Agriculture Department wants to propagate the new method; red gram traditionally raised as an inter-crop with groundnut

The area under red gram is set to increase in Tiruchi district this year as the Agriculture Department seeks to propagate a new technique of transplanting seedlings that helps double the yield. The new technique entails transplanting 30 to 35 days old seedlings raised in nurseries separately instead of the conventional method of direct sowing in the field.

This, Agriculture Department officials say, helps in ensuring optimum plant population and reduces weed growth. Besides, the method reduces the crop duration on the field.

Red gram is traditionally raised by farmers as an inter-crop with groundnut in July-August in the rain-fed areas of the district. After harvest of groundnut (a 105 day-crop), the red gram becomes the main crop.

Red gram is the second major pulse variety raised in the district after black gram. The crop is normally raised on about 7,500 acres but the area shrank to 6,648 acres because of poor rainfall. This year, the Agriculture Department expects the crop to be raised on 8,000 acres of land. Of this, the crop will be raised under the new method of cultivation on 3,000 acres of land. “The average yield under the conventional method of cultivation was 300 kg an acre. The yield will double to 600 kg an acre if farmers adopt the new method,” said Gururaj Singh, Joint Director of Agriculture.

To encourage farmers to take to the new scheme, seedlings are supplied to them free of cost besides a subsidy of up to Rs.3, 000 an acre under the National Agriculture Development Programme and the National Food Security Mission (Pulses). Seedlings are raised on demonstration plots at various parts of the district. “We have roped in farmers to raise the nurseries at 15 places in the district. These nurseries will raise about 7.26 lakh seedlings to be distributed among farmers who opt to raise the crop under the new method,” explained R.Chandrasekaran, Deputy Director (Central Schemes), Agriculture. Micro nutrients and a hydro gel (which helps retain the moisture content in the soil) are supplied to farmers. Farmers are encouraged to adopt integrated nutrient management and integrated pest management.

One of the progressive farmers who raised a nursery, K.Shankar of Thiruthiyamalai, said the new method offered the convenience of transplanting the seedlings directly as soon as there was rains.

“Red gram is a 160-day crop and under this method the actual duration comes down by 30 days. An acre will require just 2,420 seedlings. Planting in even gap helps control weed growth,” he said.