Almost immediately after my post graduation, I landed into agricultural fields. My first assignment as Research Fellow in "Technology Development and Demonstration Project on Cyano-bacterial Biofertilizers" involved both on-field and laboratory based investigations on application of biofertilizers on different crops. Along with hard core laboratory based investigations on different agriculturally important microbial systems, I was also initiated into organization of statistically laid field trials and data analysis.
My next assignment in a mainstream biofertilizer production unit also involved lots of field demonstrations and experimentations. I worked with an wide spectrum of cereal, vegetables, plantation and agro-forestry crops at that time.
My association with the farming is continued in my tenure at Anubhav Biotech Ltd. Establishment of a contarct farming base was planned as a regular raw material source for the planned extraction unit. The work started in 2009 with establishment of a stevia nursery and a demonstration field in Mohit Nagar - in norther region of West Bengal, India. Then, A contract farming project was undertaken in collaboration with the Department Of Horticulture, Govt. of Mizoram. Under this scheme, more than 200 farmers were engaged in small scale stevia farming under a buy back arrangement by Anubhav Biotech Ltd. I was also associated with a contract farming project in collaboration with Royal Government of Bhutan.
Start of Plantation, in PSCL campus, Chittoor, AP
Initiation into Stevia Farming:
My association with Stevia farming started when I was in Innova Biosystems. I visited Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (weblink) at Himachal Pradesh in August, 2007 and collected few hundreds of planting material for the Paraguan variety being promoted by them at that time. With those planting material a small demonstration plot was organized at the campus of Prudential Sugar Corporation Ltd. at Chittur, Andhra Pradesh.
Click images to enlarge
Preparation of planting materials in IHBT nursery, August, 2007
Stevia as a diversification crop for tea gardens
Janus Lifesciences also successfully organized small scale plantations in North West Bengal and their major collaborators were several Tea Estates, who considered stevia as a potential divessification crop. Reputed Tea Companies like Goodricke showed earnest interest in adopting stedia as a subsediary crop.
A major success was achieved with intercropping of stevia with rubber. Rubber has a long gestation period and at least 10 years are required for the first yield. Rubber trees are generally planted 3.0 miter apart and thie space between the plant rows can be efficiently utilized for stevia cropping. For the first 5 years, the canopy of the rubber plants does not block too much sunshine and thus stevia can grow very well as an intercrop with rubber. This intercropping helps to reduce the time for getting economic return from rubber plantations.
Large scale farming
I was looking after a larges scale plantation in Central America. The plantation utilised several modern agro-technologies like use of plastic mulch for weed and soil moisture evaporation control, drip irrigation, highly mechanized interculture operations, very high planting density etc.
The plantation was also supported with a modern nursery with a production capacity of 60,000 planting materials per day.
For this plantation, I was associated with operations from the land cleaning and preparation stage. I also monitored the land preparation, irrigation planning and implementation, planning for fertigation, infrasturctural planning for the nursery, harvesting mechanization and post-harvest processing planning.