This paddy variety is cultivated in Perundurai and Erode
ERODE: Cultivation of Bhavani, a paddy variety native to the district, has been on the decline. The traditional paddy is now cultivated mostly in and around Perundurai and Erode.
T. Subbu of Tamizhaga Vivasayeegal Sangam, a farmers’ organisation, says this cultivation season only between 3,000 and 4,000 acres are under Bhavani. Total area under cultivation during a turn in Lower Bhavani Project ayacut is over 1.05 lakh acre.
About a decade ago, one-fourth of the area under paddy cultivation was with Bhavani. It was about 30,000 acres, says the farmer, who has sown Bhavani.
The reason for the decline the farmer and others say is because of the promotion of high-yielding varieties by the Agriculture Department and promotion of new varieties by the Tamil Nadu Agriculture University.
In Erode, paddy farmers largely go in for ADT 39, 39, IR 20 and KO 43 varieties. This is because of the higher yield the Department- and University- promoted varieties offer.
Mr. Subbu says Bhavani returns a little over 2,000 kg an acre as against the other varieties that yield a 1,000 kg
more. But then Bhavani is costlier compared to the other varieties.
Mr. Subbu says a ‘podhi’ (260 kg) of Bhavani fetches between Rs. 1,000 and Rs. 1,500 more than the high-yielding varieties, as consumers feel it tastes better.
The other advantage with Bhavani, farmers say, is more hay. Given the robust growth, Bhavani has more hay than other varieties and the quality of the hay is preferred by both farmers to feed cattle and mushroom growers.
Mr. Subbu says Bhavani hay is in demand and an acre of hay fetches about Rs. 1,500. He also says that quantity of fertilizers applied to the traditional variety is far less than what is applied to the high-yielding varieties. And, if the cultivation is through organic farming, the input cost is further reduced.
Agriculture Officer at Pethampalayam seed depot T. Thangavel says though farmers cultivate other varieties they use only Bhavani for their own use. He has actively promoted the variety in Perundurai Block and has also advocated System of Rice Intensification method of cultivation for higher yield.
The increased spacing in the variety to an extent prevents the neck blast disease in Bhavani, he adds.
Farmers like Mr. Subbu say even as the Department and University promote high-yielding varieties, they must also make efforts to conserve the traditional variety and develop a seed bank for such traditional varieties.