alternate options, it’s a win-win state of affairs for all of us because it saves us time, power and cash. Our soil fertility has elevated, and earthworms are additionally returning to our soil,” she shares.
Behind Anuja’s pleasure is Yavatmal’s researcher Sangita Sawalakhe who has devoted her life to innovating bio alternate options to chemical pesticides and fertilisers.
Over the previous three a long time, she has helped greater than 10,000 farmers in Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Punjab swap to natural farming with using bio-pesticides and bio-fertilisers.
Befriending microorganisms for crop well being
In 1992, whereas pursuing her grasp’s in Agricultural Entomology, Sangita met farmers within the area notorious for farmer suicides.
“I discovered that they spend lots on shopping for chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Regardless of utilizing chemical substances for profit, they’d get much less manufacturing. These bills saved compounding their debt 12 months by 12 months. Sadly, this resulted in farmer suicides, which disturbed me lots. That’s after I determined that I’ll discover some cheaper various to chemical fertilisers and pesticides,” says the 55-year-old.
The latest knowledge by the Nationwide Crime Information Bureau exhibits that agrarian misery took the lives of as many as 10,881 farmers and agricultural labourers in 2021. Nearly all of victims engaged within the farming sector have been reported in Maharashtra at 37.3 p.c.
In the meantime, pushed by her motivation, Sangita began finding out organic pest management techniques. “Pests like white grub eat the basis of crops and pose a giant downside for farmers in fields. At the moment, there was no utilization of bio-pesticides. I began finding out parasite predators and located that there are some microorganisms like Trichoderma harzianum which management pest assault by destroying their eggs and larvae,” she says.
Ultimately, she discovered bio alternate options to manage pests like white grubs, mealybugs, mites, aphids, jassids, and extra. And in 1998, her experiments resulted in Vidarbha Biotech Ltd which sells 16 sorts of bio-pesticides, bio-fungicides, and bio-fertilisers.
“We make these merchandise utilizing microorganisms like fungi, micro organism and viruses which can’t be seen with the bare eye however are helpful for crops. We time period them as mates of crops,” she says.
Offered in liquid in addition to powder kind, these merchandise are priced between Rs 250 and Rs 400. The merchandise have certification from the Central Insecticide Board, Faridabad. Aside from standard farming, these bio-pesticides and bio-fertilisers can be utilized in hydroponics and aquaponics forms of farming, says Sangita.
Why use bio alternate options?
The agricultural entomologist lists 4 main advantages of utilizing bio-pesticides and bio-fertilisers within the crop as an alternative of chemical substances.
Kills pests and prevents illness: Sangita says, “The direct benefit of those alternate options is that they management pests and illnesses, and increase vitamins in soil by killing pests of their larvae and pupa stage. This prevents pests from spreading within the crop.”
Protects seed: “Microorganisms proceed to secrete vitamins and preserve moisture close to seeds in order that even in case of no rain, it would stop the seeds from dying,” she provides.
Boosts soil fertility and maintains C/N ratio: “These microorganisms additionally make the soil fertile by growing the porosity of the soil. It additionally helps preserve the carbon-to-nitrogen (C/N) ratio within the soil. A ratio of 18:1 ought to be maintained for yield,” she informs.
Because of this the carbon part ought to be at the least 18 components as in comparison with one a part of nitrogen within the soil. However with chemical substances, it’s the different approach round. “When farmers use chemical fertilisers like urea, the nitrogen will increase thereby lowering the carbon content material. Bio alternate options assist steadiness this with the assistance of natural matter compost,” provides the researcher.
Reduces one-third of bills: Sangita says that bio alternate options additionally save one-third prices of farmers as in comparison with chemical fertilisers. “Farmers usually use two to 3 baggage of fifty kg every of chemical fertilisers in a single acre of land. Nonetheless, utilizing bio-fertilisers, only one litre is required, which is a considerably smaller quantity,” she provides.
Sangita additional informs that farmers ought to add bio-fertilisers throughout the first month of the sowing interval for a greater yield.
“Other than bio-fertilisers, much less dosage of bio-pesticides and bio-fungicides is used. As microorganisms maintain multiplying, you don’t have to spray a number of occasions. This reduces farmer’s enter prices by one-third and prevents them from compounding money owed,” she provides.
Nonetheless, there are some limitations related to bio alternate options.
“These alternate options can’t be used concurrently with chemical substances or in temperatures exceeding 45 levels Celsius in open fields, as it will hurt microorganisms. Microorganisms can tolerate temperatures as much as 40 levels Celsius and require a moist setting with shade to thrive,” she says.
As per Sangita, the demand for these bio alternate options has elevated over time.
“Farmers are diverting in direction of bio alternate options and natural farming. After I launched farmers to those merchandise, they may not consider that these can exchange chemical fertilisers. However at the moment, we have now so many farmers who discover my merchandise helpful. These bio alternate options will deliver a revolution within the farming sector, and to have the ability to contribute to that’s extraordinarily satisfying,” she shares.
For her work, Sangita has been felicitated with many awards together with the Honour of Excellence award by the Union Ministry of Agriculture in 2018 and the Maharashtra Udyogini Puraskar in 2008.
Edited by Pranita Bhat; All image credit: Sangita Sawalakhe
Unintended Deaths & Suicides in India 2021: By Nationwide Crime Information Bureau, Ministry of House Affairs.