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Improved tomato production brings happiness through increased income to farmers

Applying improved cropping techniques makes a tomato farmer in Assam, India a role model for other local tomato producers.

Mr. Dhar in his well-staked tomato demonstration plot.

Mr. Puspa Ranjan Dhar, 52, lives in Block Kalain of Cachar, Assam state, India, with his wife and two children. He’s been a vegetable farmer for the past three decades. Even with all his years of farming experience, he still learned some new approaches for producing tomatoes by participating as a demonstration farmer for the APART project.

Since October 2018, the World Vegetable Center (WorldVeg) has been carrying out demonstration trials for the Assam Agribusiness and Rural Transformation Project (APART) funded by Assam Rural Infrastructure and Agricultural Services Society (ARIAS) through a World Bank loan, to demonstrate climate-resilient cropping practices to tomato farmers in Cachar district.

Encouraging results produced at Mr. Dhar’s demonstration fields during the 2018/19 Rabi season inspired other tomato growers in that area. His demonstration plots were guided by Mr. Souradeep Acharjee, World Vegetable Center Technical Officer, and other demonstrations in Kalain were administered by Mr. Nikubur Jaman, the Agriculture Development Officer (ADO) for the area.

The demonstration aimed to show differences between various agricultural practices promoted by WorldVeg, and the usual methods farmers practice in their fields. The set of improved cropping practices, based on a jointly elaborated package of practices (PoP) developed WorldVeg and the Assam Agricultural University (AAU), led to better plant growth, improved plant health and higher yield—all of which increased Mr. Dhar’s income.

The demonstration was conducted on an area of 0.125 ha. The locally popular variety “Victor” (F1 hybrid) from Crystal Seeds was selected based on market preference. The same variety was used in both the WorldVeg demo plot and the farmer’s control plot to effectively display the outcomes from adopting improved agricultural practices such as proper fertilizer dose, healthy nursery, proper plant spacing, proper weed management, proper irrigation and plant protection, staking of the plants, etc.

First key to success: Improved nursery management

A good vegetable crop always starts with a good nursery. Under the guidance of WorldVeg, a semi-protected tunnel nursery with a raised bed was established with polyethylene sheets and locally sourced materials such as bamboo. These low-cost, simple structures protect seedlings from intense radiation, strong rainfall and other detrimental environmental impacts. Improved pest and disease management methods, such as following a recommended schedule of pesticide spraying, make small tunnels even more effective. The healthier and stronger seedlings produced in the tunnel gave the demo plots a head start, compared with seedlings produced with the usual farmer’s practices.

Active participation of women farmers

Women farmers were encouraged to participate in the operation of all aspects of the WorldVeg demonstration plots. Women worked together with men to establish a seedling nursery. They sowed seed, transplanted, weeded, applied top dressing, harvested, graded, sorted, and packed the tomato fruit. The activities empowered women, strengthened their position in the family as well as in the local community, and inspired other women in the village. With women working side-by-side with male family members, farm families were able to reduce external labor costs.

Improved field management

WorldVeg demonstrated enhanced plant fitness through proper staking. Staking improves aeration within the field, reducing fungal disease pressure, while allowing crop plants to better explore the available space and avoid contact of fruits with the soil. In the WorldVeg plots, staking prolonged crop duration and produced disease-free and mud-free tomatoes, thus improving yield and fruit quality. For the farmers, better fruit quality translates to better market acceptance and prices for their produce.

Success in the field pays off!

Mr. Dhar harvested 23 quintals (2.3 t) of marketable tomatoes from the WorldVeg demo plot, which produced revenues of ₹ 40,000 from sales at a price of ₹ 15 per kg. On the other hand, only 19 quintals (1.9 t) of marketable tomatoes were harvested from the control plot, which sold for ₹ 29,000. The difference in revenues was more than ₹ 11,000, which in terms of a one-hectare area is ₹88,000.

Applying the techniques recommended in the PoP incurred some additional costs:

  • Seedlings grown in the low tunnel were used in both the demo and control plots. So, costs associated with the low tunnel were not taken into consideration.
  • Bamboo for staking was available on the farm. The estimated cost for the amount used was ₹1,000.
  • Staking required additional labor of 3 worker-days at an average cost of ₹300 per worker-day.
  • The farmer purchased pesticides as recommended in the PoP for an additional ₹1,500.
  • No additional fertilizer was used in either the demo or control plot. Low tunnels were fertilized at the time of land preparation with cow dung from own farm.
  • The demo plot was hand-weeded three times and the control plot was weeded only once. Each weeding required approximately 4 worker-days.

Taking in account the additional cost, the higher tomato yields generated a plus in income to the farmer of more than ₹ 5,400 on the demo plot as compared to the farmer’s practice. This translates into a potential increase in income of ₹ 43,360 per hectare.

(above) By grading and sorting tomatoes, farmers can get better prices for their crop; (below) learning new vegetable production methods.

Postharvest techniques

Harvesting is an important part of crop production. WorldVeg introduced grading, sorting, washing and packaging to meet consumer demand for quality vegetables. Mr. Dhar improved the marketability of his produce by following these good agricultural practices; he obtained a higher price for his tomatoes and increased his income. Other farmers in the village took note of his success, and are now planning to adopt the demonstrated good agriculture practices for tomato in their own fields.

Multiplication and training

The major reason WorldVeg conducts demonstration trials is to show farmers how to improve their cropping practices. But the good practices must go beyond the demo field; training and extension services are very important to reach more farmers. WorldVeg has conducted training programs for tomato-growing farmers to teach them about the PoP techniques and specific good agricultural practices for tomato.

Participating farmers came from tomato cluster villages and ADO Kalian, Mr. Nikubur Jaman, was present, too. During the field day, Mr. Dhar shared his happiness with the crop and better yield he obtained by employing the improved practices. “After learning protected nursery management and staking from WorldVeg, I was able to grow disease-free plants, achieve higher yields and better market acceptability,” he said.

Those good practices are bringing in more income for his family. Mr. Dhar plans to invest the additional income in an irrigation pump to improve his productivity even more.

Story and photos: Souradeep Acherjee

Return to FRESH!

“After learning protected nursery management and staking from WorldVeg, I was able to grow disease-free plants, achieve higher yields and better market acceptability.”

— Mr. Puspa Ranjan Dhar, tomato farmer

A well-managed nursery. Growing in tunnels protects seedlings from heavy rain and intense sunlight.

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