Guide to Multilayer Farming: How and Why?
Multilayer farming is an integrated agricultural system in which we plant (4-5) different types of crops on same land and at same time,which matures at different height and in different time. Multilayer is made up of two words:-multi and layer. Multi means many and layer means strata of different height. Multilayer Farming is based on the principle of-High Density Planting-Making the ultimate and efficient use of manure, water, land and vertical space.
Other Principles Includes:
➡️Maximum use of available resources of land, labor and capital.
➡️Minimization of production cost and input used.
➡️Development of organic and sustainable farming mitigating the use of chemicals agriculture.
➡️Ensuring the food and nutritional security to household.
Model of multilayer farming
Selection of crop is most important decision and crops of different height, maturity stage, sunlight requirement, water requirement, root system and crop duration are selected and planted in combination. Let’s see multilayer farming of ginger, leafy vegetables, ivy gourd and papaya. In first layer tuber crop like ginger is sown at depth of 15-20 cm. At depth of 5 cm leafy vegetables are sown which can be harvested till germination of ginger and roots of leafy vegetables reaches ginger. Leafy vegetables act as ground cover and prevents weed growth as well as uprooting of vegetables facilitates aeration of soil and exposure to sunlight. Climbers are planted at proper spacing like ivy gourd, bitter gourd, cucumber which fruits at the roof of the structure. Papaya at spacing of 18 ft×12 ft are planted which are the topmost layer in multitier system. Now-Our all 4 layers are occupied with crops that have different germinating and maturing time. This creates multilayer system.
Different crop combination which can be grown in multilayer farming system are shown in following table:-
Ginger + spinach + banana
Yam + chilli+ cucumber +papaya
Onion+ potato +sugarcane+ banana
Ginger+ okra+ bottle gourd
Potato+ bitter gourd + papaya
|Layers||Name Of Crops|
|1st Layer||Ginger, Turmeric, Onion, Garlic, Yam, Sweet Potato, Potato|
|2nd Layer||Leafy Veggies, Fenugreek, Spinach, Coriander|
|3rd Layer||Chilli, Okra, Tomato, Brinjal|
|4th Layer||Cucumber, Bitter gourd, Ridge Gourd, Ash gourd, Pumpkin|
|5th Layer||Papaya, Banana, Coconut|
Steps in making multilayer structure
First of all land should be selected. 0.5 acre and above area land having rectangular or square shape is best for management. After selecting land, reclamation of land should be done according to pH of soil. Primary and secondary tillage is done and plot are made of required size. Drainage channels should be built along borders of plot. Application of fungicides like tricoderma to soil is beneficial as there is more moisture at root zone which may facilitate fungal growth. Then house like structure should be built with locally available material like bamboo or wooden pegs can be used to make framework of the houses. Roof can be made by using metal wire or rope which are placed in crossing pattern along length and breadth of framework. crop stubble or grass are sprayed over the roof which blocks direct sunlight. Covering four sides with insect net is recommended to prevent weed seeds and insects entering the structure.
Management practices to be followed in multilayer farming
- There should be proper provision for staking of climbers
- The leafy crops grown in surface should be harvested in regular manner
- Training and pruning of different crops should be done regularly to manage proper space
- Proper irrigation should be done. Too much irrigation harms crops because it is water efficient system.
- Pest management by application of light traps, pheromone traps and botanicals.
Benefits of multilayer farming over conventional methods
Nepal is in transition phase from traditional to modern agriculture while developed countries are resorting to ecological and sustainable methods of farming due to health hazards and environmental pollution due to chemical farming. So, it is opportunity for us to choose ecofriendly farming system. Multi layer farming completely relies on natural process or it is copy of forest ecosystem. Majority of farmers in Nepal (56%) hold less than 0.5 ha of land. In this scenario conventional mono cropping does not fulfill the economic and household needs of farmer, multilayer farming is designed so that farmer can sell their produce all round a year and fulfill nutritional requirement of family. In recent years trend of poly house construction for vegetable farming is increasing rapidly which is expensive in terms of economics and climate change. So it can be best alternative to plastic tunnels in low to no cost. Combination of attracting and repelling crops in multilayer farming controls pest population through ecological process and soil nutrients of different layers are utilized sustainably. Ground cover and roof prevents excessive evaporation and blocks sunlight as a result water is conserved greatly (about 80% of conventional farming). Rain fed areas and uplands can be made lush green in low investment and labor so government bodies should include multilayer farming in policy formulation and implementation to improve present condition of production and productivity.