25 bighas of land were used for this successful experiment by SRDI
For the first time in the country's history, farmers have been able to grow maize on saline land in Khulna.
Under the supervision of the Soil Resource Development Institute (SRDI), initially, 25 bighas of land have been successfully used to cultivate maize in the district.
It has been quite a while that a number of studies have been conducted in order to ensure productive use of saline land in the coastal areas of Khulna.
As part of this initiative — instructed by the Salinity Management and Research Center (SMRC) — Botiaghata, Khulna, farmers transplanted maize seedlings from full-grown corn crops onto saline lands, before water levels rose; they used a "dribbling" technique to plant the collected seedlings when saline land remained soft and muddy.
Now the crops are ready for harvesting and this huge success of cultivation on saline land has encouraged local farmers to harvest maize on their land as well.
Addressing the breakthrough, SMRC, Botiaghata, Khulna, Principal Scientific Officer Sachindra Nath Biswas said: "Here the land was not usable for 8-9 months as during that time it were covered by salt water. Due to the severe salinity of the soil, local farmers could not grow any crops. In order find a solution to this problem, in 1996, the SMRC was established in Botiaghata, Khulna. Our breakthrough has been able to return hope to the farmers of the area.
"We are expecting that, farmers, using the two techniques—transplanting and dribbling—will be able to harvest at least seven-to-eight tons of maize per hectare."
Expressing joy, Ongshuman Roy, a farmer from Debitola, said: "We used to harvest paddy on this land and only once a year as we had wait eight-to-nine months for the land to become usable again. Now it is possible to cultivate maize without taking any extra measures.
"Maize crops take four-to-five months to harvest. Now we can harvest two crops on our land."
When contacted, Khulna Department of Agricultural Extension Deputy Director Pankaj Kanti Majumdar said: "The south-western coastal areas of the country suffer from high salinity levels in the soil. These areas also have poor drainage facilities, excessive soil moisture, and scarcity of fresh water for irrigation. Thus most of the land here remains unusable during the dry season.
"To solve this issue, the scientists at the SMRC have found a way to use this land for maize cultivation — which has opened the doors of new possibilities for the local farmers. The success of this experiment has exceeded our expectations."
Adding to this, SRDI Director Kumar Bhandar said: "The country requires 50 lakh tons of maize per year against which we only produce 38 lakh tons and have to import the remaining 12 lakh tons.
"We have taken an initiative to train local farmers regarding the maize cultivation process. Farmers are being provided with free seeds and seedlings from the research centre. Help and assistance is being provided to the local farmers regarding cultivation, harvest, and the marketing process."