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HT Spotlight: Progressive farmers switch to innovative farming, reap gains

Farm update: Four centres of excellence under Indo-Israel tie-up in Haryana transforming lives of farmers.

india Updated: Jun 08, 2018 13:24 IST
Team HT
Team HT
Hindustan Times, Kunjpura (Karnal)
Progressive farmers,innovative farming,reap gains
Crops are sown in a controlled environment in a net house. It’s a farm technique pioneered by Israel and has worked wonders.(HT File)

Satpal Chaudhary, 50, doesn’t look a traditional Haryanvi farmer. Well, he isn’t either. For someone who grew up helping his father cultivate wheat and paddy on their 50-acre farm, Satpal’s transformation into a progressive entrepreneur is remarkable.

“I made the switch from the wheat-paddy crop cycle in 2014 for better returns. Traditional farming got me Rs 50,000 an acre a year. That works out to be Rs 25-Rs 30 lakh a year,” he says as he shows around his six-acre net house farm.

Crops are sown in a controlled environment in a net house. It’s a farm technique pioneered by Israel and has worked wonders. Satpal says growing cucumber, capsicum and tomato in his six-acre net house fetches him Rs 48-Rs 50 lakh a year. “I have given the rest of my land on contract to other farmers so I earn from there also,” he says.

He among farmers in the state who have benefited from the Centre of Excellence (CoE) for Vegetables at Gharaunda in Karnal, an Indo-Israel project to impart technical knowhow, training and quality seedlings to farmers.

Haryana has set up four CoEs under the Indo-Israel partnership, while a floriculture centre is coming up at Sondhi in Jhajjar.

Horticulture director Arjun Saini says though the practice of protected cultivation was known, the intervention of Israeli experts helped improve cultivation practices. “They taught them how to provide seedlings in a soil-less medium in a green house; the use of drip irrigation; nutrient management; the use of thermal nets; pollination of vegetables inside poly houses; branching and wiring of plants. It improved cultivation in poly/net house in view of the extreme weather conditions,” says Saini.

Catalysts of change
  • Centre of Excellence for Vegetables, Gharaunda, Karnal
  • Established in 2011 to demonstrate latest technology of vegetable cultivation in protected and open conditions. Imparts quality vegetable seedlings and practical training to farmers for protected cultivation.
  • Centre of Excellence for Fruits, Mangiana, Sirsa
  • Set up in 2013 to demonstrate the latest technologies of fruits cultivation with different spacing, on flat and raised beds and varietal trials. Crops demonstrated include citrus varieties, olives, pomegranate, date palm varieties, guava and bael.
  • Centre for Sub Tropical Fruits, Ladwa, Kurukshetra
  • Established in 2016 to demonstrate advanced technologies of horticulture to increase farm income. Crops demonstrated include mango, litchi, guava, peach, plum, olives and pomegranate.
  • Integrated Beekeeping Development Centre, Ramnagar, Kurukshetra
  • Set up in 2017, the aim is to demonstrate advanced technologies of beekeeping, bee venom, bee propolis and other byproducts to increase farm income.
  • Floriculture centre, Sondhi, Jhajjar
  • Approved. The objective is to demonstrate flower cultivation technologies and production of quality planting material.

Satpal says he gets updates from the CoE on new varieties of seedlings and techniques.

“When I was growing wheat and paddy, I couldn’t think of buying a vehicle. Net house farming has given me financial flexibility,” he says. Satpal is now setting up a mushroom production unit next to the net house. “It will cost me Rs 12 lakh as I’ll get Rs 8 lakh as subsidy under the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana,” he says. His elder son, a BTech degree holder, is studying mushroom production to run the project. “My second son is studying law. I couldn’t have paid for their education had I not made the switch,” Satpal adds.

Horticulture hub

Taking a cue from his friend who grew strawberries, Arun Chauhan, 50, quit his engineering job in 1998 to return to Manouli village and start farming. For years, his family grew wheat and paddy on 30 acres, earning Rs 30,000-Rs 40,000 per acre.

Chauhan wanted to do something different. He saw residents of neighbouring Aterna village grow baby corn. A private company guiding farmers there suggested he grow sweet corn. He started with a small chunk. “After two years, our produce surpassed expectations,” he says. This inspired others. “Today my village is called the sweet corn village as every second farmer here grows it. The cost of sowing sweet corn is Rs 20,000 per acre but the returns are from Rs 1 lakh-Rs 2 lakh per acre,” he says.

Chauhan learned poly house farming from the CoE at Gharaunda in 2008. He set up a poly house on an acre and has now increased it to six acres. “The money I get from six acres is four times higher than what I get from the 24 acres I own. I started growing lilies in the poly house and have since shifted to cherry tomatoes and seedless cucumbers. For two years, I’m growing red, yellow and green bell peppers,” he adds.

Chauhan says a poly house set up in an acre gives him 250-300 quintals of bell peppers, which sells for Rs 10-15 lakh. “The best is I don’t have to go anywhere. Brands such as Dominos and Reliance Fresh come to my village and collect the vegetables,” he says. “I’ve started growing muskmelon after CoE experts suggested a high-yield method. To maintain the poly house, the CoE has suggested we do soil solarisation by mulching and fumigation,” he adds.

Purchasing power

Manchuri resident Surjit Singh is among those who has benefited from the CoE for vegetables. He says net house farming increased his per acre earning from Rs 6 lakh to Rs 8 lakh.

“I started net house farming on two acres in 2013. Gradually, I increased it to six acres”, Singh said. He started growing cucumber, tomato and capsicum and says he has never faced losses despite fluctuating prices.

For Surjit and his elder brother, Inderjit, who own 35 acres, life has changed in five years. Their purchasing power has increased and they no longer worry about crop loss and rising input costs. “Income from six acres of net house farming is more than the 29 acres under traditional crops,” he says. “Many farmers have drawn inspiration from our experience and seek our help,” he adds.

Sandeep Kumar, 36, of Mohindipur in Karnal has also seen his income increase in two years ever since he adopted net-house farming.

Sandeep, who shifted from Delhi to Karnal after his land was acquired by the government, says, “Initially, I entered into the real estate business but it turned non-profitable in 2014 and I turned to growing vegetables.” He started net-house farming on an acre to grow cucumber and capsicum. “I earned Rs 6 lakh-Rs 7 lakh from an acre and have since increased the area under net-house farming to three acres,” he adds.

(Hitender Rao, Hardik Anand and Neeraj Mohan)

First Published: Jun 08, 2018 13:24 IST