by Harshal Khade, Prithviraj Gaikwad
Photo credits: Kakasaheb Wadekar, Anita Kate, Ganesh Kakde
In multilayer farms, as different types of vegetables, pulses and fruits are grown, they complement each other in many ways such as providing shade canopy, litter, increasing moisture holding capacity of the soil while nurturing microflora. As there are crops with different lifecycles, some will die off and need to be replaced. Some act as trap crops and prevent pest attacks.
Multilayer farming refers to growing different vegetables on the same plot at a time. This helps smallholder farmers grow various seasonal vegetables and horticultural crops throughout the year while ensuring food and nutritional security for the household. Vulnerable families are provided with an additional income from the sale of surplus produce.
WOTR has been promoting multilayer farming since 2018. As of June 10, 2020, 24,671 households have benefitted from 14,244 kitchen gardens and 562 multilayer farms.
WOTR helped to market 12,884 quintals of agricultural produce. 1,913 families received Rs. 2.28 cr from the sale facilitated by WOTR.
Vegetables and fruit crops grown employing organic and sustainable methods in the multilayer farms are rich in vitamins, minerals, proteins and carbohydrates. In this photo essay we will understand multilayer farming in detail.
Firstly, a 36 x 36 sq ft plot is identified. Crops are selected based on height and growth duration to ensure adequate sunlight and different harvesting cycles so that households have continued access to different kinds of produce throughout the year.
Sowing is done in a strategic manner so that multiple crops including fruits, vegetables and flower crops could be grown together in the plot. The rain pipe irrigation method, which uses less water, and organic farming practices are adopted.
Apart from these basics, there is a bit of science behind the practice and activities that are part of multilayer farming. One needs to ensure the process is sustainable, organic, and productive in the face of the unfolding climate crisis too.
Excess produce is sold on a weekly basis, generating additional profit for the concerned farmer.
Main steps involved in multilayer farming
In the 36 X 36 feet plot, before preparation of beds, 300 kg of cow dung or vermicompost with one kg of trichoderma powder is applied to the soil. Trichoderma is a biocontrol agent – a biofungicide that prevents fungal infections in plants and plant roots.
Eight beds of 3 X 36 ft are prepared with 1.5 to 2 ft space left in between. They need to be readied in the North-South direction so that plants receive adequate sunlight. After preparing the bed, one feet deep channels are dug to drain excess water.
In the middle of each bed, crops are planted according to the chart.
Saplings are planted in a zigzag manner — papaya / drumstick on the first, third, fifth and seventh and banana, maize and pigeon pea on the second, fourth, sixth and eighth bed.
Two chilli seedlings are planted around each sapling on the first, third, fifth and seventh, and similarly marigold on the second, fourth, sixth and eighth bed.
Black gram seeds are sown on each bed between chilli and marigold.
At a distance of 15 cm from the middle of each bed, radish on the first, third, fifth and seventh bed and beetroot on the second, fourth, sixth and eighth bed, are planted.
Similarly, at a distance of 15 cm from the middle of each bed, ginger/turmeric on the first, third, fifth and seventh bed and dolichos beans (ghevda) on the second, fourth, sixth and eighth bed, are grown.
In the third row on the first, third, fifth and seventh bed, coriander seeds (dhane) are sown, and spinach on the second, fourth, sixth and eighth bed.
In the fourth row on the first, third, fifth and seventh bed, fenugreek seeds (methi) are sown, and dill (shepu) on the second, fourth, sixth and eighth bed.
At a nine feet distance from first and third trench, okra is planted in a zigzag fashion, brijnal at the second and tomato on the third, are planted
Red pumpkin is grown at the edges of the first bed, and ridge gourd at the edges of the eighth bed.
Castor is planted along the channel at every 9 feet and maize at 4.5 feet. Cow pea (chawli) is sown between the castor and maize.
“I was told about the importance of multilayer farming by our health promoters Sangita Tikonkar and Gayatri Sutar. I understood how to grow as many crops as possible in the limited available space. I haven’t used any chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Instead, I used organic formulations such as jeevamrut, amrutpani and vermicompost. I have grown leafy vegetables, fruits and pulses. I sold fruits and earned some money too.” — Sandhaya Kochale, Wadgaon, Satara district, Maharashtra.
“I started growing vegetables and fruits in a multilayer plot in May 2019. Fruits like banana, sapota, mango and vegetables such as drumstick, okra, radish, pumpkin and ridge gourd were planted. I have earned Rs 2,000 by selling vegetables and Rs 1,500 by selling fruits after fulfilling the nutritional needs of my family.” — Chhaya Jadhav, Health Promoter.
Rain pipe irrigation system is a cost-effective irrigation method comprising flexible pipes with a pattern of drip holes. As the name suggests, it mimics rain. Water falls in drops to irrigate the crop through randomly punched holes. It is easy to install, maintain and relocate.
Rain pipe irrigation and other organic farming practices are recommended for multilayer farms.
In multilayer farms, as different types of vegetables, pulses, fruits and such are grown, they complement each other in many way — providing shade canopy, litter, increasing moisture holding capacity of soil while providing microflora. As there are crops having different life cycles, some will die off and need to be replaced. Some act as trap crops and prevent pest attacks too.