Profiting From Integrated Farming System

Integrated Farming system, the approach to utilize the potential of your land area efficiently, increasing profits from various sources. Integrated farming system is all natural and mostly organic. The sources of income depends entirely on the level of implementation. While some integrated farming is basic with multi layered crops, other grow a step ahead by implementing a pond, Poultry , dairy and more. 

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Why an integrated farming system?

85% of all indian farmers are small farmers. The land holding is between 1 acre and 5 acres for most farmers. In reality, 65% of all indian farmers hold 1 acre of land. If a farmer were to indulge in a full time farming profession with 1 acre of land and cultivate rice on it, the average yield of rice per acre is 1 Tonne per year. After milling, the finished rice yield is 700 Kg. A normal household of 5 will require 2 Kilos of rice for their own consumption. The annual consumption for their own family would be 730 Kg. They are short by 30 KG rice per year, even for their own consumption. There are other needs which include vegetables, oil, clothing , rent and a range of bills to pay. Evidently, they will run short. They cover these costs with the second crop. 

When you look at integrated farming, the technique allows farmers to grow multiple crops in the same area at the same time. While 1 acre of land may seem small, cultivating 3 crops at the same time would yield more profit for the farmer. Now take this one step ahead and find crops space in your region which is dry and when nothing is cultivated. Cultivate crops during these seasons which are feasible for your soil and climatic conditions. By the end of the year, if you have utilized the land every single day of the year, you would have increased your profit by 300% just by implementing the basic integrated farming system

Integrated farming system does not end there. Farm requires water. Farms also require fertilizers and manure. Most farmers purchase fertilizers. This is an additional expense. Cutting the cost of fertilizers while also increasing the income is possible by adding 1-2 cows in the farm. The income from milk , though may seem minimal, adds up over a period of a year. They manure from cows can be sufficient and often in excess for your own farm. The food for your cows comes in the form of Grass, Rice husk after the milling of the rice and hay, from the rice. If you are cultivating other crops , there will still be a lot of fodder for the cow.

Chicken too is a great way to increase revenue for your farm. Eggs sell and have a good shelf life. Free range eggs and chicken have a good price in the market. Chicken manure is suitable for a range of crops and this, though small addition can increase your soils composition. There is no huge investment for chicken farming, specially free range chicken, but does involve a bit of effort. 

When it comes to water, most farmers think of borewells. Its a quick solution but not an efficient source. Rain water harvesting is a practice which needs to be integrated into a farm. Ponds are a great source not just for water but also to grow fish. Ponds also make a great place for ducks. Free range ducks can give you anywhere between 60-90 eggs a year. They add value by acting as a weed remover by eating weeds and also feeding the fish with their waste. 

Goats are a great option too. They work well if you have plenty of forage. Goats are usually sold for meat after a year and the price depends on the weight of the goat when ready. Goats are moderate when it comes to maintenance and there is no income while they grow. Goat milk is a great source of nutrition, the market is very less but if you can find a good market for the same, you can be sure to add that to the revenue too.

Things to remember when you start integrated farming system

Farmers Get all excited and start integrated farming with all the methods possible from the beginning. This would be a huge mistake. Start small. Start with 2 Chickens. Integrate 2 crops at the same time. By the end of a month, you would understand the time and effort required to manage 2 chickens. You can also understand how much effort it takes to add 10 more chickens to your farm. While cultivating 2 crops at a time, you understand the difference between the traditional methods and the methods of integrated farming systems. Maximum utilization of land, reduces weeds and wastage of land. But this also increases the time you put in the farm. 

Over time you understand the crops you can grow and how to grow them efficiently. Its not easy to grow 2 crops in the same land. 2 different plants may need entirely different needs of water and nutrition. Balancing the needs of the plant and being successful will require a lot of work, knowledge and experience. Get as much help as you can from people who have already practiced integrated farming. When help is not available, experiment small. One row of crop or 2 rows is good enough to start experimenting. You can be sure that you don’t lose much in space while you know what can be integrated. There are 1000’s or resources and researches conducted all over the world. Finding these resources may be tricky. Sometimes these resources may not be helpful because it is practiced in another part of the country or even another part of the world where climatic conditions and other factors are entirely different. Don’t be let down. You will always find a few crops which will be perfectly apt for your area.

What is the advantage of integrated farming

  1. Organic
  2. Minimal requirement of external resources
  3. Maximum utilization of Land
  4. High Yield on produce
  5. Independence for the farmer
  6. Range of crops to sell from affording a better, balanced price for the produce

Its a cycle when you have an integrated farm. Crops are grown in layers. There is root crops, (ginger, Tapioca, Turmeric, Potatoes, Carrots etc.) followed by cover crops (cowpea, moong, urad etc), Medium sized plants, Tomatoes, chillies, brinjal etc and then larger plants like toor followed by trees or larger plants like papaya, banana, and even mangoes.

