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close this bookIndigenous technology knowledge for watershed management in upper north-west Himalayas of India (1998)
close this folderChapter 2 - Soil and water management techniques
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentSources of irrigation water
View the documentConstruction of kuhls (water channels)
View the documentDistribution of kuhl water in fields
View the documentUse of kuhl water for running water mills
View the documentMethods of irrigation
View the documentWater harvesting methods
View the documentMoisture conservation through mulching
View the documentDrainage
View the documentUse of smoke for protecting fruit crops from frost damage
View the documentSoil management
View the documentSoil fertility management
View the documentUse of ash in Ladakh

Use of ash in Ladakh

i) Nutrient recycling

The inhabitants of this entire region use cattle dung, shrubs and bushes as the main source of fuel. Ashes available, there upon, are mixed either with household waste or human excreta. Sometimes ashes are also broadcasted in the fields.

Mixing of ash with household waste and human excreta aids in nutrient availability and recycling. Ash primarily meets the deficiency of potash. Availability of phosphorus is also ensured. In addition to this, human excreta and household waste also contains good amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.

ii) Softening of hard soils

In Nubra valley, hard soils are softened by putting ash obtained from cowdung, sheep/goat manure, fuelwood etc.

Through this practice upper layers of soils are not only softened but their fertility status is also improved, as ash contains phosphorus.

iii) Increased size of potatoes through the use of ash and goat manure

A mixture of kitchen ash and goat manure is used in kitchen gardens (Nubra valley) for growing potatoes.

The spreading of this mixture as an organic manure, increases the size of potatoes on account of optimum supply of nutrients in otherwise nutrient deficient soils. Secondly organic manure improves the soil structure, porosity and water holding capacity of the soils. In this way there is an overall improvement in physical, chemical and biological properties like microbial population etc., which has increased the size of potatoes.

iv) Poultry manure and ash for increased vegetable production

This specific technology is used only in case of tomato, brinjal, capsicum and cauliflower. Kitchen ash and poultry manure mix enhances vegetable production levels.

Stage of farm yard manure in cultivated fields

In west Himalayan cold deserts, FYM with a thin coverage of soil is kept in small heaps in the fields from October to March. With the onset of summer months it is spread in the open field.

Coverage of organic manure (FYM) with soil in open fields throughout winter helps in regulating (heap) temperature necessary for proper decomposition of FYM.

Green manuring

In Bharmour area the practice of green manuring is localized in a few villages (paddy growing). Leaves and twigs of wild bushes such as basuti and kaimal are used.

Use of goat manure

In Ladakh, goat manure is considered to be more nutritious. Goat manure when added to millet fields improves production. Goats are specially penned in these plots/fields.

Goat manure improves not only the millet production but also its taste. According to farmers vegetables grown in goat manure have longer keeping quality. It is easy to plough fields manured with goat excreta. Actually with the addition of goat excreta, there is improvement in the physical properties like soil structure, water holding capacity and porosity. There is also an improvement in soil fertility as it contains 3% nitrogen, 1% phosphorus and 2% potassium.

Use of sachik soil for higher crop yield

Yellow soil (Sachik) found in Tagloom area is used as manure for enhancing crop production. Yak loads of this yellowish/dark brown coloured soil are scattered in the fields.

Biofencing with seabuckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides)

This practice is prevalent in Spiti and other regions. There is a common practice to provide biofencing with seabuckthorn in cold deserts in general and Spiti in particular (Fig. 2.28).

The biofence of seabuckthorn being thorny in nature protects crop from stray animals. Its multipurpose utility as a nitrogen fixer, checks against soil erosion, conservation of soil and moisture, source of fuelwood and indigenous drug (rich source of vitamin C) makes it a promising plants for eco-economic rehabilitation of the region.


Fig. 2.28 Biofence - common in hills and is of thorny shrubs/cut piece of thorny plants

Sprawling of ash dust in cucurbits and other vegetable crops

In the west Himalayan cold deserts, ash dust is a product obtained after the combustion of fuelwood. It has been observed that dusting of material in the fields enhance early maturity and high yield of vegetable crops.

The reason for the early maturity of cucurbits and vegetable crops is due to the fact that ash dust contains sufficient quantity of phosphorus in available form to the plants. Secondly, in cucurbits the ash dust has been used to repel the insect pest of the crops. Thirdly, amendments of ash dust in the soil, improves soil structure and fertility. Ash dust is also useful in enhancing the maturity of bulb crops which normally takes 6-7 months for obtaining economic yield.

Drought power according to soil texture

In west Himalayan cold deserts, ploughing is generally carried out by dzos, however in sandy situations horses are employed for its speedy completion. In Turpuk of Nubra valley ploughing is done by a single horse.

Sandy soil have less soil strength than clayey soil. Due to this reason, the drought power requirement for ploughing varies according to soil texture.