Traditional varieties are resistant to drought and infestations
Organic farming is not something new to the farmers. Several types of organic farming are being practised all over the country. But, in recent years it has been getting a lot of attention from researchers, policy makers, scientists, and farmers.
Paddy farmers in the delta districts of Tamil Nadu predominantly use chemical fertilizers for cultivating their crops during the Kharif and Rabi seasons.
Of late, many of these farmers have been facing several hardships from unpredictable monsoon, decreasing or stagnant prices, ground water depletion, increasing labour and chemical fertilizer costs.
According to Mr. Balaji Shankar, an organic paddy farmer in Mayiladuthurai district of Tamil Nadu,in chemical farming, farmers increase fertilizer application hoping for a higher yield and profit.
They do not realize that by applying urea and potash, the soil becomes hard and loses its porous nature.
The same land requires more water for cultivation to make it loose and farmers dig deeper bore wells for getting water (deep borewells and urea increase soil and water salinity).
Reducing input costs
“What our farmers need to know is a success formula which reduces input cost and at the same time gives good yield,” he argues.
Outlining his paddy cultivation Mr. Balaji says, “I plant only Kharif (during Aug-Jan) and rice fallow gram. I do not plant Rabi. From April to August, the land is ploughed two times and Daincha is planted and used for in-situ ploughing,” he explains.
Only native varieties such as kitchidi samba or ponni (these are Tamil names) are cultivated.
These varieties are resistant to diseases and can withstand drought as well as floods and also give a good yield of 1,200 kg-1,400 kg per acre with very little inputs, he noted.
About 15kg of seeds are required for sowing in the nursery. The seedlings are transplanted early (when around 21 days-old instead of the traditional 30-40 days).
About two seedlings are planted in the main field at a spacing of 15x18 cm. (This reduces both seed and labour cost, while transplanting, according to Mr. Balaji.)
“Since I plant only Kharif, this allows me to plan my transplanting early before the monsoon.
Once traditional varieties are well established in the soil, even the worst flood cannot damage them. There may be some yield loss, but never a crop loss,” he says.
After the seedlings stabilize, the field is allowed to dry (to facilitate tillering). Manual weeding is done once after 30 days of transplanting and whenever necessary. After harvest, the produce is not sold as paddy, but dried, stored, milled on a monthly basis and sold as raw rice to customers.
Organic paddy has higher out turn (60 per cent) and about 900 -1000 kg of raw rice is milled from an acre’s produce.
“I am selling my organic rice at Rs. 29 per kg, which gives me a gross revenue of Rs.29,000 per acre. My expenditure for an acre is: cultivation: Rs. 3,000, harvesting: Rs. 2,000, processing & despatch etc: Rs. 4,000.
This gives me a net income of Rs. 20,000 per acre. If a farmer has six acres, he can sell 500 kg of raw rice per month, and get a monthly income of 10,000 per month,” he says.
Other crops such as maize or sunflower are cultivated during the rabi season. The organic rice is sold though the several organic outlets in and around the districts, according to him.
Balaji Shankar can be reached at No 2/12 Tirupura Sundari Nagar, Then Pathi, Sirkali: 609 111, Nagapattinam District, Tamil Nadu, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Phone: 04364-271170.