A formula to grow organic paddy successfully

Mr. Balaji Shankar in his organic paddy field at Sirkali, Tamil Nadu.

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.
Several hardships

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 15×18 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.
Manual weeding

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 sell500 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: balaji@earth.org.in, Phone: 04364-271170.

Model farmer coaxes more crops from less land

Big farmers have more land, finance and manpower at their disposal when compared to small and marginal farmers who grow their crops in 3-4 acres and still succeed in getting a good yield.

One such small farmer is Mr. K.O. Sebastian, in Kozhikode district of Kerala who has rubber, coconut, areca nut and black pepper in his four-acre land.
Absence of information

Even though he slogged in his farm to raise crop productivity, ab

Mr. Sebastian (sitting) of Kozhikode explaining to visitors about his rain water harvesting tank.

sence of proper scientific guidelines proved to be a major obstacle for him as he did not know the ‘nitty gritty’ of successful farming.

He approached the Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) of the Indian Institute of Spices Research (IISR), Kozhikode for help.

The KVK research team identified that low productivity due to unscientific crop management practices, lack of crop diversification and enterprises, unavailability of quality planting materials and low price for agricultural commodities were the main problems the farmer was facing.
Training programme

He was advised to attend a training programme at KVK and the nucleus planting materials of rooted pepper cuttings, bush pepper plants, nutmeg and seed ginger were supplied to him by the institute, according to Dr. T.K. Jacob, scientific officer of KVK.

A project on vermi-composting was also prepared for him and the local panchayat sanctioned a loan of Rs.1 lakh with 25 per cent subsidy. Technical guidance on the manufacture of vermi-tanks and African earthworms for the units was also supplied.
Coirpith compost

In the last five years Mr. Sebastian has sold earthworms worth about Rs.1 lakh to a number of farmers in Kozhikode, Kannur, Malappuram and Wynad districts. He was advised to convert large quantities of coir pith, into compost which was available locally in his farm.

Training on coir pith composting and ‘pithplus’, an effective fungal culture from Central Coir Research Institute, Alappuzha was given to him for composting.

He converted four tonnes of coir pith into quality compost. In addition he has also started azolla cultivation to meet the fodder requirement of his cattle. At present he is producing 2-3 kg of azolla daily. “Azolla feed has increased milk yield in my cattle. The excess azolla is put into vermi-compost tanks, which is consumed by worms to produce nutrient-rich compost.

I have also tried cooking azolla as food and found it as tasty as any other vegetable preparation,” he said.

Acute water shortage forced him to construct a cost-effective, semi-permanent tank of 60,000-litre capacity with silpaulin sheets in which rain water was preserved and has released a number of fishes into the tank to generate additional income.

Mr. Sebastian has also formed a club under NABARD, sponsored by a local co-operative bank. Named Vikas Volunteer Vahini (VVV), “the club is useful to interact with other like minded farmers in my area and to guide them,” he said.
Experience sharing

The main aim of the club is to strengthen farmer-to-farmer linkage and share the experiences of progressive farming practices among themselves, he explained.

Mr. Sebastian was conferred the Model Farmer award by the Department of Agriculture, Government of Kerala.

Readers can contact Mr. K.O. Sebastian, Vadakkekallunkal, Muthukadu (Post), Peruvannamuzhi, Kozhikode 673 528, Kerala, and Dr. T.K. Jacob can be reached at Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Peruvannamuzhi Post,Kozhikode, Kerala – 673528, email: jacobtk@spices.res.in, mobile:94475-39967, phone: 0496-2662372.