The progressive farmers of the Malwa region are drawn to diversification through the intercropping of mentha (mint) in sugarcane, sunflower, and onion fields.
Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, recommends intercropping to go with the new technique of growing wheat on raised beds, which the progressive farmers of Rauke Kalan in this district have applied.
In the bed system of planting, rain irrigation leads to several problems such as excessive downward leaching of wheat-plant nutrients, poor aeration, and high impedance (opposition to the flow) from soil to growing plant roots. "In preliminary research, growing metha with wheat, maize, soybean and even rice on permanent beds has shown encouraging results," said Darshan Singh, chief agriculture officer (CAO) of Moga. "The permanent beds help reduce the tillage cost and greenhouse-gas emissions from burning diesel. The stubble-retention system will also reduce the loss of organic matter in the soil."
Trials in the wheat fields of progressive farmers Balwainder Singh and Satnam Singh at Rauke Kalan have been successful. Agriculture development officer Jaswinder Singh Brar, who inspected the beds, noted that intercropping had increased the efficiency of the fertilisers and saved irrigation water, and raised the yield by 4%. "The bed-planting system can get better yield out of medium to heavy soil with the efficient use of inputs such as water, fertiliser, seed, and weedicide. "Water is a valuable input," said Brar, "and so are fertilisers and weedicides, which are expensive and unsafe to the environment. The lesser the use of these inputs, the safer it is."
"The raised bed technique allows mechanical weed control and reduces the dependence on herbicides; and farmers get an extra crop in mentha," said CAO Sandhu. "Mentha can also be intercropped with sugarcane, sunflower and onion. The wheat-mentha intercropping is in the ration 4:2."