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Green Manuring in relation to the

soil fertility and soil health

Rajan Bhatt
Assistant Professor (Soil Science)
Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Kapurthala


Owing to the constant production of crops from the soil, the latter is being depleted gradually
of its nitrogenous and other nutrients. An ordinary crop takes about 25 lb of nitrogen from an
acre. It is, therefore, necessary to replenish the soil with the elements, which are removed by
the crops year after year.

Organic matter is the life of the soil because it contains all the essential elements required for
plant growth. It also serves as food for soil bacteria. Decomposed organic matter, known as
humus, improves the soil tilth and helps the plant to grow. Well-stored farmyard manure is
most important of all organic manures, but it is not available in sufficient quantity. Farmyard
manure, if not properly stored, loses its nutrient-supplying value to a great extent.

Therefore, in order to conserve farmyard manure and town refuse properly, two schemes were
taken in hand by the Agricultural Department during the Second Five Year Plan (1956-61). But
the answer to this problem is green manuring in which no such losses are there.

Green Manuring
Farmyard manure and compost are not available in sufficient quantities to the farmers to meet
their full requirements. Artificial fertilizers are also in short supply. Owing to the intensely hot
summers, the available humus in the soil is burnt up quickly. A periodical application of
organic matter is, therefore, essential to replenish the loss of humus, which is necessary for
keeping the soil in good condition by enhancing the supply of nitrogen and by promoting the
growth of microorganisms. A leguminous crop producing 8 to 25 tonnes of green matter per
hectare will add about 60 to 90 kg of nitrogen when ploughed under. This amount would equal
an application of three to ten tonnes of farmyard manure on the basis of organic matter and it’s
nitrogen contribution. The green manure crops also exercise a protective action against erosion
and leaching of the various nutrients into the deep soil layers.

Green-manuring is, thus, a very useful soil-improving practice for building up soil fertility.
First, it increases the soil fertility by the direct addition of nitrogen to the soil. Second, it
improves the soil texture by the addition of humus or organic matter, which is essential for
making the soil more productive. The addition of organic matter improves both heavy and
sandy soils, as it has a binding effect on the loose particles of the sandy soils and makes
the hard and heavy soils porous. Thus, it also increases the water-holding capacity of the
soil. Besides, the conditions for increasing the number of useful bacteria in the soil are also

Kind of green manuring

The practice of green manuring is performed in different ways according to suitable soil and
climatic conditions of a particular area. Broadly the practice of green manuring in India can be
divided into two types

1. Green manuring in situ: In this system, green manure crops are grown and buried in
the same field, which is to be green manured, either as pure crop or an intercrop withy
the main crop. The former system is followed in the northern India while latter is
common in the central and eastern India.

2. Green leaf manuring: Green leaf manuring refers to turning into the soil green leaves
and tender green twigs collected from shrubs and trees grown on bunds, wastelands and
nearby forest areas. This system is generally followed in the central India.

The crop generally used for green manuring is dhaincha (Sesbania aculeata) though the
cultivation of sun-hemp and guara is also in vogue. The crops commonly used for green
manuring in our country are the following:

Sunnhemp (crotolaraia juncea), Dhaincha (Sesbania aculeate), senji (Melilotus parviflora),

Cowpea (Vigna catjang), berseem (Trifolium alexandrinum) etc. Sunhemp is the most
outstanding green manure crop and is well suited in almost all parts of the country and fits in
well with the sugarcane, potato, garden crops and the second season paddy in southern India
and with irrigated wheat in the north. Dhaincha is also an outstanding green manure crop. It
does well in the waterlogged and alkaline soil for it’s reclamation programme. Green-
manuring is in common use in irrigated lands, lands, but its popularity in barani land is
hindered by the lack of irrigational facilities.

The Extension of Green-Manuring Scheme came into operation in the Punjab with effect from
April 1, 1961. It aims at popularizing the use of green manure in the State. The Government
encourages the adoption of this practice by the farmers by granting subsidies on seeds of green-
manuring crops. The Irrigation Department also grants remission of water-rate, if crops are
buried for green-manuring before 15th of September.

The total area under the green-manuring crops in the district, during the past few years, has
been as under:

Table: 1 Area under green manuring crops with time.

Year Area under green-manuring crops (ha)

1955-56 716
1960-61 7785
1965-66 13254
1967-68 26096
(Source: Town Compost-cum-Field Manure Officer, Punjab, Chandigarh)

Techniques of green manuring in the field:

The maximum benefit from the green manure crop cannot be obtained without knowing the
 When it should be grown.
 When it should be buried into the soil.
 How much time should be given between the burying of the green manure crop and the
sowing of the next crop.
Time of sowing of the green manure crop
Normally the green manure crop should be grown immediately after the monsoon rains. As far
as cultivation practice involved, no special care is needed in the preparation of the seedbed.
Soil must have sufficient moisture for the quick germination and rapid early growth.
Phosphatic fertilizers, if applied, should be evenly broadcast. Usually the seed of the green
manure crop is broadcast preferably with higher seed rate.

