As farmers look to grow more food for their families and the marketplace, increasing production sustainably remains a consistent challenge. But a CIP project in Assam state in India has discovered an easy way to produce an annual crop of potatoes with no-tillage and very few additional inputs.
[Assam is a state in northeastern India, situated south of the eastern Himalayas along the Brahmaputra and Barak River valleys. The Assamese people are a socio-ethnolinguistic identity, often associated with the Assamese language]
In Assam, farmers grow two rice crops a year with a short winter period in between. A World Bank project in the area consulted CIP to see if potatoes could be added to the annual cycle.
Each rice harvest leaves large quantities of straw that is tall and thick, but too high in silica and lignin for good livestock feed. CIP researchers have found the rice straw can be used to cover potatoes on the soil surface and insulate them well enough to produce a good harvest in a little less than three months. Farmers thus produce more food with little work and inputs.
Better yet, the potatoes require no irrigation as the roots can draw water from the residual moisture left after the rice harvest.
Farmers have quickly adopted this method because it does not require difficult labor and can be performed by any member of the household. Big, clean tubers can be harvested simply by removing the straw. Farmers have also noted a reduction in pests such as potato tuber moths.
Also in Assam: For the first time in the State, a day-long training of post-harvest management of potato was recently conducted under Assam Agribusiness and Rural Transformation Project (APART) here at a field of farmer Diganta Das, Da-Parbatia village under Gabharu Block, Sonitpur, Tezpur.
Diganta Das is an educated, hardworking progressive farmer who last summer pioneered with seasonal vegetable cultivation. Diganta Das has successfully completed one successful demonstration on zero tillage potato cultivation under APART which was supervised by Niranjan Saikia, Block Technology Manager, DAO, Sonitpur.
During the training program, Monisha Choudhury, post-harvest management expert, trained the farmers on the process of cleaning, grading and storage of potatoes scientifically which will be helpful to the farmers to get better prices.
Monisha said that post-harvest management of the potatoes was an important factor not only in preventing post-harvest losses, but also in maintaining its nutritional quality. Correct post-harvest handling among potato traders will help prevent food losses while at the same time promote food safety, hence protecting consumer health, she added.