Limitations of Integrated farming system

Many crops require that they have the land for themselves. Rice for instance can be cultivated with fish but growing another crop is a problem. Wheat, maize, ragi and other field crops have issues. There are ways to counter these issues and still grow multiple crops in the same area. 

A research on integrated farming with rice fish and vegetables can be found on https://www.worldfishcenter.org/content/rice-fish-vegetable-integrated-farming-towards-sustainable-ecosystem. The research paper, though through will be limited and restrictive in many forms. This may not seem very practical for most farmers and its always advised to choose their crops wisely. Allot 1/4th of the area for paddy or wheat while dedicating the other areas to integrated farming when required. 

Estimation of profits

3 Layer Crops

Layer 1 : Root Crop : Ginger , Turmeric, Tapioca, Elephant Yam, Colocasia

Layer 2 : Ground cover crop : Amaranthus, Cowpea, Urad, Moong

Layer 3 : Vegetable Crop : Tomato, Chilly, brinjal, Clusterbean, Broad Bean

Layer 4 : Climbers : Pumpkin, Cucumbers, Bottlegourd, Ridgegourd, Ash Gourd

Layer 5 : Trees : Papaya, Banana, Mango, Chiku, pomegranate, guava

Each of the layers have different income range. For instance, Ginger and turmeric have more value than tapioca, elephant yam or colocasia. But they may not be suitable to your soil condition or weather. Choose the crop wisely. Ensure that the crop you chose are suitable to your region and soil conditions. If you believe the no crop is suitable for layer one, explore more crops which are available and suitable to your soil condition. Experiment in a small scale. If you dont find any, completely skip that particular layer till you find a crop which is suitable. Do not invest in something which you know will not grow in your soil condition. 

Depending on the yield of each layer, we can assume at least 2 tonnes of Elephant Yam per half acre (Remember you need at least 1/4th acre for your aquaculture, chicken, duck and cows). 10 Tonnes of Amaranthus , 5 tonnes of tomatoes, 2 tonne or Pumpkin the first year.

Note : Amaranthus can be cultivated 3-4 times a year with each crop lasting 3 months. Tomatoes can be cultivated Twice, with one season having a good yield and the second with moderate or low yield. Pumpkins can be cultivated twice and the yield is low because it is only planted in limitation. 

The total crop alone will generate a revenue of 1,30,000 Rs per year. 

Fish : Feed is free from fish (cow and chicken manure) and if properly maintained. Annual revenue from fish alone is 40000 Rs. An average of 50 KG tilapia fish can be harvested in 3 months in a 6 Meter by 14 meter tank with 4.5 feet depth. That is easily possible with the space you already have. All you need is a pond area with proper infrastructure. You can take 4 harvests a year with 50 kg each. The price for tilapia fish locally is 200 Rs per Kg. 

Chicken : 10 Chicken per year (You will see chicken multiply extremely fast the second year onwards if you hatch even 20% of the eggs) will yield 100 eggs per chicken per year. That’s a 1000 eggs a year. Price of desi eggs are 8 Rs per piece, but even if you put it at 5 Rs per egg, you would be looking at 5000 Rs per year income in eggs alone. The chicken manure is excellent for your farm as fertilizer and also as fish feed. From the second year, you can sell the chicken for new ones and each chicken will cost 200-500 rs , an added income of at least 5000 rs. 

Cow : 

Milk at 2 Litres per day will amount to 21000 Rs aat 30 Rs per Litre (Minimum price and yield)

Cow  Dung : 3.5 Tonnes of Fresh Cow dung For fertilizer when composted

Cow Urine : 200 Litres of Cow Urine (Excellent for panchagavya and other organic pesticides)

With Just one cow, you would have enough fertilizer for one acre of land and sometimes excess. The cow urine can be converted as organic pesticide and fertilizer, very effective for a range of diseases and pests. The cost of fertilizers and pesticides can be reduced by 50% to 100% adding to the income. An average of 200 Kilos of fertilizers (NPK) is required per rice crop. This cost can be completely removed in most cases. 

Just one acre is enough to earn 2,00,000 Rs and we are talking about a bare minimum here. There are people who make a lot more than that. Your income could go up to 7 to 8 lakh per acres and there are evidence and people who are doing it. 

Its not about the acreage of land anymore… its about how efficiently you use it to cultivate. 

Reference : 

https://en.gaonconnection.com/farmers-protests-why-are-small-and-marginal-farmers-protesting-against-the-farm-acts/