Stage of burying of the green manure crop:

From the results of the several experiments, it is observed that best results of the green
manuring are obtained if it is buried at the flowering stage. Majority of the crops take about 6
to 8 weeks to reach at the flowering stage from sowing

Effect of age of sunnhemp on the succeding wheat

Wheat yield per acre




4 6 8 10
Age of buring of sunnhemp crop (Weeks)

Stage at which sun hemp was buried made a significant effect on the wheat yield. However
basic principle is in green manuring crops, should aim at maximum succulent green matter at
In one of the demonstration on effect of green manuring at the
KAPURTHALA DISTRICT on paddy yield, we had observed that Green
manuring increases the inherent soil fertility by fixing atmospheric nitrogen
and by adding biomass there by saved 31.0 to 36 per cent of urea as
compared to control plots without having any adverse effect on the crop

Sr. Name of the Treatments Variety Yield Date of Date of Urea used Per cent
No Farmer and (q/ha) Transplanting Harvesting (Kg/ha) Saving
address in Urea
01. Balwinder Singh T1 Green PR- 66.0 20/06/06 29/10/06 160 kg 36.0
S/o Sadhu Singh, manuring with 111
Village Patti- Sesbania
Navibaksh aculeata
T2 Control 66.3 250 kg -

02. Gurdeep Singh S/o T1 Green PR- 72.4 27/6/06 2/11/06 200 kg 31.0
Sunder Singh, Vill: manuring with 118
Kolian wala Sesbania
T2 Control 72.6 290 kg -

Time interval between burial of green manure crop and the sowing of the next
The time interval should be allowed for complete decomposition of the turned in green manure
crop before planning of the next crop and that time should depend upon the following factors:
1. Weather conditions
2. Nature of the buried green material
In areas, receiving rainfall >50 inches humid conditions favors decomposition. If the green
manure crop is succulent, then there is no harm in transplanting the paddy immediately after
turning in the green manure crop. However, in case of the woody, then sufficient time should
be allowed for it’s proper decomposition before planting the paddy. e.g. when succulent green
manure crop of around 8 weeks was buried then paddy can be planted without having any
adverse effect on the yield. But when dhaincha become woody (12 weeks), it was necessary to
bury it about 4 to 8 weeks first for it’s decomposition before planting paddy. In areas receiving
25 to 50 inches rainfall, green manure crop required about 6 to 8 weeks to decompose. It is
only because of lesser moisture conditions.
When green manure crop was intercropped in between the rows of the main crops like paddy,
cotton, sugarcane etc. then it is buried in the succulent stage for it’s rapid decomposition.

Plants suitable for green manuring in the field or In situ

An ideal green manure crop should possess the following desired characteristics, as listed by
Dr. R. R. Agarwal (1965) are as follows
1. It should be a legume with good nodular growth habit indicative of rapid nitrogen
fixation under even unfavorable soil conditions.
2. It should have little water requirements for it’s own growth and should be capable of
making a good stand on poor and exhausted soils.
3. It should have a deep root system, which can be open the sub-soil and tap lower regions
for plant nutrients.
4. The plant should be of a leafy habit capable of producing heavy tender growth early in
its life cycle.
5. It should contain large quantities of non-fibrous tissues of rapid decomposability
containing fair percent of moisture and nitrogen.

Advantages of the Green manuring

Following are the some of the advantages of the green manuring
1. It add organic matter to the soil. This stimulates the activity of the soil microorganisms.
2. The green manuring crops return to the upper soil plant nutrients taken up by the crop
from deeper layers.
3. It improves the structure of the soil.
4. It facilitates the penetration of the rain water into the surface of the soil, thus decreasing
the runoff and thus erosion.
5. The green manuring crops hold plant nutrients that would otherwise be lost by leaching.
6. When leguminous plants, like sun hemp and dhaincha are used as green manure crops,
they add nitrogen to the soil for the succeeding crop.
7. It increases the availability of certain plant nutrients like phosphorus (P2O5), calcium,
potassium, magnesium and iron.

Disadvantages of the green manuring

Every coin has got a head and a tail and it is the case with the green manuring. Some
disadvantages are also associated with green manuring. When the proper technique of green
manuring is not followed or when weather conditions become unfavorable, the following
disadvantages are likely to become evident/happen.
1. Under rainfed conditions, it is feared that proper decomposition of the green manure
crop and satisfactory germination of the succeeding crop may not take place if
sufficient rainfall is not received after burying the green manure crop. This particularly
applies to the wheat regions of the India.
2. Since green manuring for rabi season (Wheat) means the loss for the kharif crop, the
practice of green manuring may not be always economical. This applies to the regions
where irrigation facilities are available for raising kharif crop along with easy
availability of fertilizers.
3. In case the main advantage of the green manuring is to be derived from addition of
nitrogen, however sometimes the cost of growing green manure crops may be more
than the cost of commercial nitrogen fertilizers.
4. An increase of diseases, insects and nematodes is possible.
5. A risk is involved in obtaining a satisfactory stand and growth of the green manure
crops, if sufficient rainfall is not available.