Precision farming has worked wonders in sugarcane fields in and around irrigated belts of Aranthangi in Pudukottai district. 

Sugarcane growers who reaped harvest of sugarcane at the demonstration plots in Erukkalakottai village on the occasion of the 'Field Day' on Thursday realised the benefits of this subsidy-based scheme in terms of higher yield, better quality in produce and less cultivation cost besides profitability through more attractive returns.

The harvest per hectare has shot up from 150 tonnes, which was obtained using  conventional methods, to 225 tonnes now by employing the precision farming technique. The cost of cultivation has also registered a drastic cut by at least Rs. 20,000 per hectare. Further, the profit per hectare has increased from Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 1.25 lakh.

The Agriculture Department, under the National Agriculture Development Programme, had floated during 2008-09, a special cluster of demonstration plots on 20 hectares with 20 farmers. Each farmer raised the crop on one hectare. “This is the first cluster under the precision farming technique in sugarcane cultivation in Aranthangi”, said R. M Sivakumar, assistant director of Agriculture.

C. V. Meiyyanathan, Aranthangi Panchayat Union chairman, who inaugurated the harvest of cane, said the cluster called the  ‘Avananthankottai Cluster of Sugarcane growers' had farmers identified from  Avanathankottai, Poovatrakudi; Panankulam and Erukkalakottai villages. Each farmer got a subsidy worth about Rs. 65,000 per hectare for raising the CO-86032 variety.

The subsidy component included  water-soluble fertilizer worth Rs.20,000; besides Rs. 40,000 towards the purchase of fertilizer tank. Pointing out that the Centre had released a subsidy of Rs. 13 lakh for the Cluster, he appealed to the sugarcane growers to ensure the sustainability of the programme. 

R. Niraivu Anna, president of the Cluster, said the farmers took to precision farming after an exposure visit-cum-training in Madurai, where it had proved its success. The precision technique was less labour-intensive in terms of crop protection techniques, he said. 

K. S. Senthilkumar, senior manager, EID Parry (India), said the sugar factoryencouraged precision farming in sugarcane. A special subsidy of Rs. 6,000 a hectare was being released to cane-growers. He explained that uniform supply of fertilizer to the sugarcane and efficient nutrient management had gone a long way in avoiding wastage of fertilizer and water. The sugar factory had started its special crushing season on July 31.

M. Vairamuthu, deputy manager, EID Parry (India), explained the steps taken to expose farmers to the advantages of precision farming.

Mr. Sivakumar said two clusters had been formed for  successive seasons. The Maramadakki Cluster for 2009-10 season had started on cultivation in Maramadakki, Tirunalur and Paravakottai villages.