The Centre has adopted both modern techniques and traditional practices in agriculture. Although Centre is fully aware of the importance of growing food organically, it is still using chemical fertilizers and pesticides to maintain certain level of food production. Quite a large area of land, roughly about 65 acres, is under cultivation. The Centre believes in growing diverse crops for reducing the adverse impact of monoculture. The Centre grows food and vegetable crops, and fodder for the cattle. The Centre has planted quite a large number of various fruit trees too.
The food crops that are grown include paddy, wheat, jowar, and bajra. Several pulses such as red gram, urd, green gram, etc are cultivated under multi-cropping system. Sudan, baraseem, maize, jowar are grown mainly as green fodder for the cattle in Dairy.
Potato, okra, tomato, chilli, suran, are some of the vegetables grown on the farm. Fruit trees such as mango, bael, amda, tad palm and jackfruit planted are bearing fruits. Oil seeds such as mustard, sesame are also integrated farming at the Centre.
In the year 2008, the Centre harvested 43 qtls. of paddy, 70 qtls. of wheat, 10 qtls of peas, 51 tonnes of fodder, 150 qtls. of potato. Large quantities of vegetables such as brinjal (10 qtls), tomato (3 qtls), cabbage (5 qtls), cauliflower(15 qtls) were grown.
The centre will cultivate maize, suran, cherry, barseem and pulses as summer crops as fodder. Paddy, jowar, bajra, sudan, mustard, til, urd, moong, and maize will be sown in kharif season.
The Foundation has made a policy decision to phasing out the present chemical farming and adopting sustainable organic farming. In this direction, the Rural Centre has approached NAVDANYA -an NGO based at New Delhi for both technical support and exploring possible project funding. NAVDANYA (www.navdanya.org) is promoting biodiverse organic farming and reviving and multiplying the vanishing local varieties of seeds of food and vegetable crops. A project proposal for large scale organic farming is being prepared to seek funding support from Govt./Non-profit organisations.
In order to capacitate and to change the mindset of the farming staff of the Rural Centre, a workshop on organic farming was conducted in April-08. Resource persons of NAVDANYA were invited. Dr. Vinod Bhatt and Dr. Harbinder Singh facilitated the workshop.
With a view to make a humble beginning, it was decided to grow paddy organically on a small plot of 0.3 acre. Five different varieties of paddy were sown. These seeds were obtained from a well known organic farmer - Mr. Raghuvanshi. He hails from a village close to Varanasi. A meager yield of 55 kgs of paddy was harvested from this field. Though it is not very encouraging, the Centre is determined to go ahead with organic farming by allocating bigger area from the year 2009-10. One and a half acre has been allocated for growing paddy, moong, urad from Kharif season-2009.
System of Rice Intensification - SRI method
SRI method is also known as "Madagascar" method of rice cultivation. SRI method was developed in Madagascar by Fr. Henri de Laulanié, S.J., who between 1961 and 1995 worked with Malagasy farmers and colleagues to improve the possibilities of rice production in this country. He wanted Malagasy people to have happier and more secure lives.
If SRI method is followed meticulously one can produce at least 50% more yield than from conventional farming. Very important features of SRI are, it require less water and more spacing between the plants.
Large number of rice producing countries such as China, Sri Lanka, Philippines, etc. has begun to adopt this method. The farmers, in some of the southern states of India, have started practicing this method very meticulously.
This method was tried out in the Rural Centre on a small plot of 0.3 acre. Two local varieties of paddy were cultivated. The yield was 84 kgs. The yield is certainly better than the yield obtained from conventional organic farming methods. The Centre has determined to adopt SRI practices from next year to derive the maximum benefit. In 2009 kharif season, SRI will be experimented in 0.5 acre. It has been decided to cultiave Lalmatti-a local variety of rice, on this plot of land.
To meet its bio-fertilizer requirement for the organic farming the Centre has vermicomposting units for composting cow dung and farm yard manure and NADEP composting for biomass and crop residues.
The Centre wishes to work with the communities to promote organic farming practices. It is planning to have demonstration plots on a few food and vegetable crops during 2008-09. The Centre is looking forward for support from Donors/individuals and NGOs.
The Centre is planning to allocate more area to cultivate oil seeds and pulses.
The centre is conceiving the idea of having seed banks of indigenous varieties of food and vegetable crops.