MADURAI: An engineer, retired from the Electricity Board (EB), Madurai, has found a different form of vertical farming for fodder cultivation, known as hydroponics, which can serve as an alternative feed for cattle during the drought.
Ponvairan, the Madurai engineer, started this cultivation on a farm near Thattanoor village, with the help of the Veterinary University Training and Diagnostic Centre in Madurai.
When Madurai District Collector K Veera Raghava Rao visited the farm, Ponvairan explained the process employed. “The pulses and seeds are initially soaked in cow-dung manure for 12 hours so that the seed can sprout in 24 hours. After it is soaked, it is spread out on a tray and the sprout reaches full growth in five days,” he said. While the pulses seeds cost `8 per kilogram, the maize seeds cost ` 5 per kilo. Both can be used for hydroponics cultivation.
After the maize and the pulses sprouts reaches a certain growth, the tray with pulses weighs 5 kg and maize weighs 8 kg. One cattle requires a fodder of either 10 kilos of pulses or 8 kilos of maize. Two sheep take 5 kilos of either maize or pulses per day. Ponvairan uses 108 trays of the maize and the pulses in 108 trays for hydroponics cultivation. Each day he cultivates 60 to 100 kilograms of fodder. The retired employee is doing hydroponic farming on 180 square feet of land.
As this type of cultivation does not require sand or much water except the humidity of the room, it would be easy this fodder during droughts. Usually, it takes at least 45 to 60 days to cultivate green or dry fodder to feed cattle, sheep, goat or country chickens. However, with hydroponics fodder cultivation, it takes five days to one week to provide fodder for the animals.
Addressing media persons, Rao said, “This farming requires less water. There are 2, 20,510 cattle and cows, and 4, 81,455 sheep and goats in the district. In summer, these animals require 59,538 metric tonnes of fodder. At present, we have only 28,217 metric tonnes. The remaining will be managed by giving one kg of dry fodder (straw) to be sold for `2. The hydroponics fodder will help farmers during the drought.”
Hydroponics is a subset of hydroculture, which is the growing of plants in a soil less medium, or an aquatic based environment. Hydroponic growing uses mineral nutrient solutions.