The horticulture sector covers fruits, vegetables, flowers, plantation crops, medicinal and aromatic crops, condiment and spices, mushroom cultivation, honey production etc. Under fruit crops – banana, mango and citrus fruits contribute 70 % of overall production while in vegetables- potato, tomato, onion, brinjal and cabbage contribute 80 % of production. Amongst states – Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamilnadu, Bihar, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha are major contributor to horticultural production. The focus needs to be shifted towards these crops for next green revolution.

The fertilizer recommendations for horticultural crops need to be reoriented for deriving maximum benefit per unit area and time. For example grapes occupy fifth position amongst fruit crops in India with a current annual production of 2.2 mt from an area of 0.12mha. About 80% of the production comes from Maharashtra followed by Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. With an average yield of 25 t/ha the crop encounters nutrient deficiencies of P, Zn, Fe, Mn and Mg. Under good management, grape yields of 100 t/ha have been obtained with Anab-e-shahi in Andhra Pradesh and 45 t/ ha with Thompson seedless in Maharashtra. Potassium sulphate as quality fertiliser is generally preferred over MOP as the source of K for grapes. The production of pomegranate a potential and remunerative crop for wastelands was 7.72 lakh tonnes in 2011-12. Pomegranate cultivation has made great progress in the state of Maharashtra with varieties like Ganesh and Bhagwa (Red ruby).The nutrient application to this crop is area and cultivar specific thus pomegranate variety Ganesha requires 625:250:250 g/ plant of N:P:K , while variety Jodhpur Red at Udaipur 720:230:200 g/plant of N: P: K and Bassein seedless gave highest yield with 500:250:125 g / tree of N, P and K at Bangalore.

Farmers showing nodules

Horticulture sector is best suited for practising Integrated Nutrient Management (INM) and hi-tech practices. Horticultural crops are heavy feeders and protected cultivation and fertigation has helped in enhancing productivity of these crops per unit of input applied. Integrating the best technologies for attaining higher crop production needs to be fine-tuned and fertilizer and water application is the key management factor determining the overall outcome. This sector needs to be tapped for promoting balanced and integrated use of fertilisers and use of WSF’s, Sulphur bentonite, Zinc sulphate, boron etc for addressing nutritional requirements of crops for higher productivity.

Green Manuring drive of IFFCO

Soil fertility is a key component in the agricultural production systems. At the same times efficient use of costly fertilisers is also becoming much more important in the market economy of agricultural products because fertilizers are becoming costlier day by day. The farmers are reluctant and in some cases using negligible quantities of organics because most of the organic resources are being used for cooking, house building and cattle feed. The crop production system with high yield targets cannot be sustainable unless nutrient inputs to soil are balanced against nutrient removed by crops. Therefore, the present need of the hour is to ensure suitable combination of organic and inorganic fertilizers.

Green manuring is one of the cheap sources of organics for enhancing soil fertility in improving physical and biological properties of soils which is eco friendly and economically viable for sustaining soil fertility. To promote green manuring, IFFCO has taken an intensive drive in West Bengal under the Soil Health Rejuvenation and Productivity Enhancement Programme for last 4 years with 2 dimensions of promoting green manuring in one hand through distribution of dhaincha seeds and promoting seed production programme of dhaincha seeds in flood prone low lands on the other. Seeds of Dhaincha were distributed to 6833 farmers covering 2509 acres in WB in last 4 years. IFFCO has arranged production of more than 2500 quintal of dhaincha seeds through cooperatives of which majority quantity has been procured by IFFDC for onward dispatch to other states for green manuring while 1200 quintal of seeds supplied to the department of Agriculture Govt., of WB for their minikit distribution programme.

Farmers Meetings were conducted to explain benefits of green manuring and about the process of incorporating green biomass .After 35 – 40 days of sowing seeds depending upon availability of rainfall in different locations the dhaincha plants have been incorporated in soil. An estimated 16-20 t/ha biomass was added which is equivalent to 50-60 kg Nitrogen / ha (110-125 kg urea / ha). Kharif Paddy grown with 10% less of recommended dose of Nitrogen in plots of green manuring has luxuriant growth with 10-12.5% additional yield.

The green manuring initiative of IFFCO is being highly appreciated by the state Governments, Agriculture Universities, KVKs, ICAR Institutes. Large scale involvement of farmers and their enthusiasm are making the programme popular and it is expected that the adoption of this practice will play a very important role in maintaining soil fertility enabling efficient use of costly fertlisers for sustainable agriculture in the days to come.