It took a science project to convince an entire village to switch to bio fertilizers. Five school kids, barely 13 years, worked at patches of their parents' farm land every evening after school. They ploughed the land, sowed the seeds and watered them.

“My father asked me how do you know chemical fertilizers harm the soil? So we decided to prove it,” says Shankar, leader of the five member team, from Government Higher Secondary School, Uthukuli, who submitted a science project for the National Science Congress to prove bio fertilizers can increase soil fertility. Three months was all they had – but after hard labour, awareness rallies and survey of over 100 farmers, today they have many believers.

“No one refused to believe us when we said Rs.6 would do for buying these fertilizers, as most spend anywhere between Rs.500 – Rs.1000. By our project, we proved that chemical fertilizers may give a good yield during the initial years, but the land soon falls barren and is suitable only for plots,” says N.Senthilkumar. “Green manure does not get washed away like chemical fertilizers and even if it gets mixed with water sources, there is no harm.”

The unbridled enthusiasm exhibited by the students reflected in the in-depth analysis and research backing the projects.

The presentation of the winning projects bore semblances of a Ph D or postgraduate research project, concurred organisers of the district leg of the congress sponsored by the Department of Science and Technology and organised by the Tamil Nadu Science Forum at Mariamman College of Education here on Sunday.

With the theme ‘Land resources- use for prosperity, save for posterity', the programme aims at encouraging critical and analytical skills of children.

The competition was held in two categories, Junior (10-13) and Senior (14-17). Around 385 guide teachers were imparted training on methodology, and 151 projects from 52 schools were registered. But only 81 projects from Lalgudi, Musiri and Tiruchi educational districts have turned up, said Suba, coordinator, district conference.

On the numbers behind, Rajendran, registrar, Shivani College, said not many schools were willing to encourage students to continue field work for three months. Projects in the past had effected-in many socio-economic changes, besides spurring participants to pursue research.

After a two phase evaluation comprising written report and viva voce, ten projects were chosen for the state congress to be held at Bannariman Institute of Technology by a panel of judges constituting of experts in basic sciences from Bharathidasan University.

Thirty projects from Tamil Nadu would make it to the national finals at Jaipur, where the winners would be presented with ‘Young Scientist awards' by the Prime Minister. A scientists meet, session for school teachers on ‘Requirements and challenges of nuclear energy' and seminars on ‘International Year of Forests- a perspective' and ‘Chemistry in everyday life' marked the two-day conference.

The programme was hosted by Shivani Group of Institutions and supported by NCSTC Network.