Experience of Piloting SCI for Elephant Foot Yam in Gaya, Bihar State of India


Having a sufficient supply of good-quality vegetables has always been a problem for households in the
project area: Gaya district of Bihar. An indication that progress is being made on this key element for
human nutrition is that we have seen a fall in the market prices of green and other vegetables during
the peak season. This is indicative of greater supply and is a great benefit to our project-participating
families. If productivity is increased significantly without entailing higher costs, there is benefit to
producers as well. But we are yet to make any significant breakthrough in transforming rural livelihoods
based on agriculture. Achieving and sustaining a high return, in the range of Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh per
household, has been a goal for those of us who are working with small and marginal farmers in the area.
For a number of years, we have been struggling to get more production of low-risk, high-return, high
keeping-quality, low-perishable vegetables, with low attractiveness to animals that could destroy them
in the field. We need simple methodologies to be spread among small and marginal farmers who have
little arable land, just 5 to 10 kathas, i.e., between an eighth and a sixteenth of a hectare. Under these
circumstances, our Gaya project decided to pilot the growing of elephant foot yam (Amorphophallus
paeniifolius, also known as stink lily) in rotation with a crop of SRI-Rapeseed, adapting SRI concepts and
methods for crop cultivation to this edible and popular root crop. As seen from the attached certificate
at the end of this report, this initial experimentation was very successful, achieving a yield as high as
102.3 tons/ha, more than triple the level that farmers in the area usually attain.
Elephant foot yam (EFY) is a valuable vegetable, used by common people during festivals and also during
other seasons. It is eaten in curries, as chips or kabobs, and the leaves are also cooked up like spinach.
Generally its price is high round the year in local and district markets. To start, we did a preliminary
market assessment for EFY in the district and adjoining districts, just visiting and talking to people about
elephant foot yam. Having had positive experience with growing other vegetables using adapted SRI
practices, we undertook to develop crop too, procuring seeds from a farmer who was growing elephant
foot yam outside the project area.
In summer season 2012 we piloted this innovation with two farmers, one each in two villages of Bodh-
Gaya, to gather learning about how it could be fitted into a cropping system with SRI-rapeseed.
Following our understanding of SRI methodology, we kept the seed materials (tubers) covered with a
jute bag in a shade for 4-5 days. When nodes had become prominent, we cut the elephant foot yam into
small pieces of 150-250 grams, keeping the nodes intact. The pieces of tuber were dipped in a solution
of cow dung with Bavistin (2 g/litre) for 30 minutes, a fungicide, to ensure that the planting material had
no pathogenic fungi.
After this dipping, the seed materials were put into a nursery bed made up of vermicompost. This
'vermi-bed' was established by spreading several inches of vermicompost on a plastic sheet in a dark
room. Then the seed materials were put on this bed, spaced a little distance apart from each other, and
covered with 2-inch layer of vermicompost. Water was regularly sprayed on the bed to maintain
sufficient moisture so that numerous roots could emerge from the seed material and the sprouts would

become long and healthy for transplanting in the main plot. This nursery bed was managed for 16 days.
Seed material, started on 5 th May 2012, was taken to the main field on the 16 th day, 6 th June 2012. We
experienced that beyond 12 days, the roots start to break.
In land preparation, a common (desi ) plough was deployed for four times. The concerned farmer had
cultivated SRI-rapeseed previously on same plot. Since this was first time, there was some delay in
starting due to needing to convince the farmer to put labour into the trial. Hence we could start only in
the month of June itself.
After ploughing of the land was done, separate pits were created at a spacing of 2.5 ft x 2.5 ft. The size
of pits was 2 ft deep and 1.5 ft width (diameter). The pits were exposed to bright sunlight for 7 days, and
then in every pit, soil from the upper layer of what was removed from the pit was put inside it at the
bottom. This filled half of the pit. In the upper half was put a mixture of 5 kg of compost with a mixture
of DAP and potash. This was left for 2 days, after which it was watered just before transplanting.
By this time, the seed material in the nursery bed was full of white roots all around the surface of the
seed material; also the plumule (the primary bud of the plant embryo, from which the shoot grows) was
elongated. Just after watering the pits, the seedlings were taken to the main field, and each pit was filled
with compost and upper-surface soil. The seedlings were embedded carefully in the centre of the pits,
keeping the shoot portion above the surface of the soil while the seedlings' rooted portion was covered
with soil. Seedling roots were gently pressed into the soil, so that there was good contact between the
soil and the roots, taking care not to hurt the roots.
For the first 3-4 days, light irrigation was provided manually. The irrigation water was poured gently into
the pit by hand from a container and not by flood irrigation.
After 7 days, the first flood irrigation was provided to the plot. We started inter-cultivation between
plants from 11 th day after transplanting as crop growth became fast after flood irrigation. On the 11 th day
the focus of intercultivation was around the base of every plant, while on 12 th and 13 th days the entire
free space between plants was tilled between rows. This checked the emergence of grasses.
It rained on the 18 th day after transplanting, on the 2 nd July, and three days later, on the 5 th July, we
applied a mixture of vermicompost and Zyme (an enzyme soil amendment) to the field and again
intercultivated it to work the mixture into the soil and also at the same time to suppress any weeds the
started growing. The field was left as such to receive rainfall as the rainy season had started.
When rain was less again, field was irrigated on 21 st July. One day after this irrigation, urea was applied
in to the field, on 22 nd July. On 28 th August, earthing up of the plant was done with a spade. At the time
of earthing up, more vermicompost was also applied. The urea was applied in rows rather than by
broadcasting. The plants were big by this time.
On 19 th September when the leaves started yellowing, we applied one spray of vermi-wash locally
prepared. On 22 nd October after an incidence of bacterial disease, we applied blue copper to the crop at
2 g/litre of water.

