Cultivation cost is hardly about Rs.2000-Rs.3000 per acre
“Direct sowing for samba crop is a real gamble. But we are left with no other option,” admit the farmers of Thiruthuraipoondi taluk in Tiruvarur district, the biggest of rice bowl districts in the State with 1.35 lakh hectares of paddy area.
It was direct sowing which stood farmers in good stead in 1987 when water from the Mettur dam was released for irrigation only on November 9, points out S. Ranganathan, general secretary of the Cauvery Delta Farmers Welfare Association.
(The cultivation cost of direct sowing is hardly about Rs.2000-Rs.3000 per acre as against Rs.18,000-Rs.20,000 spent for traditional cultivation by raising nursery and transplanting. Besides, direct sowing reduces duration of cultivation by a fortnight and requires less water than the traditional method.)
J. Varadarajan, joint secretary of the Tiruvarur Mavatta Vivasayigal Manram, admits that direct sowing proved quite successful in 1987 and a family owning 150 acres proved inspirational by reaping plentiful harvest for four years at a stretch resorting to that method. But the current situation is “unprecedented” because there is no rain also.
Direct sowing had been taken up in about 16,000 hectares. With borewells benefiting 17 per cent of the cultivable area, it would be possible for us to raise samba in at least 25 per cent of the area, he asserts.
However, the quantum of water, meant for this area, should be doubled to ensure irrigation in certain blocks where the fields are at a higher level. Besides, tahsildars should be vested with the control of releasing water for various areas. Instead of ADT 38 being distributed by the Agriculture Department, he prefers ADT-42 and ADT 37 who are of 115-120 day duration.
K. Seshachalam Iyappan of Kokkalady, who has already gone in for direct sowing of his 10 acres, laments that 50 per cent has withered because of inadequate water.
“Though the water released from the Grand Anaicut would reach the tail-end areas in a couple of days, we will not get enough water because the channels are parched.”
Pameni R. Krishnappa points out that it was because of conducive rains that the 1987-88 season proved quite successful for direct sowing. Though several farmers have resorted to direct sowing even now, there has been “significant” rain only for a day. “Unless we get one more shower, we will be in dire straits,” he adds.
“Groundwater is of no use to us as it is saline. Now it is too late for us to raise nursery too as we would be caught in the fury of the North East monsoon.”
G. Narayanasamy, a member of the Federation of the Farmers Associations of Delta Districts, says it will be ideal to have at least five centimetre rain, preferably in two spells. “So far we have not received even two cm rain.” He also points out that direct sowing is almost over in Thiruthuraipoondi, Muthupet and Kottur blocks. While Andhra Ponni (BPT) variety, normally a 135-day crop, would be able to manage if used in direct sowing as it could be harvested in 120 days, it is the popular variety of CR 1009 which is proving problematic.
It is a 150-day-long crop which might run short of water at the fag end of cultivation as Mettur dam would be closed by the end of January.
“Despite having 40,000 pumpsets, we are terribly worried because we get three-phase supply only for two hours a day since September 15,” laments V.N. Sundaram, organising secretary of the Manram.
“We require power at least for 12 hours a day to survive in this situation,” he pleads.