Eating large meals three times a day is a health risk. Doctors advise eating small, nutritious portions in short intervals. As with humans, so with plants.
The vegetable farmers in the Ozhalapathy grama panchayat limits in Chittur taluk follow a diet plan — precision farming — for their plants.
They are a happy lot because of the good profit they make when farming in general is considered a losing vocation.
Mohan Raj, who grows tomato, chilli, brinjal, okra and banana on an acre (0.4 hectare) of land, is a practitioner of this farm practice. He made a profit of Rs.2 lakh from an investment of Rs.70,000, of which Rs.39,434 is subsidy.
He produced 55 tonnes of tomato in one season and sold it at Rs. 5 a kg. Chilli went for Rs. 20 a kg.
He says 70 farmers of Ozhalapathy took up precision farming on one acre of land each. All of them made good profits in the past two years.
High profits between Rs.75,000 and Rs.2 lakh an acre a year has made more farmers switch over to high-tech precision farming.
Now 1,778 farmers in Chittur have taken it up on 980 acres and received a financial assistance of Rs.2.5 crore, 50-90 per cent of it government subsidy.
The high-tech precision farming started in the district four years ago is getting popular as more and more farmers from different parts of the State have shown interest in it because of its high productivity and profit, K. Krishnankutty, a pioneer of precision farming in Palakkad, says.
He says 2,000 farmers have together submitted a scheme for Rs. 4 crore to the government for financial assistance to take up precision farming in Chittur.
Precision farming’s advantages are increased yield, early maturity, savings on water, fertilizer, energy and labour, reduced weed growth and easy management of pests.
Mechanisation makes the work easy, and even young farmers are attracted to it as a “white-collar farming method.”
Mr. Krishnankutty says that when tomato was cultivated in the usual way, the yield was 9,808 kg an acre. But with drip water of precision farming, the yield rose by 155.5 per cent to 25,050 kg with 47 per cent saving on water.
In the case of capsicum, the yield was 5,430 kg against 8,990 kg, a 66.6 per cent increase, with 43.1 per cent saving on water. For brinjal, the figures were 5,044 kg against 8,569 kg, an increase of 69.9 per cent, and 40 per cent water saving.
For beans, 2,255 kg against 4,100 kg, 81.8 per cent increase, and 36.9 per cent water saving, Mr. Krishnankutty said.