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Improvements of traditional floating gardens for vegetable production in Bangladesh
Floating agriculture (locally name as vasoman/dhap chash) is a local innovative crop production technology for the submerged ecosystem in the southern region of Bangladesh. Traditionally, the farmers of Gopalganj, Pirojpur and Barisal districts have been practicing the farming technology for adaptation with the flooded/submerged condition for nearly two centuries.
For a detailed description about the traditional practice please refer to: http://teca.fao.org/read/8867
In traditional system, farmers generally cultivate a limited number of crops like red amaranth, Indian spinach, okra, turmeric and aroid crops on water hyacinth made floating bed in monsoon season (generally from June to November month). However, the conventional floating bed is not suitable for cultivating cucurbits or different creeper type of vegetable crops. The traditional floating bed is not wide enough rather it is narrow shaped (breadth 1.1-1.3 m). Vegetables, particularly cucurbits and creeper/vine type of vegetable crops, generally need sufficient space due to their large canopy size and vigorous growth habit. The crops grown on the traditional floating beds do not have required space for their proper growth and development. Only a few numbers of plants can be grown on the bed due to lack of required space on the floating bed. On the other hand, the fruits grown adjacent to the floating bed become fade in colour but the opposite side remains green due to variation of sunlight or photosynthesis, which deteriorates the market value of the agro-products. Moreover, there is more rat infestation in cucurbits or creeper vegetables grown on floating bed which damages the flowers as well as fruits of the crops severely.
Considering the above facts, research programmes were undertaken at Regional Agricultural Research Station, Rahmatpur, Barisal of Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) to improve the traditional floating garden agriculture practices for growing cucurbits or creeper type of vegetable crops successfully. Recently, improved technology based on floating agriculture has been developed for cultivating cucurbits or different creeper type of vegetable crops. It is termed as “Floating Bed cum Trellis (FBT)”.
The FBT system constructs alternate floating bed and trellis. In FBT method, the cucurbits or creeper vegetables can be planted on the floating beds but their growth and development takes place on the wide trellis (width 3-6 meter) constructed just beside the floating bed (Fig.1, Fig.2). Therefore, as per requirement for the optimum crop growth, 3-6 meter distance are kept between two floating bed for making the trellis, which ultimately reduces the usage of water hyacinth for floating garden practices. The trellis is generally made with bamboo, nylon net and dhaincha (Sesbania sp.).
2.1. Increased production and higher yields
Under this system, it is possible to grow more number of plants on the floating bed which increases the yield of the crops. Besides, fruits of vegetable plants get uniform shape and color due to ensured proper plant nutrients and sunlight.
In an experiment, hybrid cucumber gave the fruit yield of about 45-50 t/ha under FBT method, while the same crop generally gives the yield of about 25-35 t/ha under normal land condition indicating that hybrid cucumber cultivated through FBT technology provided about double yield as compared to that of normal land condition.
2.2. Increased land use efficiency
In FBT method, different short duration vegetables like red amaranth, spinach, radish, coriander leaf can be grown on floating bed at the early stage of the cucurbits (Fig. 3), which increases the production of vegetables as well as cropping intensity over the traditional practices.
2.3. Reduced amount of water hyacinth
The availability of water hyacinth is decreasing day by day in Bangladesh due to various reasons (salinity, lack of conservation etc.). However, the improved FBT technology utilized 50-60% less amount of water hyacinth as compared to the traditional floating garden system.
2.4. Contribution to food and nutritional security of the poor
The total area of medium low to very low type of lands in Bangladesh is about 3.0 million hectares (21% of the total country) and a remarkable amount of the land remains fallow particularly in monsoon season due to flooding or submerged condition. Generation of floating agriculture based suitable modern technologies like Floating Bed cum Trellis (FBT) through intensive research programmes and extension/dissemination of the technologies can utilize the wet/flooded lands for crop production that would improve the food and nutritional security of the vulnerable poor people in wetland/flooded areas of Bangladesh.
Currently, a good number of research programmes are going on at Regional Agricultural Research Station, Rahmatpur, Barisal of BARI cultivation of pumpkin, bottle gourd, potato, cole crops (cabbage, cauliflower, knolkhol, broccoli etc.), carrot, water melon, strawberry, chili, bushbean etc. on floating bed (Fig. 4).
The following video gives a short introduction about traditional floating garden practices and its improvements developed by BARI: https://www.youtube.com/watch?list=UU6bZ-oCK06YzlRLwrEhVsYw&v=ktzkGqvWnUE
The FBT system has been tested since two cropping seasons under on-station condition at Regional Agricultural Research Station, Rahmatpur, Barisal of Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI).
BARI (Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute) is the largest multi-crop research institute in Bangladesh conducting research on a wide variety of crops, such as cereals, tubers, pulses, oilseeds, vegetables, fruits, spices, flowers, etc.
Besides variety development, BARI carries out research on areas such as soil and crop management, disease and insect management, water management and irrigation, development of farm machinery, improvement of cropping and farming system management, post-harvest handling and processing, and socio-economic studies related to production, processing, marketing and consumption.