Farmers have covered 1,360 hectares of the targeted 35,000 ha

Paddy transplantation has begun in the right earnest in Kodagu district, thanks to the copious rainfall which has far exceeded last year’s figures in the corresponding period.

Many farmers are steadfastly continuing the avocation against odds such as expensive labour, high input costs and irrational prices.

Transplantation has started in Napoklu and surrounding areas. Paddy seedlings are ready for plucking in the district and the works are expected to gather momentum in a couple of days, says Deputy Director of Agriculture, Kodagu, Ramakrishna. The target for paddy cultivation was 35,000 hectares of which 1,360 hectares had been covered till date, he told The Hindu.

Farmers in remote villages still depend on agriculture in Kodagu though it is not financially viable for most of them. However, the sheen associated with paddy transplantation where a large group of men and women sang to chorus to mask the tiredness of work cannot be seen any longer.

One would compete with the leader to match his speed of transplantation even if it rained hard. A big column in the middle of the paddy field would be left vacant to facilitate the ‘Nati Vota’, wetland sprint, in which youth would take part with great glee. It used to be the custom in the past. Not many indulge in ‘Nati Vota’ these days. The vacant column used to be covered up with seedlings after the sprint.

According to Monnanda Somaiah, a farmer from Napoklu, expensive labour costs, apart from the shortage of workers, had made many farmers give up agriculture in villages. Many of them had sold off cattle and some had converted fields into housing sites.

Farm mechanisation was a process yet to catch up in the district, though a few progressive farmers had discovered its utilities. Elephant attacks would result in destruction of paddy crops in the district in the recent years.

Fertilizer had replaced cow dung and other leafy manures that were organic, says Subbaiah, another farmer from the same region.

Paddy transplantation would pick up in Virajpet taluk, which had the largest areas in terms of coverage, in a few days as seedlings were ready for plucking, Mr. Ramakrishna said.

Not so long ago, the extent of paddy fields was considered a sign of high social status. Coorg mandarin (orange) cultivation had become popular enhancing one’s social status later onwards.

Coffee holding now symbolises the social status in Kodagu. Paddy crop is seen as goddess Lakshmi as the ‘Puttari’ of ‘Hutri’, the harvest festival for the people of Kodagu, is directly connected with it.

Cutting the paddy sheaves and taking home by chanting ‘Poli poli deva…’ meant appeasing goddess Lakshmi to give them a bountiful crop and abundance. Decrease in the paddy cultivation has robbed the harvest festival of its glory, says, Mr. Somaiah.

Kodagu received 1,602.1 mm of rainfall from January this year till 8 a.m. on July 18. It is more than last year’s figure of 732.89 mm.

Madikeri taluk received 2,372.24 mm, the highest among three taluks, in the same period this year. It was 1,049.2 mm last year. Virajpet taluk received 1,146.61 mm (622.19 mm) while Somwarpet taluk received 1,287.4 mm (527.27 mm).