For all the expected big returns, shrimp farming is sometimes dicey and a gamble. A wave of viral white spot syndrome and all the shrimp, despite adequate care, is gone and the distressed farmer is virtually left with nothing.
From rags to riches and back to penury, the small and marginal farmers who have been taking to shrimp farming in a big way in areas known previously for being part of a “rice bowl” of Andhra Pradesh are caught in a vicious cycle.
Worried over the aggressive way shrimp farming is being promoted and the way paddy farmers were switching, Dandu Jagannadha Raju, a former agriculture scientist, has come up with a novel integrated concept of raising paddy crop in the middle of the shrimp growing tank and horticulture crops on the bund of the tank. “My experiment is successful, as it will ensure triple income from shrimp, paddy and horticulture crops. A small shrimp farmer has some alternative to fall back upon — paddy, horti or even floriculture.”
True to what Dr. Raju, formerly of ANGR Agricultural University, claimed, there was steady stream of shrimp farmers, paddy farmers, agriculture and aqua culture scientists to the three-acre tank at Ananda Farm in Kovvada Annavaram village, near Bhimavaram in West Godavari, district during the last few days. What surprised most of them was the way paddy was grown in the middle of shrimp farm full of saline water.
“People were apprehensive about the experiment, but once they saw the fully grown local varieties of paddy (MTU 1121, MTU 1156 and MTU 7029-swarna) now being harvested, their doubts have disappeared. Similarly we have raised various varieties of vegetables and flowers on the tank bund,” he said.
“Now that this integrated farm concept has shown good results, we will popularise and try to scale it up”, said U.K. Viswanatha Raju, chairman of the Ananda Group, an aquaculture firm.
It was in one of the group’s shrimp tanks that this experiment was hosted. Of the three-acre tank, paddy was grown on 1.1 acres and the expectation is of pretty good yield while the remaining space of trenches were used for the prawns. An interesting feature was that paddy was grown organically without any chemicals. “It looks like a symbiotic relationship. Paddy crop is using up the ammonia and nitrates and releasing oxygen that was important for the shrimp,” Dr. Jagannadha Raju said.
P. Muniratnam, a senior official of Agriculture department, said a deeper three-season study was required to measure the success. The department was doing a similar experiment with paddy and fresh water fish.