Say no to chemical fertilizers now! Modern Agriculture has become more dependent on chemical fertilizers for increasing yield of crops. Constant use of chemicals has spoilt the land, soil and water. Depletion of soil fertility and high prices of chemical fertilizers has forced many paddy farmers, especially in the delta region, to turn towards azolla as an effective bio-fertilizer for their paddy crops. We will tell you about a paddy farmer Mr. S. Ramuvel in Mayiladuthurai Taluka from Tamil Nadu who is growing azolla in his field. Azolla is an effective bio fertilizer for the protection of paddy crops.
Benefits of Azolla:
According to researchers from Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, “Basal application on green azolla-manure at the rate of 10-20 tons per hectare increases soil nitrogen by 45-60 kg and reduces 20-30 kg of nitrogenous fertilizer requirement of rice crop.”
S. Ramuvel Farmers, an organic farmer from Tamil Nadu said, “Farmers should be made aware of the harmful effects of these chemicals in agriculture and switch over to non-chemical methods of growing crops.”
Azollacan be used as a good substitute for urea for paddy crops and can also be used as a feed for cattle, ducks, pigs and fish because of its high protein content.
It is eco-friendly, non-expensive and helps in safeguarding the soil health and also the quality of crop products.
It can also be converted to compost by drying under shade and then used like farmyard manure. It is also called a mosquito fern and water velvet.
Azollais a naturally available free-floating aquatic fern mostly found in moist soil, ditches, and pools. Though the fern is widely cultivated in some Asian countries such as Japan, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines, in India it is yet to gain more prominence except in some states like Kerala and Orissa.
The fern fixes atmospheric nitrogen into the soil to be made available to crops especially wetland rice crops in the form of soluble nitrogen.
A thick green mat of azollain the paddy field prevents weed growth and helps paddy growth.
It also prevents water evaporation and increases water use efficiency in the crops.
Mr. Ramuvel said, "When I was cultivating paddy with chemical fertilizers I had to spend about Rs.1,500 per acre. At present, with azolla, the cost of cultivation has come down by 25%. Azolla has increased my paddy yield by 30-40%." Farmers can also create their own nursery for growing this fern, said Mr. Ramuvel. The field should be ploughed, levelled, irrigated, and made to stand in the form of small ponds. Only 15-20 cm of standing water is allowed in the fields. Green azolla at the rate of 20 kg per hectare, mixed with fresh cow dung should be released into the pond.
Dense Green Mat:
The fern multiplies rapidly in about 10-15 days and forms a dense growth on the surface of the water. It is then harvested using bamboo baskets and released into the main field among the transplanted paddy crops for further multiplication. Mr. Ramuvel is also selling the green azolla at the rate of Rs. 5 per kg to other farmers who do not have a nursery. During summer azolla is harvested at an interval of 15-20 days and during monsoon, once a month.