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| Last Updated:24/06/2024

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Organic farming touted as a tool to fight environmental degradation

 Source: The Sangai Express / Konsam Samita

Imphal, April 24 2021: With more and more people becoming conscious about global warming, climate change and their harmful impacts on planet Earth, organic farming is gaining more popularity as a means to fight environmental degradation.

Daily waste accumulated in every household is a problem and many concerned citizens are, nonetheless, finding ways to recycle them.

           Organic farming touted as a tool to fight environmental degradation

As majority of the waste generated can be recycled, agricultural waste and vegetable waste from the kitchen can also be put to good use.

These waste materials can be used to make compost and grow organic and healthy foods.

Professor, Dr Indira Sarangthem of College of Agriculture, Central Agriculture University (CAU), Iroishemba said the demand for organic food as well as green manure is growing by the day as people are becoming more and more conscious about the environment.

More and more farmers are also showing great interest in making use of vermicompost and other organic agricultural fertilizer and products, she said.

Central Agricultural University, Imphal has developed a vermicomposting technology and has provided training to many farmers.

The technology was developed after a project on "biodegradation of market vegetables waste of Imphal Market" was conducted from 2007 to 2010, said Indira.

The project studied the quantity of waste generated in every season at the market.

Most vegetable waste were found generated during the winter season and the transitional period between summer and rainy season.

The biodegradable waste generated include pea-pods, husk of legumes, cabbages etc.

The vermicompost worms also prefer these waste, she said.

Indira further stressed that after getting training on vermicomposting, many farmers and other interested persons have set up NGOs (Non-Government Organisations) and Start-Ups and became entrepreneurs in the field.

One of the benefits of organic farming is that it is healthy and non-toxic to the body and the environment, she said.

Using conventional and chemical fertilizers not only poses health risk but also deplete fertility of the soil.

On the other hand, use of organic manure helps improve soil fertility.

"It also converts the dead soil into a live one," Indira said.

The expert then said that vermicomposting is not a difficult technology and one can start it on a small scale without spending much.

Farmers can adopt this technology by digging a piece of land in their fields.

Instead of burning paddy stalks, rice husks and other vegetable waste, these can be collected and dumped in the pit for making vermicompost.

Burning of the paddy stalks and rice husks pollutes the environment and they also kills microorganisms and worms that are helpful to the farmers.

For making vermicompost, kitchen waste collected overtime are first dumped in the pit for 15 days (pre-decomposition phase) .

To prepare vermicompost of paddy stalks, they are first treated with water to break down and decomposed and kept for 15 days by covering them with a plastic sheet, she said.

Vermicompost can be prepared in a pit as well as over the ground by using a box known as vermicomposting box.

The vermicomposting boxes are now available in the market, she said.

The size of the vermicomposting pits or boxes can be adjusted according to the land area available.

However, if it is 2.5 feet in width and height, then its length should be 10 or 15 feet, she said.

The main pit is usually prepared on a slope and it consists of a pipe that is used to drain vermi wash into a small pit.

Vermi-wash is the fluid that emerged as a result of decomposition of the vegetables.

When draining the vermi-wash, it is made sure that earthworms and other vermicompost worms are not drained away.

The holes in the pipe should be covered with a net.

Vermicomposting requires animal manure.

A slurry is made by mixing the manure with water.

One kilogram of the manure is mixed with a litre of water.

First, the slurry is poured and spread to line/cover the bottom of the tank/pit.

Then decomposed paddy stalks are spread for a thickness of 15 cms, vegetables are then spread on top of the slurry.

Another layer of the slurry will then cover the decomposed vegetables.

These steps are repeated making the decomposed vegetables sandwich between layers of slurry.

The topmost layer of the slurry is made a little more condense and spread properly.

Then earthworms are released on the top.

These earthworms, as they prefer dark, would go deep and feed on the decomposed vegetables.

Vermicomposting uses mainly two types of earthworm - Eudrilus eugeniae and Eisenia fetida, Indira said.

Interestingly, a micro scale vermicompost pit of one kilogram waste needs not more than three earthworms.

Large scale vermicomposting of 1000 kilograms or one tonne waste needs about 3000 earth worms.

As counting the earthworms is difficult, they are roughly counted by weighing them along with the decomposed materials they live on.

One kilogram of these materials usually contain around 2000 adult and juvenile earthworms.

So 2 kilograms of these decomposed materials are added when vermicomposting a tonne of waste, she said.

Further, to speed up decomposition process, the decomposed waste in the pit/tank is stirred or mixed every week or every 15 days.

Mixing the content every week is preferred as it speeds up decomposition.

When mixed every week, the vermicompost is completed in 60-65 days in summer, while the same takes upto 75-80 days in the winter.

When the vermicompost is ready, the topmost layer of the decomposed waste in the pit would turn brown and tiny dots that look like tea grain would be noticed evenly spread on the surface.

After the vermicompost is ready, it is then taken outside using hand gloves and gathered to make a mound.

It is kept for 24 hours and then harvested.

The decomposed materials in the bottom along with the earthworms are then kept for next use.

The vermicompost is then measured for nitrogen, phosphorus and potash contents.

Vermicompost usually contains 1.9 percent nitrogen.

The percentage depends on the materials used.

Vermicompost prepared from paddy stalks usually contains low percentage of nitrogen.

However the vermicompost made of green manure contains high nitrogen, said Indira.

Stating vermicompost or organic fertilizer/manure are environmental friendly and they boost soil fertility, she opined that every household or locality or community should have access to this technology and adopt organic farming and organic kitchen gardening.

The vegetable waste a household generates or the locality generates should be used to prepare vermicompost, which will benefit them and ultimately save the environment.

She further stated that farmers and those interested can approach the Central Agricultural University (CAU), Imphal to know and learn about the technology.

Interested persons may join training on the technology and also meet the farmers and entrepreneurs who are already engaged in the field through CAU.

Dr Indira recalled that a widow by the name Ngahneilhing Chongloi from Gamdeiphai village, Saikul Block, Kangpokpi district has become a successful entrepreneur under the Tribal Sub-Plan taken up by CAU during 2016-2018 .

Ngahneilhing Chongloi had started vermicomposting in 2018 .

She gets 632 Kgs of vermicompost and 405 litres of vermi wash from 1000 kilograms of paddy stalks.

She sells the vermicompost at Rs 15 per kg and earn Rs 9,480 (for 632 kg) .

She sells the vermi-wash at Rs 10 per litre and earns Rs 4,050 for the 405 litres.

Thus she earns a total of Rs 13,530 by vermicomposting 1000 kilograms of paddy stalks.

She procures the paddy stalks and cattle manure at Re 1 per kg, said Indira.

Some of the farmers and entrepreneurs who got training from CAU said they are able to generate income by adopting the vermicomposting technology, They also exuded a sense of pride as they claimed that they are saving the soil and the environment by adopting organic farming, the farmers said.