Sustainable Agriculture is extremely important in current times for balance of ecology. Sustainability helps in combining best practices for communities that are beneficial to both farmers, and environment. It helps in sustenance of farmers by harnessing new and renewable resources along-with new and latest technology. Ensuring a sustainable agriculture practice falls upon not just the farmers but also distributors, buyers and even consumers.
Dr. John E. Ikerd, Extension Professor at the University of Missouri, offers his view of sustainability: “A sustainable agriculture must be economically viable, socially responsible and ecologically sound. The economic, social and ecological are interrelated, and all are essential to sustainability. An agriculture that uses up or degrades its natural resource base, or pollutes the natural environment, eventually will lose its ability to produce. It’s not sustainable. An agriculture that isn’t profitable, at least over time, will not allow its farmers to stay in business. It’s not sustainable. An agriculture that fails to meet the needs of society, as producers and citizens as well as consumers, will not be sustained by society. It’s not sustainable. A sustainable agriculture must be all three – ecologically sound, economically viable and socially responsible. And the three must be in harmony.”
Sustainable Makhana Cultivation
Makhana a flowering plant, that generally grows in stagnant water is produced majorly in India and a few other countries. It is commonly known as being derived from lotus seeds. They are grown in Pond system or field system. These two systems of cultivation have made makhana agricultural production more viable and sustainable than before.
Having a substantial increase in demand of Makhana in the past few years owing to the changing needs and lifestyle of the consumers, more cultivation of Makhana has taken place. Increase in cultivation to meet the market needs has led to looking for options that are profitable as well as sustainable in the long run.
There is a lot of research taking place in the ways to find sustainable system of cultivation of Makhana. One of such options include an integration of field crops and marine life. This is called amalgamation of agriculture and aquaculture. Governments are now looking at sponsoring research programs that can scale up the makhana production without disturbing the ecology and also at the same time making the production profitable for all involved in the supply chain.
Paddy fields and Low-lying areas also are very good options for cultivation of Makhana. Makhana seeds are viewed as a very sustainable crop by agriculture experts. Unlike crops like soy and corn, Makhana seeds require no extra water apart from the ponds they are cultivated in. Though traditional method made it difficult to scale up the production owing to the process being too labour intensive and time consuming, the new field system method is much better and is working towards making the production more long lasting and sustainable.
Right Climate and Conditions for Makhana Cultivation
Makhana cultivation requires right temperature of air ranging between 22 degree C to 37 degree C. It also requires an optimal level of humidity which ranges between 40% to 95%. Annual rainfall of 120 cm to 270 cm is considered ideal for Makhana cultivation. Flourishing in Sub tropical climate, it is a water plant that have huge leaves floating in water bodies that size up-to 2.1 m. It cultivates best in stagnant water bodies of .3 to 2.2 m depth. It has a thick rhizomatous stem that is rooted deeply in sediments.
The cultivation of Makhana or Fox Nut is majorly done in two forms:-
Pond system has been used since decades as a traditional form of Makhana cultivation. In this form of cultivation, Makhana seeds need to be sowed in new water bodies. The seeds of Makhana are broadcast at 90 kg/ ha in the end of the calendar year.
Usually, Pond system cultivation is not an easy and sustainable as the seed that are collected from bottom makes it very difficult for the farmers. It poses as a health threat too for the farmers which consequently leads to low productivity. Hence, making is a less sustainable option. It is the traditional method of fox nut cultivation. It takes more than 12 months for the cultivation of Fox Nuts or Makhana which blocks other crop cultivation.
Field system of Makhana cultivation generally requires water depth of 0.20 to 0.70 m. As compared to the Pond system, Field system is a more convenient, sustainable and easier option. As opposed to the pond system, this form of cultivation of Makhana, offers a balanced and sustainable opportunity for cultivation of other crops, cereals in the same land and within the same year.
The field is well ploughed twice or thrice using this method of cultivation. Before ploughing begins, fertilizers of N, P & K is applied at 95:65: 35 /ha. Once the fields are ploughed, the farmers then fill up the fields with water. The water level is generally .50 m. of bund. The seeds are sown at the end of the calendar year
After watering the fields, 30 kg seeds are evenly sown in the nursery plot. The farmers ensure that the water levels are well maintained evenly throughout the period seedlings are growing. Generally the growing period is between December to March. After March, the farmers transfer the seedlings to the field.
This form of Makhana cultivation benefits farmers by a raise in the intensity of the crops by 150 to 220%. An additional benefit of this cropping system is that of successful cultivation of other species like fish, and other crops like water chestnuts.
Integration of fishes and water chestnut with fox nut
Integration of fish, water chest nut with fox nut is a very innovative and sustainable way of cultivation. This integrated farming will help in improving the farmers to cultivate Makhana at a good price thereby, offering a platform to make a better living.
In integration farming, 1.3 acre sized Pond is used for cultivation. The pond is cleaned and a procedure of removal of carnivorous fish is made. The carnivorous fishes are taken out of the ponds by applying mahua oil cake. selected and cleaned and followed by removal of carnivorous fishes by applying mahua oil cake @ 2.5 t/ha.
Before the growth of the Makhana, farmers make sure that the fish are harvested and completed by January. Water chestnut is harvested by November end.
Threats to Sustainable Makhana Cultivation
Though researchers are working out on ways to make Makhana cultivation sustainable and profitable at the same time, there are many threats to reaching this Goals. The main threats to the Makhana cultivation are Lack of latest technology, machines, lack of quality seeds, lack of land area, use of traditional practices that are harmful to the health of farmers, very high price. All these factors put together can pose as a major obstacle to the growth in Makhana Cultivation.