Popularising the use of biofertilizers and biocontrol agents among finger millet farmers

The M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) is implementing the Department of Biotechnology -Krishi Innovation Science Application Network (DBT KISAN) HUB programme. The programme is for empowering small and marginal farmers in aspirational districts of the country. Under this, selected farmers taken to exposure visit to leading science laboratories and help them to grow as scientific leaders at the grass-root level.

Under DBT KISAN HUB project, Training programmes were organized in Odisha to increase awareness and build capacities of small and marginal tribal farmers on the use of biofertilizers and biopesticides for nutrients management, pest and disease control in finger millet.

Finger millet, a nutritious and climate-resilient crop, has traditionally been cultivated and consumed by tribal communities in the rainfed regions of southern Odisha. It is rich in calcium, iron, magnesium, and the amino acid methionine. The tribal communites adopt traditional agronomic practices, paying less attention to nutrient, pest and disease management and timely weeding resulting in low yields. Due to COVID-19 Pandemic, trainings were planned on-site as well as on-line.

The on-site training programme was conducted in March 2021 in the Koraput and Malkangiri districts of Odisha, where more than a hundred farmers participated. Participation of women in the programme was impressive. Farmers were oriented on the dosage and application methods of biofertilizers/biopesticides such as seed treatment, soil, root dipping and foliar application.

An on-line training session was conducted for farmers and the Young professionals (II) in July 2021. During the online sessions, a detailed presentation was made on the importance and use of biofertilizers and biocontrol agents such as Rhizobium, Pseudomonas fluorescence, and Trichoderma virens to boost finger millet yield.

A short video on the methods of inoculum preparation, dose, and modes of application was screened for the participants to orient them to reduce dependence on fertilizers, enhance soil fertility, and finally increase yield.