Soil fertility is the main factor in agriculture. If soil is fertile agriculture become easy.
Fertile soil respond well to all agriculture practices. If you use chemical fertilizers there also soil fertility counts. Fertility less soil will not respond to chemical fertilizers also. Every year in monsoon we are loosing the top soil by rain drops and water flow in large quantity. If we conserve that top soil automatically we will upgrade the soil fertility.
How to protect top soil:
Our forefathers used level lands for cultivation. During that time pulses and cereals are the main crops. In these crops soil disturbance is less. Take an example of paddy. If we cultivate paddy field, water and soil erosion is very less. Depending upon areas, paddy, wheat, jower and other minor millets are the main crops. There was crop distribution according to agro climatic zones. In heavy rainfall areas paddy is the main crop. Less rain fall area other rain fed crops are grown. In this schedule they maintained the soil fertility through run off control.
Now everywhere we can find horticulture and plantation crops. In these crops soil erosion is high. So we are loosing top soil every year. If we preserve this in maximum quantity, we can upgarade the soil structure and limit the use of manures. How to preserve the top soil? Here one farmer from Karnataka, Siddapura taluk of North Canara, made a solution. He covered entire base of his arecanut garden with mulching sheets.
Mr. Arun Hegade from Uttara Kannada district, Siddapura taluk, Khyadagi village. This is high rainfall area, getting around 5000 mm per year. Every year he is losing fertile top soil by rain drops in his garden. Also he is facing root grubs problem. To overcome the top soil erosion, water conservation and root grub management some of his relatives made this arrangements and got the good result. Following them he also placed mulching sheets to full areca nut garden from last 4 years. Year by year he realized the benefits from this and now he is happy with this.
Benefits he got :
After covering mulching sheets to his entire farm, there were no weeds in his garden. Serious top soil loss was stopped. In these area many farmers are not irrigating regularly in summer. In April and May, monthly once or twice they do irrigation. He also follows this practice. After mulching sheet installation he completely stopped irrigation in summer. He is keeping this mulching sheet cover up to February end. After that he is removing it. In the time of winter soil moisture comes upward from soil, because atmosphere is dry. So large quantity of moisture evaporates from soil. Mulching sheet covering helps to hinder the evaporation loss from soil. So he says it is not required to irrigate in summer. In this area, frequently raining in summer.
Almost all crops require warm soil temperature in rainy season and winter. In summer it needs sufficient water. This seal down method creates this ideal soil climate.
After placing mulching sheet he is happy to say that, all organic matter he is placing to ground will be decomposed by the soil microbes. He observed large population of earthworms present in soil. If soil erosion is prevented, farmer can save more nutrients. Every year we are losing all most all top soil which we made by placing organic wastes. So that we need alternative nutrients sources like fertilizers. Now in these area more than 8 farmers following this method in their areca nut garden.
First Mr Arun Hegade and his relatives started this as experiment basis. Their experiment gives them good result and also they controlled the root grubs. Root grubs are the major threat to areca nut garden all over the growing area. But placing these sheets, root grubs are controlled automatically. This sheets prevents the activities of root grubs in their mating period (Mulch cover will not allow to fly out side) and feeding period. Root grubs are active in some soil temperature only. The temperature inside this sheet is unfavorable to grubs. So by throwing a stone to single mango he got two mangoes.
Dear farmers, putting mulching sheet to vegetable growing is common in everywhere. But installing this to long term crop is new to us. But the result from this is very good. It is not costly also. Per acre its budget is around 25K, It is for three years. He is keeping same 30 micron sheet up to three years. After that he will sell this to scrap.
Slight high soil temperature in rainy season and winter season is ideal for root development and microbial activities. By maintaining this temperature and preserving top soil, now he is getting around 2.5 kg areca nut from a tree. Before that the yield is 1-1.5kg per tree.