Organic sugarcane: profitable through innovative initiative

By TheHindu on 20 Apr 2017 | read


Making moulded jaggery is a good alternative to selling it to the mills

CHEMICAL PESTICIDES and fertilizers have always been considered `manna' from heaven for Indian ryots, especially after the second green revolution. Farmers believe that by applying potash and urea to the soil their crop can be made to yield more. But a vast majority of them have failed to realise that excessive application of these chemicals over the years has poisoned the land, water and the environment.

Health hazard

More than 75 per cent of the food crops grown today have toxic residues of chemicals used for growing them andthey are hazardous for human health, according to Mr. R. Ranganathan, President of Organic Farmers Association in Chennai.Mr. Ranganathan, an organic farmer himself, is growing sugarcane in his 8-acre farm in Mayiladuthurai taluka, Nagapattinam ditsrict of Tamil Nadu.Use of organic methods for crop cultivation is no rocket science, according to him. "These traditional methods were used for decades, but forgotten along the way and now have been rediscovered as safe and affordable alternatives," he explains.

Expected yield

He is expecting to harvest about 40-50 tonnes of sugarcane per acre, compared with farmers who use chemicals in the area who harvest about 30-40 tonnes.His farm is a model for other aspirants and he is also teaching other farmers the benefits of use of various plant leaves such as neem, castor, custard apple, cow's urine, dung and curd to make insect repellents and vermiwash.

Horizontal planting

Detailing his cultivation technique, Mr. Ranganathan said, "The field was ploughed well into furrows by applying about 1,000 tonnes of vermicompost. The sugarcane setts were planted on the furrows horizontally at a spacing of about 4x4 feet between them."In addition to vermicompost, several earthworms were also released into the field. Irrigation was done twice every week initially after planting and later continued once every 15 days. About 20 litres of diluted Panchangavya was also sprayed twice over the crop. The first spray was done 15 days after planting the setts in the main field and the second in the third month, according to him. Dethrashing of the dried leaves and removal of weeds, which are usual practices in crop cultivation, were not done.

No weeding

"The dried leaves and weeds were also allowed to grow, as they are also a part of the ecosystem," he explained. Once a month the dried leaves were pulled manually and left to rot in the field, as they are a good source of manure to the plants. The duration of the crop is about one year and Mr. Ranganathan is expecting four ratoons from his crop. Like other sugarcane growers, he is not selling his produce to the local co-operative sugar mills. "The recent price hike announced by the government is an eyewash, he claims. A farmer gets about Rs.1,200 per tonne of sugarcane, but he is not paid for the by-products such as ethanol or molasses," he said. He, along with other organic sugarcane farmers in the area, are planning to manufacture moulded jaggery (called achu vellam in Tamil) from the harvested sugarcane.

Organic jaggery

Moulded organic jaggery gets a good price especially during the festival season and also creates employment opportunities for the several persons who produce it, according to him.He plans to sell the moulded jaggery through the several organic product outlets established by his association in the country.

Marketing outlets

The organic farmers association has about 10,000 farmers as its members all over the country. It has around 200 outlets all over the country under the brand name `Poison-free-food' through which the farmers market their produce.For more information readers can contact Mr. R. Ranganathan at No16-Vanigar street, Thirupporur, Tamil Nadu-603 110, email:, phone :044-27446369, mobile: 94433-46369.