Farming without soil? Agriculture officer makes it possible – The New Indian Express


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Snake gourd cultivated by  John Sherry 

Express News Service
KOCHI: Now, those engaging in growbag farming needn’t any longer bother about the poor yield mainly attributed to the poor quality of red topsoil used for the purpose. John Sherry, assistant director, Farm Information Bureau, Ernakulam, came up with a novel idea of ‘soilless’ farming. He said rice husk and rice husk ash can be used as substitute for red soil. Sherry, who took up soilless farming during the initial days of the lockdown on an experimental basis, has cultivated several vegetables — snake guard, tomatoes, chilly, capsicum and ridge gourd — in 27 growbags on his rooftop near Thoppumpady. 

“Growbags potting mixture is prepared and filled with red topsoil, sand and organic fertilisers. But often crops fail to give enough yield because of poor soil. As a remedy, I tried rice husk as an alternative. Compared to the traditional method of farming, the potting mixture prepared with husk and organic manure provides good yield in growbags,” said Sherry. According to the agriculture officer, complaints from rooftop farmers forced him to find a solution.

“The quality of seed and the soil medium is the determining factor of yield. If the farmer uses low-quality soil, the yield will be poor and chances of crop damage are high. But rice husk’s chemical composition consists mainly of silica, ash, carbon calcium and magnesium.

It gives good strength to the plant. Growbag gets better root growth and better yield as it gets more ventilation. Pest infestation can be reduced to a great extent. Moreover, vegetables have longer shelf life,” said Sherry, who has over eight years’ experience in growbag farming. He has already started educating  growbag farmers on the new farming method. 

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