|Regenerative Agriculture Technologies for the Hill Farmers of Nepal: An Information Kit (IIRR, 1992, 210 p.)|
|Cropping systems and post-harvest technologies|
Finger millet Eleucine coracana) is a staple grain crop in the midhills of Nepal and has been widely cultivated in the uplands for centuries. After rice, finger millet is the one other grain which produces grain for human consumption and straw for cattle fodder. Finger millet is a very resistant crop which is less prone to diseases, insect pests and climatic variations.
However, it is known as a nutrient-exhausting crop, depleting almost all available nutrients from the soil. As a result the soil becomes poorer and thus requires greater amount of nutrients for the succeeding crop. The addition of extra fertilizer is not always possible as it is scarce and costly.
In order to halt the farmers' basic problem of decreasing soil fertility and production, it is essential to develop viable alternatives. Mixed cropping of crotalaria with finger millet is one of the technologies identified in the field that helps to address the problems. Crotalaria produces a large amount of biomass and fixes N. both of which are crucial to improving soil in the midhills of Nepal.
Farmers in Kaski are adopting and improving this intercropping technique because
1. The crotalaria provides much needed mulch for the succeeding vegetable crop.
2. Farmers have noticed that the soil seems more fertile and is easier to plough after cropping with crotalaria.
Crotalaria and finger millet come up together and act as companions to each other.
The main reason for intercropping crotalaria with finger millet is to help build soil fertility through nodules that are formed on the roots, so the roots should be incorporated after millet harvest. Incorporation of crotalaria biomass is not possible since it is intermixed with finger millet and matures at a different time. The crotalaria is cut and removed while it is in the flowering stage. This will be about 60 days after seeding.
Most of the species of crotalaria are short-lived, hollow-stemmed, fast-growing and can produce about 28 T/ha of biomass. It ranks next to Sesbania in N yield and green matter production. It is capable of supplying more than 100 kg N/ha if it is planted as a sole crop.
1. Broadcast the crotalaria seed at a seeding rate of 15 kg/ha during the time of finger millet transplanting. Transplant the finger millet at the usual rate.
2. Thin the crotalaria while weeding the finger millet if the crotalaria seems thick and is affecting the finger millet. In case of low rainfall, thinning may have to be done earlier in order to avoid competition for soil moisture.
3. Use the crotalaria for composting, mulching, etc. It can be is cut during the flowering stage, about 60 days after seeding. This is also the time when winter vegetables are cultivated in the garden and crotalaria is very good to use as mulch on the vegetables.
4. Incorporate the remaining roots of the crotalaria after finger millet is harvested.
5. Seed production is a major problem with crotalaria. Pod borers often destroy an entire seed crop. Farmers using the finger millet/crotalaria intercropping system have worked to overcome this. They planted crotalaria at many different times of the year in different locations to find a time period when seed production might not be bothered by the pod borer. Their results indicate that for production of the next season's seed, crotalaria can be planted on terrace bunds. Crotalaria planted at one arm length (18") on south facing slopes during June produces good-quality seed which will be ready for harvest in November. Twenty to twenty-five healthy plants produce about one kg of seed.