As the entire field was covered with the crop, no weeds appeared in field. We provided three irrigations
one each on 21 st October, 5 th November, and 22 nd November. The harvesting and yield estimation were
done on 28 th December 2012.
Our learning from this pilot experience
 For transplanting in the main plot, the age of nursery should not be more than 10-12 days. Beyond
12 days, roots start breaking.
 The pit size should be 1.5 ft deep and 2 ft in diameter because the horizontal expansion of the EFY
was somewhat different than initially expected (2 ft deep and 1.5 ft diameter). Pit-to-pit distance
should be about 2.5 feet in a square pattern.
 The newer shoots that emerged later after transplanting yielded better than the original shoots of
the plant.
 2-3 tillers on a plant gave better yield as compared to having more tillers on the plant. A single-stem
plant also gave less yield. We had tillers up to 11 in the field, but more tillering as compared to 2-3
tillers gave relatively lower yield. The thickness, leaf area, and height of plants having 2-3 tillers were
better than others.
 Although we harvested the crop on 28 th December, on 26 th November we had inspected the tubers.
At that time already, one of the samples weighed 6.7 kg.
 Seed material with weight of 150-250 grams performs better.
 The crop took 7 months to mature (seed to seed). The duration in the field was about 6 months.
 Apart from a few supportive irrigations, the crop utilises mostly rainwater.
 The production was 15 quintals of elephant foot yam per katha (150 sq.m)
 Towards the end of the growing season, that is, in September-October, there should be sufficient
moisture in the field. The tuber growth is fast then, and hence moisture stress may affect the yield.
 If we are able to provide irrigation during May, then transplanting may be done earlier to get an
earlier harvest that gives a better return in the market as there is heavy demand for EFY for the
Dushera, Deepawali and Chhath holidays.
 The height of the EFY plants went up to 185 cm.
 The circumference of a single stem varied between 9-11 cm at top to 17-21 cm at bottom.
 As compared to a yield of 40-50 tons/ha from 'best management practices' recommended by RAU,
Pusa, we got 102.3 tons/ha. Farmer yield with usual practices is 20-30 tons/ha.
 As compared to a seed rate of 80-100 quintals/ha as recommended by RAU, Pusa, the same variety
used under SRI methods required only 44 quintals. This was a great saving of seed material.
 As compared to the half a kg of seed material recommended by RAU, Pusa, using only 0.25 kg of
seed material performed better.
 There is a belief that elephant foot yam is a shade-loving crop. But our SRI methods disconfirm this
belief as our crop, exposed to full sunlight, gave much better yield.
However, there has been only one year of piloting, so we are not ready to recommend a standard
package of practices. However, as of now the normal steps of SRI method of elephant foot yam can be
presented as follow.
 Start by collecting seed material from a reliable farmer.
 Place the seeds (rhizomes) in the shade for 4-5 days.
 After 4-5 days, keeping intact the nodes, cut the seed material into small pieces of 200-250 g size.
 Submerge the cut pieces of seed material in a solution of cow dung mixed with water, adding some
Bavistin (2 g/litre of water), and keep the material submerged for 30 minutes.
 After 30 minutes, the material should be transferred to a nursery bed made up of vermicompost.

 Sufficient space should be maintained among the seed materials so that the emerging roots do not
get entangled among themselves.
 Cover the seed materials with a 2-inch layer of vermicompost.
 Regularly spray water on the nursery bed to keep the vermicompost moist. As this is summer season
proper care should be taken to keep moist the environment around nursery bed.
 Prepare the main plot by ploughing it for four times.
 Create appropriate pits in the plot, with 1 ft depth and 2 feet diameter.
 Keep the centre-to-centre distances between pits at 2.5 ft in all directions.
 The pits should be exposed to bright sunlight for 7 days before further work.
 Fill the lower half of the pit with soil from the upper horizons of the soil.
 Then fill the upper half of the pit with a mixture of upper soil, 5 kg compost, plus DAP and potash.
Mix these materials well and leave them in place for 2 days.
 After 2 days, the pit should be just before the seedlings are transferred from the nursery.
 Transfer the seedlings from the nursery bed to the main plot pit by pit.
 Transplant seedlings shallow, without disturbing their root systems, at the centre of the pit. Care
should be taken in uprooting seedlings from nursery bed so that the roots are not damaged. The
roots associated with seed materials should be placed just below soil surface.
 After transplanting the seedlings in the pits of main plot, light irrigation should be provided daily for
3-4 days with the help of a mug and bucket.
 7 days after transplanting, provide the plot with a flood irrigation.
 On 11 th day, loosen up the soil around the base of every plant, and thereafter do intercultivation in
the entire free space of the plot between plants. This checks the emergence of weeds. After making
soils loose around the roots of plants in the plot, a power weeder may be used to reduce the labor
time required.
 If there is rainfall, do not irrigate; otherwise, a flood irrigation is required at the 17-18 th day after
 After 3 days, when plot soil becomes ploughable, apply a mixture of vermicompost and Zyme, and
mix these with the soil in the plot. Weeding is also done simultaneously.
 Leave the field as it is and apply irrigation again about 15 days after applying vermicompost and
Zyme in to the soil. If there is sufficient rainfall, you may skip irrigation. After the next irrigation,
apply urea and go for earthing up soil around the base of the plants. Take care to apply the urea in
rows and do not broadcast it.
 If there is enough rainfall, do not provide irrigation. When rain recedes, apply irrigation at 15 day
intervals until maturity.
 Stop irrigation 12-15 days before harvesting.

Read More: SCI – EFY report – Anil V