Good seedlings = a rich harvest
Potato farmers learn how to maximise their incomes on the test field – and to think economically.
Sanjay Chowdary and his wife Laxmi show us the potato plant they have just pulled from the ground; at least ten tubers are hanging from it, three times more than the usual number – and the Chowdarys’ expectations are just as high. “We’re sure that we’ll have a rich harvest this year”, says the smallholder, who is testing a new variety of potato on the 800 m² test field this season. The 51-year-old is one of 20 farmers who belong to the newly-established farmers’ group in Wakalwadi. The village with its 200 families is located about 60 kilometres north of Pune in Maharashtra State, India.
A lot has changed since the Green Innovation Centre started its work here in April. First of all, test production was switched from potatoes for processing to potatoes for fresh consumption. Each group member received 250 kilogrammes of high-quality seed potatoes from the Green Innovation Centre. To increase product quality, the farmers also tried out new planting methods such as improved earthing of the potatoes. Sustainable plant protection also plays a major role, preventing plant diseases.
The farmers receive guidance from an innovation consultant of the Green Innovation Centre, who visits the group once a week. “He first walks around our fields checking everything thoroughly”, says Laxmi. “Then at the meeting afterwards, he gives us lots of useful advice about seeds and seedlings, cultivation methods… and the next steps we have to take”.
Something else is also going to change in future: in the past, the Wakalwadi farmers always bought their seed potatoes from traders; but from now on, they’ll reserve part of their potato crop for the next season, giving them more planting area than they had in the previous season. Goraksh Shivaji Pavle, also a member of the Farmers’ Association, is convinced that the concept will work: “Now we’re saving a lot of money and we don’t depend as much on the traders”.
The farmers’ group has meanwhile established a common fund to which members regularly contribute to finance investments for the group. “I’m sure that this project will change our lives. Not just for us 20 farmers, but for the whole village”, says Sanjay Chowdary.
The farmer group of Hosahalli
“The team members implementing the Green Innovation Centre project bind us together,” explains Chiddananda Gangappa. Together with farmers from Hosahalli, he has vowed to set up a farmer group, which will implement best practices imbibed from the Green Innovation Centre project in the near future.
Hosahalli is all about tomatoes. These shining red spheres are the most important vegetable in the Kadur area situated in the Southern part of Karnataka. However, various diseases, , have endangered future cultivation significantly. “Over the last decade and a half, I have had a total crop loss on account of various diseases,” says Chiddananda Gangappa. Every year he invests significantly in plant protection products, but is dissatisfied with the results. He particularly cites the lack of reliable advisory as an impediment to deal with recurring disease infestations. “When I discover the onset of a particular infestation in my tomato field, I take an infested plant and visit my local dealer, who then recommends disease management products. He quotes an interesting example where he was sold a product that stimulates plant growth in the guise of an organic herbicide.
This incident involving the 42-year-old tomato farmer isn’t an isolated one. Farmers recount similar experiences whilst emphasising the importance of reliable production related advisory “Until now, I did not realise the importance of breeding practices for tomato seedlings and their role in the spread of viral illnesses,” says Raju Sadashivamurthy, one of the largest farmers in the village. “I only learned that tonight. I really look forward to working with the team from the Green Innovation Centre project.”
The organization of farmer groups is an important part of the work of the Green Innovation Centre India. As an organised group, farmers can represent their interests and have a stronger position in activities that involve collective bargaining.