Accessing water on time and its availability is one of the greatest challenges in Indian agriculture. Digging farm ponds is one way of ensuring water availability for crops, while many farmers across the country also follow the drip irrigation technique. But for those who don’t have a drip and are in areas where water availability is a serious issue, there is a need for a simple solution.
P. David Raja Beula, the assistant director of Horticulture Kadayam in Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu, seems to have an answer for this. Beula is currently employed in the government horticulture department, but he has always had a penchant for developing simple farm machineries that can be operated using solar power.
His recent development is a solar powered drought fighter, which consists of a suction tube, a smaller size delivery tube, a spray gun and a solar panel that needs to be connected to a motor.
A few years ago he had developed a similar smaller sized solar water pump that used 0.020 KW of power, whereas the new solar portable pump uses 0.37 BKW.
“In the previous drought fighter, water could be sprayed only from a barrel in which the required water or water mixed with water soluble fertiliser or bio manure is mixed. In this updated solar portable device I have made changes so that it can be used to draw water from even up to 15-20 feet depth. It can also be used to pump water from a sump to an overhead tank of up to 25 feet height. Water from the tank is then used for spraying. It is provided with battery back up as generator,” said Beula.
Explaining how to use it, he said, one end of the sprayer is fitted with a suction hose (approximately five meters in length) which is thrown into a pond or tank and another 20-meter long delivery hose is connected to the spray gun which enables the farmer to spray water over his crops. Powered by solar energy, the device reduces the fuel consumption for the motor, thereby reducing the cost of cultivation by more than 20%.
Using this simple device, about 25% of the area can be covered in ten minutes, according to him. More area can be covered by a periodical shifting of the entire system. The sprayer can be used for any crops and water soluble fertilisers and organic manures can be sprayed using this device.
“The major advantage over the traditional backpack sprayer is that the farmer need not carry water and the weight of sprayer every time he walks in the field. The drudgery of carrying weight of water is completely wiped off. As the sprayer is operated by solar power, it is free from electricity,” Beula added.
The efficacy of the device was demonstrated to 25 farmers during a farm school training programme of Agricultural Technology Management Agency in Karuthapillaiyur village of Kadayam block in Tirunelveli district. Those who participated seemed quite impressed with the efficiency of the device.
“Even when the well has minimum quantity of water, vegetables and flowers can be cultivated in a few cents of land using this sprayer. In Kadayam block of Tirunelveli where farmers were hesitating to venture into horticulture crops, were encouraged to carry on cultivation with the help of this device,” he said.
Not just for crops, the device is also useful for those with a dairy unit where five to nine or more animals are housed. The main constraint in dairy is that the labourers clean the cow dung manually using bare hands and carry the basket filled with the dung on their head to the farmyard manure pits. The hands and legs of the labourers who are constantly exposed to cow dung and urine sometimes get infected and take a long time to heal.
The device can be adjusted in such a way that the water comes out with more speed so that it can wash the cow dung and urine into the channels which are connected to a collecting sump. The labourer need not handle the cow dung by hand. This will attract qualified labour to agriculture because of the healthy environment created.
An economic analysis of the green and white revolution on agri-animal husbandry project was also conducted, which showed how rice cultivation and maintenance of ten cows in five acres of land complemented each other, giving a synergic effect on the economy earning of Rs 48,8000 a year, reducing external inputs and improving the fertility of the land resulting in a sustainable development. According to Beula, both the devices can also be fitted on tractors and used to spray large areas like tea, coffee and cardamom estates.
The cost of the device is Rs 45,000, which is at par with any tractor-mounted petrol or diesel sprayer.
P. David Raja Beula can be reached at 09486285704 or [email protected]