That's rich!

Sugarcane cultivation and manure production can go hand in hand

Published: Friday 28 February 1997

recycling crop wastes to produce enriched manure, besides improving the fertility of the soil, also facilitates hygienical waste disposal and prevents environmental pollution.

Sugarcane trash is a commonly available farm waste in sugarcane growing countries. At present, most of the trash is burnt in fields as an easy way of disposal. This results in the release of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide which pollute the environment. The nutrients of nitrogen and sulphur present in the trash are lost in gaseous forms. Organic matter, which could be transformed into humus for sustaining the productivity of soils, is also lost. Even the microorganisms present in the soil, which are essential for maintaining soil fertility, are killed. All this can be avoided by recycling the trash as manure using a method introduced by K Kumaraswamy of the Sugarcane Research Station, Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu (Encology, Vol 11, No 7).

After harvesting the crop, the cane trash can be composted in the field itself. The trash can be spread in a pit nine metre (m) long, five m wide and one m deep dug in a corner of the field. About 500 kg of cane trash is dumped in this pit. Over this, about 500 kg of soil is spread and 25 kg of a fertiliser mixture -- prepared by mixing rock phosphate, urea and gypsum in a ratio of 2:2:1 -- is sprinkled. This heap is moistened with about 500 litre of aqueous suspension of soil, containing cattle dung and decomposed manure. The heap must be moistened once a week in such a manner that water does not collect at the bottom of the pit. It must be left for decomposition for about three months, after which the layers should be mixed and the materials reheaped. At this stage, the cane trash would have decomposed partially. Moistening must be continued.

The process must be repeated till 10-15 layers of cane trash and soil are laid. Ten such layers would mean five tonnes of cane trash. In six months, one can get 50-60 per cent of the cane trash as a well decomposed manure enriched with nutrients.

In India, 220 million tonnes (mt) of cane are produced annually. At the rate of 10-20 per cent of cane harvested, about 22-44 mt of cane trash can be generated annually. Recycling this trash can greatly enhance the productivity of sugarcane fields and prevent deterioration of soil health. This method is cost-effective and facilitates long-term productivity.

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