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Intergrated Nutrient Management

Crop nutrition wherein chemical, organic and biological sources are used in a way that they complement each other, and most times produce a synergistic effect, sustain productivity and result in maximizing production without affecting crop quality or soil health or any other environmental hazard, may be termed as an integrated approach.

Fertilizers used need to be of right kind depending upon the soil type. For most sugarcane soils, urea is the most important source of nitrogen; super phosphate is the best source of P and muriate of potash, of K. However, various complex fertilizers also could be used. Rock phosphate, though recommended only in acid soils, could be used under normal cane growing soils in conjunction with organic manure or phosphorous solubilizing bacteria.

Availability of farm-yard-manure (FYM) is extremely limited due to dwindling cattle population and less employment of animal power for farm operations. Therefore, in sugarcane production system, important sources are press-mud, trash, and sugar factory and distillery effluents.

The press-mud contains about 1.26% N, 3.83% phosphorus and 1.46% potassium, besides about 20-24% organic carbon and 11% calcium. It is therefore an important source of nutrients in the integrated approach. The press-mud could be cured for about a month, or enriched by microbes like Pleurotus and Trichoderma and also could be prepared into bio-earth using distillery effluent and microbial degradation. About 10-25 t/ha of press-mud can be applied for supplementing nutrients.

Use of trash

Use of Sugarcane Trash

Sugarcane produces huge amount of foliage - about 40% of the total biomass. About 15-20 t trash/ha is produced. Average nutrient content of trash is 0.35% N, 0.13% P2O5 and 0.15% K2O. For every tonne of cane trash nutrient availability is 3.5 kg N, 1.3 kg P2O5 and 6.5 kg K2O. Thus for an hectare of sugarcane crop, around 50 kg N, 20 kg P2O5 and 100 kg K2O can be recovered from trash alone.

In sugarcane fields and in the vacant spaces of the farms, lot of weed growth occurs. Upon weeding, they are thrown away. Instead, all biomass could be used for composting and thus recycled. Trash could be used for mulching and then incorporation. It could be composted by various methods and sources. A novel technique is in situ composting particularly in ratoons and also upon removal by de-trashing.

Sugarcane upon harvest leaves behind stubble and root mass to the extent of 4.5% and 12.7% of cane respectively. It is about 17.2% of the total biomass produced and serves as a source of organic matter and nutrients. An estimate indicated about 4-5 tonne of dry matter contribution to a ratoon crop by the preceding plant crop. Its contribution in terms of nutrients works out to 50 kg N, 20 kg P2O5, 20 kg K2O, 1.48 kg Na, 7.8 kg Ca, 8.12 kg Fe, 1.08 kg Mn, 0.07 kg Cu and 0.10 kg Zn per hectare.

Use of effluent waste

Use of effluent waste

In India there are around 285 distilleries discharging about 40 billion litres of effluent waste water called spent wash.The sugar factory effluents generally arise from mill house, washings of the filter house, boiling house, centrifuge house, cooling water condenser water overflows and floor washings etc. A sugar mill based on sulphitation process produces 0.3 to 0.5 cubic metre of waste water per tonne of cane crushed. That is, a 2500 TCD plant would produce about 750 cubic metres of waste water. This waste water also contains some quantity of nutrients. After required treatment, this could be used for irrigation which can incidentally supply nutrients also. Utilizing press-mud and distillery effluents bio-compost & bio-earth can be prepared

 

Green manuring

Application of green manures

Inter-cropping sugarcane with daincha as green manure

Green manure crops like Dhaincha, and Sesbania have been a source of crop nutrients and soil productivity improvement. A preceding green manure crop always benefits succeeding sugarcane. Right time of sowing of green manure and ploughing in at right stage (flowering stage) is important to realize the benefits. A good moisture status in the soil is essential for decomposition. After incorporation sufficient time should be available for taking up sugarcane planting.

 

A leguminous green manure adding about 7.5 to 12.5 tonnes of green matter per hectare contributes about 10 to 30 kg N/ha. Green manure inter-cropping and in situ incorporation is an important practice in the integrated system. A preceding green manure crop could be given phosphatic fertilizer which could be utilized by the succeeding sugarcane.

Bio-fertilizers

Application of bio-fertilizers

All soils contain substantial quantities of nutrients released by mineralization of organic matter, weathering, added through rain and irrigation water and biological fixation by native micro-flora. The soil contribution should be assessed through soil testing.

 

Nutrient dosages are best decided by soil testing which would help accounting for the contribution of the soil. The balance nutrient requirement is to be met by chemical fertilizers, organic sources, bio-fertilizers, and green manures. The combination should be based on the availability of the source. At present, application of fertilizers are done without considering the contribution from other sources, even if they are applied. Though it is possible to grow sugarcane exclusively by organic means (as has been demonstrated recently at Sugarcane Breeding Institute), it would be difficult to supply all the nutrient needs by organic means since obtaining huge quantities would be difficult and may be costly. Bio-fertilizers, supplemented by other sources can improve the soil status considerably. Azospirillum and phospho-bacteria are the two important and proven bio-fertilizers at present. Gluconacetobacter is yet another N fixing microorganism being extensively studied. Azospirillum application has been demonstrated to be highly beneficial particularly under low N soils and low N application rates and could supplement about 25-35% N to sugarcane directly and can promote growth indirectly. Phospho-bacteria has been found very effective in P solubilization and can make P economy in the range of 25-50%. Recently several strains of Gluconacetobacterhave been identified at Sugarcane Breeding Institute and are being studied for their effectiveness. A suitable system could be to obtain about 50 to 75% of the applied nutrients from fertilizers and the remaining from other sources (pressmud, green manure, bio-fertilizers etc.). At Sugarcane Breeding Institute, a combination of chemical fertilizers + organic manure + bio-fertilizer to contribute 50% + 25% + 25% of the dosages, respectively has been found to be equal to growing sugarcane entirely through chemical fertilizers. There are many experimental results demonstrating the beneficial effects of organic sources.

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