Using water wisely

Farmers tapped WorldVeg experts for a stream of knowledge on best irrigation and pest management practices.

Discussing irrigation pumps and components during the training.

Farmers in Matlavaripalli village, Ramasamudram mandal, Chittoor district, Andhra Pradesh, India typically do not check soil moisture levels when irrigating their vegetable crops. Instead, they monitor the electrical supply; when electricity is available, they irrigate, whether or not their crops are thirsty.

In a workshop held for 20 farmers on 13 August 2019, WorldVeg expert trainer Wolfram Spreer explained more practical, environmentally sound methods to determine irrigation needs. By using one or two tensiometers in a field, farmers can better evaluate soil moisture and avoid unnecessary irrigation and excess fertilizer application.

Tensiometers measure the tension or suction that plants’ roots must exert to extract water from the soil. This tension is a direct measure of the availability of water to a plant. WorldVeg South Asia is evaluating domestic tensiometers, which can be purchased for ~INR 4,500 (USD 63).

Wolfram also discussed how to do solubility tests for fertilizers delivered through irrigation, components of irrigation systems, and how to calculate fertilizer schedules for tomato at different stages of plant growth.

On 14 August, Abdul Rasheed War and Abhay Kumar Pandey guided participants through a tomato field to collect samples of diseased plants and insect pests to identify. The two WorldVeg trainers helped the farmers cross-check their identification with the common damage symptoms each disease and insect pest produce. Participants were able to sort the specimens as problems due to pests, diseases, or nutrient deficiencies with accuracy up to 80%. Major pests were serpentine leaf miner, fruit borer, whitefly, and red mites; diseases observed were early blight, powdery mildew, damping off, bacterial leaf spot, and bacterial wilt.

An integrated management approach for pests and diseases was discussed in detail. WorldVeg experts emphasized safe use of pesticides and the need to respect waiting periods for entering fields after spraying, intervals between spraying and harvest, wearing proper protective clothing when spraying, and proper disposal of chemical containers.

The training was part of the GIZ – APMAS Technical Partnership to Support the Green Innovation Center for the Agriculture and Food Sector, India Tomato Value Chain.

Wolfram Spreer explains how to calculate fertilizer needs.

Story and photos: Wolfram Spreer, Abhay Kumar Pandey, Abdul Rasheed War, PVL Bharathi

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Wolfram Spreer demonstrates how to check a tensiometer.

Evaluating samples collected from the field for symptoms of pests and diseases.

How to gauge soil moisture: Pick up a handful of soil and give it a squeeze. Better yet: use a tensiometer!