More milk through improved sorghum productivity in Maharashtra

More milk through improved sorghum productivity in Maharashtra

Farmer Ganesh Giri talking about his successful sorghum fodder yields

Farmer Ganesh Giri talking about his successful sorghum fodder yields

VOICES of HOPE aims to share the experiences of farmers and partners. Our team in Maharashtra, India, asked farmer Ganesh Giri from Wakulni village cluster if and how the project has changed things for the farming community in his region.

Please tell us about your experience with the HOPE project training.

“I had valuable training through the HOPE project. I learnt about cultivating post rainy sorghum using improved varieties like ParbhaniMoti, ParbhaniJyoti and PhuleVasudha.

I used the recommended wider (45 cm) row to row spacing and this helped increase the grain as well as fodder yield. This

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spacing also makes it easier to intercrop.

We learnt about seed treatments to help reduce shootfly and smut attack on the crop. We also learnt about how fertilizers help plant growth – I now follow the recommended doses of fertilizer. This has increased the amount of grain and fodder I produce.”

Did you find it hard to follow the training?

“The training was easy to follow and explained simple ways we can increase our grain and fodder yield. By seeing the improvements ourselves, we have changed the way we think. Now, we are much more interested in cultivating sorghum.”

How have things changed for you since the training?

”Things have really changed for me. Back in 2005, I started dairy farming with 4-5 buffaloes. Initially we supplied milk to the government dairy. The higher sorghum yields have meant a greater surplus of sorghum fodder. This has meant I could increase my dairy herd to 20 animals. Milk yield is now 200-250 litres and I have started packaging milk in polythene bags to sell directly to consumers in Aurangabad city.”

How did you feed your animals before and what is the situation now?

“Before becoming involved in the HOPE project, we use to feed our buffaloes with fodder from maize, pearl millet and wheat. This fodder was required in higher quantities which made it expensive. It is also not as nutritious compared to the post rainy sorghum fodder I now feed them.

As we often suffer droughts in this region, green fodder is rarely available. Postrainy sorghum fodder is as useful as green fodder which helps to reduce the impact of the dry period on the buffaloes. Since giving them sorghum fodder, I get a better quantity of milk and the fat percentage of the milk has also increased.”

Have you experienced any problems since the training?

“Yes, we have experienced some new problems. Before, when we sowed the seeds closer together, we had less yield but the stems of the crop were thinner. Now as the plants have more space, their stems are thicker so we have to process the fodder with a chaff cutter. If we don’t have this processing equipment, we are reluctant to use the improved varieties and practice recommendations.

What is your overall feeling about the HOPE training?

Overall, I am very happy because of higher yields not only for our consumption but also for fodder for our dairy animals. Neighbouring farmers have started following what I am doing as they see the advantages and want to benefit from these practices as well.

Background to HOPE activities in Maharashtra

India is world’s largest dairy producer. Milk has a significant role to play in regions affected by drought as it provides vital income and employs family members. Postrainy season sorghum stover is the main and most often the only source of animal feed in drought affected Marathwada and Western Maharashtra regions of Maharashtra state.

Since 2009, the HOPE project has been working in village clusters in six important postrainy sorghum growing districts. Postrainy sorghum growing region of Maharashtra state had poor rainfall during the last two years. For example, during 2012-13, the Wakulni village cluster where farmer Ganesh Giri lives received 60% below normal rainfall (about 400 mm).

The HOPE project’s five-point programme includes training on the following practices:

  • In-situ moisture conservation
  • Use of improved cultivars
  • Wide row spacing
  • Use of fertilizers at sowing
  • Insect-pest management

Seeds of improved sorghum varieties along with training on production have helped to substantially increase the availability of grain and dry fodder in project areas since 2010. Sorghum cultivars such as Parbhani Moti, Phule Vasudha and Akola Kranti are highly preferred for grain which also gives higher dry fodder yield, two to three times higher than local varieties.

Livestock is an integral component of food, nutritional and income security of small holder farmers in postrainy sorghum areas. Since the HOPE activities in the region, dairy activities have intensified. Small-scale dairy units (up to 10 animals) are quite popular in the project areas and postrainy sorghum stover is an important component of their daily ration. Proper management of small scale dairy units supported by an increased supply of quality fodder resulted in higher milk production. Many small-scale farmers, particularly women, now keep at least one cow to meet family’s milk requirement and for earning some money.

By ST Borikar, RL Aundhekar & Alina Paul-Bossuet