Analysis and redesign of the organic farm Annapurna in Tamil Nadu, India

Supervisors

Walter Rossing (FSE Wageningen UR)
Jeroen Groot (FSE Wageningen UR)
Gerard Oomen (FSE Wageningen UR)
Tomas Tomassen (farmer of Annapurna, India)

Introduction

Auroville is a town in Tamil Nadu, India where people from different parts of the world have created an organic farming hub. The largest among the 15 farms is Annapurna, a mixed farm of 60 ha on very heavy clay soils where various crops are grown: rice and millet, sorghum, roselle, fruit trees and some vegetables. Crops are combined with dairy cattle, cheese production, and wood production (casuarinas). Rice yields are variable but generally low and constitute a major obstacle for the farm’s self-reliance. Zinc deficiency seems to be a component of the problem, and the large organic matter additions may be partly causing this. A broader crop growth analysis is needed to diagnose the situation. At the same time, the farm’s self-reliance may be improved by an evaluation at the whole-farm level, to evaluate the various fluxes in the soil-plant-animal-manure system.

Tomas Tomassen, the farmer, together with Gerard Oomen (Oomen Organic Consultancy) are in the process of diagnosing the system. Tomas is willing to host and supervise MSc theses.

Objectives

Two MSc topics are possible, one focusing on cropping system analysis of rice, the other focusing on analysis of the farming systems as a whole.

At the cropping system level:
  • to analyze rice crop growth during one growing season based in in-field measurements and crop modelling
At the farming system level:
  • to analyze fluxes between farming system components using farm specific data and assess the room for improvement

Procedures

Cropping system level:

The student will follow crop growth and development in several fields of a rice crop during the growing season (October – January). Data will be collected to enable analysis using Oryza or APSIM-Oryza (collaboration with Crop and Weed Ecology) – soil data, weather data. Model-based analysis will demonstrate the yield gap between current levels and levels possible when a range of constraints are lifted.

Farming system level:

The student will visit Annapurna and together with the farmer collate data on resource and product flows in the farm, economic data and labour inputs. Results will be analysed using the FARM model and the FarmDESIGN model, to reveal bottlenecks and opportunities for improvement.

Experiences gained

  • Prepare a detailed project proposal and questionnaire
  • Communicate with organic farmers about their day-to-day activities
  • Prepare economic and resource budgets
  • Analyse the data using a model
  • Write a compact thesis in the form of a scientific article in English and a policy brief for the farmer