A yield of 20,680 kilo paddy per hectare takes Periasamy Solaimalai to Rashtrapathi Bhavan

For 60-year-old Periasamy Solaimalai, stepping into the Rashtrapathi Bhavan as a state guest and receiving the ‘Krishi Karman’ award from President Pranab Mukherjee was not just a once-in -a -lifetime achievement but also a dream come true.

Last week, at a glittering function, the farmer received the award and a cheque for Rs. one lakh in the presence of Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and other dignitaries, for setting a new record in paddy cultivation.

Mr. Solaimalai, who owns two hectares of land and had leased another two hectares in Andaman village in Madurai district, had set a record by producing 13,787 kilograms/ha of rice (or 20,680 kilo/ha of paddy) during the 2011-12 kharif season.

Attributing his success to the officials of the TN Agriculture Department, particularly the then Assistant Director (Madurai East Block) S. Kanagaraj for his guidance in helping farmers adapt to new technology, the humble farmer said that he was among the first to embrace the SRI (system rice intensification) technique introduced in 2001. “When agriculture department officials wanted space to demonstrate the technique, I offered my land. This set the pace and 50 farmers took to machine planting from then on,” he recalled with pride.

With regard to the highest yield that had bagged him the coveted award, Mr. Solaimalai said that he had stuck to the techniques taught by the field staff from the agriculture department, such as the use of foundation seed, reduced nursery area at one cent per acre, preparation of raised bed nursery, planting of 14-day old seedling, alternate wetting and drying and using cono-weeder for weeding and so on., he told The Hindu here on Friday after he was honoured by Collector Anshul Mishra at the farmers’ grievance meeting.

Mr. Kanagaraj said that techniques such as land levelling, use of bio-fertilisers and organic manure in the paddy variety – CR 1009 – had ensured the highest yield for the winner. In SRI technique, there are a little over 10 features, which were fully adopted by Mr. Solaimalai.

In the previous season, Mr. Solaimalai had harvested 8,125 kilos of paddy per hectare. Apart from paddy, he also grows sugarcane. When asked how he felt on receiving the award from the President, he said, “it was the most precious moment in my life and I owe it to the people who have stood by me.”

Come January 26, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa will present a cash award of Rs 5 lakh to Mr. Solaimalai for his achievement.

The Agriculture Department officials said that the Union government had given Rs 2 crore to Tamil Nadu in recognition of being the state with the highest production of foodgrain.