Farmer Sethpal Singh has always innovated, experimented and tried new things on his 15 hectare farm, which is nothing less than a laboratory.
The 55-year-old farmer from Nandifirozpur village in Saharanpur district, Uttar Pradesh, was recently awarded the Padma Shri for his enterprise and investigative spirit.
Sethpal is very careful about growing vegetables, seasonally. In the summer, he grows pumpkins, bitter gourds and gourds, while in the cold winter months he grows cauliflower, green chilies, radishes, etc. Besides vegetables, the farmer also grows water chestnuts, not in water but on land. And breeds Rohu, Katla and Dwarf fish species in his pond.
Learning by doing
It was in 1987, after graduating from university, that Sethpal Singh decided to go into agriculture.
“Like other farmers in the area, I too started growing sugar cane, wheat and paddy but faced huge losses,” Sethpal said. Gaon Login.
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It was then that he contacted the Krishi Vigyan Kendra and set out to learn about the benefits of diversifying his crops from agronomists.
“I learned that there were ways for the farmer to make money every day and since then, alongside the conventional cultivation of sugar cane, I started growing vegetables, mushrooms, water chestnuts in addition to raising fish and livestock,” the farmer said.
“I prepare the vegetable seedlings in polythene bags at the nursery, then I transplant them in the field. The aim is to ensure that after each harvest the land is ready for the next,” he explained.
It was hard to buck the trend, Sethpal said. Other farmers ridiculed his experiences. But the farmer persisted because he was convinced that having a monoculture was not helping farmers. “The sugarcane crop takes a long time to grow, then it goes to the mill and even then we don’t get the money in time. The farmer needs regular income to meet his many expenses, and growing different crops helps,” he said.
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The fact that Sethpal cultivates sugar cane on only five hectares of his land and dedicates the remaining 10 hectares to vegetables, flowers and water chestnuts, has inspired other farmers to do the same.
Growing Water Chestnuts
It was a chance encounter with another farmer in Saharanpur that encouraged Sethpal to grow water chestnuts as well. After consulting agricultural scientists at Krishi Vigyan Kendra, he also started cultivating them in 1997.
“We plant the water chestnuts the second week of June and at the end of September they start producing. We hardly need to use pesticides for this,” Sethpal said.
According to him, growing water chestnuts was a better option than growing them in a pond because often water bodies are polluted. He said the quality of products grown on land was much better than those grown on water, and they were also more expensive.
“After the water chestnuts are harvested, the residual crops are left in the field and they decompose and turn into organic fertilizer. We then plant our vegetables,” he explained.
The farmer also cultivates the lotus flower. The stem of the lotus or kamal kakdi, as well as the flower sell well and bring him income.
Not too far from his land is a four and a half foot pond where Sethpal breeds the Rohu, Katla and Dwarf fish species. “They occupy different sections of the pond and that way they stay safe, he explained. The water body also keeps our groundwater charged and the tube well has water all year round” , Sethpal said.
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Support for agronomists
The Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) of Saharanpur supported Sethpal throughout his experiences. The scientists there have contributed greatly to Sethpal’s success, but are also very grateful to the progressive farmer.
“Sethpal is one of those farmers in our district who taught us as much as he learned from us,” said IK Kushwaha, senior scientist and head of KVK. Gaon Login.
“When other farmers struggled to make a profit from their sugarcane crops, Sethpal managed to reap handsome benefits from his approach to farming,” Kushwaha said.
Read the story in Hindi.