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Features » Sunday Magazine

Updated: May 11, 2013 16:59 IST

Saving crops with colour and sound

S. HARPAL SINGH
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A farmer couple keep from a perch in the field. Photo: Harpal Singh
The Hindu A farmer couple keep from a perch in the field. Photo: Harpal Singh

The crop-protection efforts of farmers in Adilabad are aimed at outwitting, not killing, the birds and animals in the area.

Agriculture is the most obvious arena for man-animal conflict. Man will try to protect his crops at all costs while the host of birds and animals, generations of which have lived on that land, will determinedly try to get their sustenance from a lush field or a fresh crop. What is needed is a balance between pest control and environmental responsibility.

Farmers, especially those in the hilly and forested areas of Adilabad district in Andhra Pradesh, have lost a significant part of their crop to pests over the years — even as much as half the estimated produce during some seasons. However, with each passing year, their methods of pest control have become more ingenuous. Refreshingly, these methods are aimed at outwitting, and not killing, the winged and toothed marauders.

The arsenal of the Adilabad farmers mostly contains colour and sound. For instance, they use cheap saris to fence fields, and empty liquor bottles and large tin cans to create unnatural sounds that seem to spook the fauna. “We import saris of certain colours and patterns from Rajasthan to ward off birds and the noise made by objects constantly striking against bottles and tin cans scares away the animals,” says Nalla Suryachander Reddy, a farmer in Dhannu. “To keep monkeys away, we make a perimeter of the field with a fishing net. The monkeys don’t dare risk being caught in the net.”

In place of electric fences, these farmers now use extra lengths of reflective ribbon and have also given their scarecrows — now familiar props to birds — a mean makeover. The system is still a work in progress but, fortunately for the farmers and the animals, the government is willing to invest in research and recompense. “Maize and jowar being a favourite with the pests, research in crop protection is concentrated on these food grains. Thick plant population in fields and planting of castor on the perimeter offer good pest control,” says T. Pradip, Principal Scientist of the Maize Research Centre, Hyderabad. G. Rama Rao, Wildlife Divisional Forest Officer, Kawal Tiger Reserve, says, “I have recompensed farmers to the tune of Rs. 8 lakh this year for crops destroyed by wild boar.”

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