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Kishore Talukdar
Date of Publish: 2017-08-03

Graduate woman grows off-season spinach to script greenhouse success story


Five years back when Minati Baishya ( 30) of Dharapur on the outskirts of Guwahati completed her graduation, she had many career options. However, she chose to become a farmer. Minati decided to experiment with her own farming idea with the help of modern technology instead of merely adopting traditional farming practice. She decided to grow a hybrid variety of spinach in off season i.e. during summer in a green house on a commercial scale.

Minati’s experiment worked and she achieved commercial success within a short period as spinach has very high demand during off season. “We have achieved optimal level of success by farming spinach in off-season under green house because of the huge market demand of this leafy vegetable in the state,” she told nezine.com. She, however, attributes the success to the support extended by her family members. While her 73-year old mother helps her making the market-ready bunches of spinach, her elder brother carries the produce to the market.

“We are proud of her for her path breaking decision of initiating this farming practice five years ago. She does everything including keeping the accounts, doing the banking transactions. We help her in other works,” eldest Harendra Baishya ( 52 ) said.

The family reaps the harvest of this leafy vegetable, grown organically, 12 times in a year. “Demand of this vegetable is so high that if we fail to supply the produce to Guwahati even for single day the buyers will rush to our farm land the next morning, adds Baishya.

Minati says that they use only cow dung as fertilizer for the reason that if chemical fertilizer and pesticides are used in a green house it increases the risk of the leafy vegetables getting affected by fungal growth due to rise in humidity. They make door-to-door collection of cow dung and apply vermin-compost made from cow dung and water hyacinth. “We need three truck-load of cow dung in a year,” Sailen Baishya, Minati’s elder brother said. The Agriculture Department has given them a carriage van and a power tiller at subsided rates to encourage them, he added.

Explaining the price variation that worked in ensuring the commercial success of Minati’s experiment, he said that a single bunch of spinach bunch fetches Rs. 16 during off-season while it fetches only 60 paise in normal season. The off-season for farming spans seven months from April to September.

In 2011, the family set up four green houses- two made of bamboo framed and two made of steel frames on their one bigha 2 katha plot of land at Dharapur. They earn Rs 70,000 a month against a paltry amount spent as labour cost.

Initially, farmers were reluctant to practice green house farming when the scheme, National Initiatives for Urban Vegetables was launched in 2011-12 in the state. There were few takers in Kamrup ( Metropolitan ) in Assam when the Agriculture Department provided such green houses made of bamboo frames. “Efforts were made for three months to motivate the unwilling farmers. They were brought to Kahikuchi-based Horticulture Research Station, Assam Agriculture University to demonstrate the success of green house farming practice,” said Robin Talukdar, Agriculture Development Officer of Dharapur Circle.

In November 2011, Minati come forward to adopt this weathered controlled farming mode in her homestead garden and in April, 2012 she reaped the harvest. “The initial yield was very encouraging. So, we decided to expand the area. Since then there has been no looking back,” said Minati, success writ large in her expression. Now their plots attract other farmers for exposure visits. The other farmers who are practicing green house farming include Ganesh Kalita, Dulu Kalita.

“Climate has changed. We must learn to co-exist with changing nature and so we have to change the cropping system to feed the universe,” said Arun Jyoti Sonowal, a Research Associate of Precision Farming Development Center, HRS, Assam Agriculture University. Green House where atmosphere of farming is created is a component of precision farming. Farmers are gradually switching over to this mode of farming in Assam. While some farmers are practicing under government-sponsored scheme a few are adopting this mode of farming independently.

Sonowal said in a green house, which is either partially or totally protected to suit various crops, insect is also controlled and management of water is done magnificently. “Green house farming helps in optimization of natural resources under green house farming,” he added.

Experts say that with the gradual warming of climate posing peril to agriculture, the backbone of Indian Economy, greenhouse cultivation is the answer to protect crops like leafy vegetables. “In a state like Assam we must give thrust on green house cultivation to capitalize the resources like rain without wastage,” Pradip Mahanta, Principal Scientist of Kahikuchi-based Horticulture Research Station, Assam Agriculture University said. “Our farmers face problems during the preparation of sapling for winter vegetables because of rain up to August and September. If there is poly house they can overcome the problem,” added Mahanta.

Kishore Talukdar

( Kishore Talukdar is an independent journalist based in Guwahati. His areas of interest include Development journalism and Environment journalism. He can be contacted at tdrkishore@gmail.com )


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