Traditional farming evolved throughout the world over the centuries. The farmers' innovative minds selected and adopted profitable practices within given sets of farming conditions that match with their requirements and resources. One such practice, growing chilli, and its further development, is described by N.C. Basak.Women and children are collecting chilli from a mixed cropping technology of chilli and Sesbania in High Ganges Floodplain of Bangladesh. Photo: Narayan C. Basak Many farmers in developing countries like Bangladesh have little formal education. They cannot do scientific experiments by themselves, but they have the innovative ideas and experience which the scientists can use in developing technology suited to farmers conditions and needs (BARC 1983).
Farmers in Bangladesh have developed a mixed cropping technology of chilli (Capsicum annum) and Sesbania (Sesbania aculeata) in the High Ganges Floodplain soils under rainfed condition.
Some of the farmers have been following this chilli-Sesbania mixed cropping practice for a long time. Its adoption is increasing. Therefore, it was thought that a study on such farmer-innovated technology would be worthwhile, to understand it properly and to be able to disseminate it in similar agro-ecological conditions. With this idea, a survey was undertaken in 1988.
The specific objectives of the study were as follows. To assess the production technology and its economic profitability; to determine the reasons for mixed cropping of chilli and Sesbania; to suggest recommendations on future research needs and extension. The study was conducted from April to September 1988 at Chatmohar Upazilla under Pabna district. Data were collected by interviewing and field observation.
Planting time. Chilli seedlings (around one month of age) are planted during the month of January to February. Sesbania seeds are broadcast after the first shower of the monsoon which generally starts in the month of April-May.
Spacing. The farmers follow the chilli spacing of 45x45 cm. Sesbania seeds are broadcast more or less uniformly in the chilli fields at the rate of 3 kg/ha and maintain a population of 4, 866 to 6, 866 plants per hectare. The normal population of chilli are 49, 382 plants per hectare.
Variety. Farmers of the area generally use a popular chilli variety, namely "Bindi". Locally available Sesbania of the species Sesbania aculeata is used to intercrop with chilli.
Use of manures and fertilisers. The application of fertilisers ranged from 143-164 kg N, 41-55 kg P2O5 and 15-24 kg K2O per hectare in the form of urea, triple super phosphate and muriate of potash, respectively. The use of cowdung ranges from 5330-6570 kg per hectare. All fertilisers are applied as basal except nitrogen. Nitrogen is topdressed as much as 8-10 times.
Mulching. After transplantation of chilli seedlings, the soil is mulched at an interval of 25-30 days. It is done by spade. Mulching is usually followed by a topdress with urea fertiliser every time.
Pruning of Sesbania plants. When the Sesbania plants attain a considerable height (2.0-2.5 meter), their lower branches are pruned for better aeration, sunlight and easy access in the field for collecting chillies. The pruned leaves and twigs are used as fodder. Nowadays green fodder is a serious problem in Bangladesh. So, from this technology the farmers can expect some fodder supply for their cattle.
Cropping pattern. There are mainly two cropping patterns followed by the farmers like chilli-Sesbania-fallow (70% of the farmers) and chilli-Sesbania-mustard (30% of the farmers).
Harvesting of chilli and Sesbania. Harvesting of green chilli usually starts in April and continues till early October. The chillies are collected by women and children. Thus, the farming systems ensure women's participation at field level. In Bangladesh, women's participation in farming activities at field level is limited by many factors of which the social barrier is the major one. The Sesbania plants are harvested at their maturity and the seeds 'and sticks are collected in the month of October. Sesbania plants are used for fuel purpose. In recent years, like fodder, fuel is also a serious problem in the rural household of Bangladesh (Abedin and Ouddus 1988).
Yield and profitability. The average yield of green chilli and dried Sesbania sticks are 9.34 t/ha and 2.35 t/ha, respectively. The yield of green chilli from this innovated practice is about nine percent higher than sole chilli crop. Gross benefit of this practice is US$ 1753/ha which is 20% higher than those of sole chilli crop. Thus, it may be concluded that the technology is useful to meet with cash, fuel and fodder needs of farmers. Therefore, the practice may be recommended for dissemination in similar agro-ecological conditions.
Reasons for mixed cropping
The reasons why farmers grow chilli with Sesbania have been recorded and they are multiple. Direct dewfall damages twigs of the chilli plant, but with Sesbania the twigs are protected. Also, chillies under Sesbania plants are relatively more deeply green in colour than the chillies without Sesbania. There is a higher demand for deeply green coloured chillies on the market.
The demand for fuel is largely met by Sesbania plants. Moreover, Sesbania plants preserve soil moisture and soil fertility is increased. Finally, the bearing period of chilli is at least 15-20 days more.
In further research, proper spacing and optimum plant population of chilli and Sesbania need to be identified. Further research may concentrate on the possibility to introduce a short duration crop during the fallow period. This practice should also be demonstrated in similar agro-ecological conditions. It has to be made possible for other farmers to visit the innovative farmers of the High Ganges Floodplain.
Narayan C. Basak