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Manures and fertilizers

Manures and fertilizers: Interest is growing in Organic Farming.

From the 11,000 hectares of agricultural land in Puducherry, around 22 hectares of certified organic farms might appear to be small in comparison. Area under organic farming appears to be finding a new-found enthusiasm in the farmers’ community which has begun to appreciate its advantages over conventional farming and the area slowly growing.

Since a few years in Puducherry villages, The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) in association with the Indian Bank Self Employment Training Institute (INDSETI) and NGO Ekoventure have been holding training programmes in organic farming. From 2014, Ekoventure has helped facilitate organic certification under the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) of the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.

From those who have taken to organic farming is V. Subramanian, a staff member of the milk society in Sillukaripalayam village in Mannadipet commune. He had given up farming owing to mounting losses. His interaction with Ekoventure led him to take back his leased land and try organic farming with black gram two years ago.

Now, he grows traditional varieties of paddy like Seeraga Samba and Mappillai Samba, besides also trying out lady’s finger and groundnut. Mr. Subramanian says “People were surprised to see me take up farming again. With each harvest, I have improved.” He also says that he promotes organic farming among others in his village, and his children have also taken to his interest.

In the village of Koonichempattu in Puducherry, two groups consisting of 12 farmers are practising organic farming in around three acres. One of the groups is now qualified to get their PGS certification.

Here traditional paddy varieties like Seeraga Samba, Mappillai Samba, Mysore Mallige and Kitchidi Samba, banana, black gram (Vamban 4 variety), foxtail millet and spinach are being grown.

Heads one of the farmer groups, S. Veerappan says, “We find that organic traditional paddy varieties are less vulnerable to attack by pests. The yield is also higher, bringing down our overall costs.” Under organic farming, one acre yields around 2 tonnes of rice, say the farmers. Thyagarajan, another farmer of the group adds, “For every usage of fertiliser worth Rs.3,300 in conventional farming, only Rs.1,500 is needed now. While one bag of urea is Rs.300, 5 kilograms of biofertiliser asos is only Rs.136.”

Horticulturist Sivalingam from Manalipet experimented with a small patch in his one acre of jasmine.

Replacing chemical fertilisers and pesticides are Effective Microorganisms, Cow Pat Pit compost, organic manure Amirtha karaisal, biopesticide Panchagavya, use of oil cake and molasses as fertiliser, and use of pepper and ginger-garlic extract as pesticide. Paddy farmers are also implementing the organic low-water methodology of System of Rice Intensification.

In Puducherry, sugarcane, ragi, guava, maize, green gram are also being grown in organic farms. “Our success lies in farmers getting inspired and spreading the word, as well as sustaining the initiative themselves,” says R. Chandirapoorani, facilitator with Ekoventure, adding there has been a growing interest in the last five years.