For the last three years, the students of Don Bosco College of Agriculture (DBCA), Sulcorna, have learnt how sample soil and analyze its nutrient as well as microbial health status; insect pests and their organic management practices; fungal and bacterial diseases and their management.
They have hands-on experience in raising rice seedlings by Dapog nursery, green leaf manuring (GLM) with fresh Glyricidia leaves and line transplanting for the Madagascar method or SRI.
The first batch of students now divided into groups of five to seven members share their learning with the farmers in the villages of Neturlim, Pirla, Rivona, Malcornem and Zambaulim in Sanguem and Quepem talukas. This is their Rural Agriculture Work Experience (RAWE) program, which includes three months stay in the designated village. The focus of the farmers this season is rice.
The System of Rice Intensification or SRI Method was developed in 1980s from traditional systems in Madagascar, off the coast of South Africa, by the French priest, Fr Henri de Laulanie. This was later fine-tuned by Norman Uphoff at Cornell International Institute for Food & Agriculture, USA. It is an improvement over the Japanese method of transplanting followed in India since the ‘Green Revolution’ in the mid-1960s.
Long before scientists confirmed that the root system of rice is more efficient when the soil is not flooded, the farmers in Madagascar had noticed that rice grew and yielded better when the soil was alternately flooded and allowed to dry up to hair-line cracking of the soil surface. This SRI method gives better yields and needs less seed.
The students have assisted the farmers to prepare Dapog nurseries that ensure that the root system of the seedlings is not damaged as it sometimes happens during uprooting from the soil. In Dapog, it is also easier to inoculate the seedlings with Trichoderma viride to prevent soil-borne diseases and Beauvaria bassiana to control insect pests. It will also be possible to inoculate the seedlings with Bacillus subtilis that shows promise for increasing rice yields in khazan lands.
These micro-organisms have been tested, found to work well and are available in Goa but the farmers did not know till the students began working with them. The students are interacting with the Zonal Agriculture Offices to help the farmers better.
Very few people in Goa realise that the degree course in agriculture also includes animal sciences. Thus students know how to determine the weight of a cow or buffalo and the names of the body parts; how to grow fodder crops, make silage and also grow azolla as a protein supplement for cattle feed.
The first batch has not actually milked cows as the current batches are doing: by hand and by using the milking machine. However, the student groups helped the veterinary assistants to conduct the foot & mouth disease (FMD) vaccination campaign in the designated villages as well as at animal shelters. They are enjoying the experience and the farmers are happy to host them.