Excess and persistent use of chemical fertilizers in farming for more yields is resulting in loss of fertility of farmland and posing health risks to people. ‘Chhatu Master’ is his identity. Damodar Sahu, a resident of Radhaballabhpur panchayat under Dhamnagar block in Bhadrak, was known as trainer of mushroom farming. He has since ventured into making vermicompost at a time when environmentalists and the Central Government have been laying stress on use of organic instead of chemical fertilizers.
Damodar has trained many uneducated people in mushroom farming and they have now become self-reliant. Mushroom Compost supports plant growth of much hays from orchard grass, timothy, reed canary grass, tall fescue and brome grass. As a fertilizer and soil amendment for lawn care and landscaping, Mushroom Compost supports plant growth and inhibits artillery fungus. In general, a good, organic compost, if used properly, can improve plant growth in poor or marginal soils.
This is because compost amended into those soils will improve the structure of clay soils, reduce surface crusting and compaction and therefore improve drainage, increase beneficial soil microbial activity, and provide nutrients to plants which can reduce the need for fertilizer. Overall, compost can be very beneficial to the soil, and mushroom compost is no exception.
He had set up the biggest vermicompost farm in the district, but his dream of making it bigger is being scuttled for lack of financial support from government, he said.
Damodar could not study beyond HSC due to poverty. Then he started working as a farmhand. Though he had no higher educational qualification, he used to think of doing something big.
Before getting into vermicompost business, he was doing several odd jobs. He used to make carry bags from newspapers to carry groceries and sold them in villages; then sold chicken, but he was not happy with the earnings.
Then he contacted the Horticulture Department and got training in mushroom farming in Bhubaneswar in 1998. He himself started mushroom farming and began training others.
As a successful mushroom farmer, he was honoured at Bhadrak Tayabhoomi Mahotsav, at District Horticulture Exhibition in 2005, Kisan Mela organized by Ranital Krishi Vigyan Kendra in 2009, the state-level Krushak Samman Mahotsav in 2011.
On the advice of Krishi Vigyan Kendra and the Horticulture Department, he turned his attention to vermicompost preparation five years ago.
The decomposed straws that remained on the mushroom farm, leaves, dirt and vegetable leftovers went into vermicompost. Tonnes of straw wasted after use was reused for the organic fertiliser. Initially, he started with four beds and their number has now gone up to 60 which fetch him Rs 20,000 to Rs 25,000 per month. He has branded his vermicompost as Jayguru Organic Fertiliser.
He dreams of becoming one of the leading organic fertiliser makers in the state, but finance is a major constraint, he lamented. If he gets support from the government, he can fulfill his dream, he added.
With demand for organic fertiliser on the rise, he has been supplying his product to Bhubaneswar, Balasore, Bahanaga, Bhadrak and some other parts of the state. He is also helped by his wife Piyattama Sahu.