Soils in Rice/Wheat Based Cropping System in Peri-urban Bhaktapur, Nepal
A study in peri-urban areas of Nepal’s Bhaktapur district showed the lack of technical know-how among farmers regarding preparation and use of farm yard manure and balanced application of chemical fertilizers.
By Sushil Thapa and Juni Maharjan
May 11, 2013
Nepal is endowed with diverse climatic conditions and agro-biodiversity which offer bundles of opportunity to grow rice and wheat. Though, in recent years especially in urban centers, farmers are motivated towards commercial vegetable production for getting better yield and economic return, rice-wheat based cropping system (RWCS) is still a major part of Nepalese agriculture.
Increasing resource constraints, changes in farming system and decreasing availability of manpower has significant effect in transformations of soil fertility management practices in Nepal. Chemical fertilizers are becoming popular among the farmers and occupy a key position in plant nutrient supply. Since Nepal does not produce chemical fertilizers and is fully dependent on imports, the rate and timing of application is chiefly determined on the basis of how much fertilizer is available rather than how much actually a plant needs. This inappropriate and/or inadequate practice of nutrient management is one of the major production hurdles. Climatic abnormalities, lack of irrigation infrastructure, inadequate access to improved seeds and small farm size holding are other constraints in RWCS.
In many areas of Nepal, yields of both rice and wheat have stagnated at below potential level. A study conducted by the authors in 2012 in peri-urban areas of Bhaktapur district showed the lack of technical know-how among farmers regarding preparation and use of farm yard manure and balanced application of chemical fertilizers. Urea was the major and only one fertilizer that is being used by more than 82 per cent farmers interviewed. Adoption of soil test and measures to improve soil pH was rarely done. Abiotic stresses such as erratic rainfall, drought, drying of water resources and biotic stresses from disease and pest were also recorded as a vital risk in RWCS, which has crooked to harsher in recent years. Zinc deficiency in rice and loose smut and yellow rust in wheat was quite common. Low level of soil organic matter, loss of fertile top soil and environmental pollution in the areas of brick kilns was rampant. Farmers were facing production/yield as well as marketing/price risk in both rice and wheat and were found reluctant to continue RWCS.
Cereals are the staple food crops of Nepal. Rice alone accounts 55 per cent of the total national cereal production and supplies up to 40 per cent calorie intake per head. Since RWCS has significant contribution in production of food grains, farmers should be trained on improving manure quality and integrated nutrient management practices in RWCS. Exploring alternative sources of irrigation and increasing water-use efficiency in dry land areas is imperative. Incorporation of soil organic matter and legumes in crop rotations should be promoted. Finally, it is suggested to endorse System of Rice Intensification (SRI) and Wheat Intensification (SWI) which has shown positive results in reducing quantity of seed, water, and pesticides while enhancing crop productivity.