To help farmer reduce consumption of water, a scientist from Sugarcane Breeding Institute in the city has developed a soil moisture indicator to help farmers understand the moisture level of the soil and irrigate accordingly.
K Hari, a senior scientist at the institute, invented the device, which was tested for around a year among sugarcane farmers. "This can be immersed into the soil. By pressing the side button, the water levels can be understood. Different colours will represent the water levels; such as blue for adequate water and red for less water," he added.
According to the scientists, farmers can decide on when to irrigate looking at the indicators. D Puthira Prathap, who was the principal investigator of the project, says that "The indicator can be taken to different areas of the land and the moisture levels can be checked. The soil need not be irrigated, if there is enough water."
Farmers who used the equipment in Erode, Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri shared their experiences in the sensitisation workshop organised as part of "Water Day" celebrations in the institute.
EK Subramanian, a farmer from Koothampoondi in Erode said he used the soil moisture indicator in half of his farm and found it beneficial. "I have one hectare of sugarcane cultivation. In half the land, I used this equipment to compare with the normal process of irrigation. I placed the indicator in several locations of the land to understand the availability of water. In the other portion of the land, we irrigated as usual. Using the indicator, I could manage with 20% less water. The land which used this equipment cultivated 8 tonnes more than the other portion," he said.
"I could reduce about 30% to 40% water consumption in the areas where I used the equipment compared to the land where I did not use it. The harvest was ten tonnes more," said P Saravanan, a farmer from Palacode in Dharmapuri district.
N Vijayan Nair, director of the institute said "Indian farmers use more water for agriculture. The usual reason is that we don't know when the soil requires to be irrigated. This leads to over irrigation which damages the soil."
The soil moisture indicator can check water-levels of the soil from around 15cms to 45cms. Hari says that this is enough for farms and plants in pots. "This is simple to use and affordable. We are looking for entrepreneurs interested in manufacturing this on a large scale," he added.