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No alternative crops feasible in delta, Central team told

A.V. Ragunathan
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Central team members inspecting the soil in one of the villages in Nagapattinam district on Sunday.
Central team members inspecting the soil in one of the villages in Nagapattinam district on Sunday.

The Central team that visited the tail-end delta region on Sunday was given a graphic account on “why alternative crops in the delta region are not feasible and what are the lurking dangers of resorting to direct sowing”.

Rm. Kathiresan, Dean, Faculty of Agriculture, Annamalai University, made this observation while giving a scientific overview on the present crop situation in the terminal areas of the delta region, including Kattumannaroil and Chidambaram blocks, to the team led by R. K. Gupta, Chief Engineer of the Central Water Commission, at Chidambaram.

Mr. Kathiresan pointed out that the delta region was a predominantly rice growing area because of the soil and climatic conditions.

The south-west monsoon during normal times provided suitable conditions for raising the 105-day-long kuruvai crop. Of the average rainfall of 1,500 mm a year received by the delta region, south-west monsoon contributed only about 250–300 mm of rain and north-east monsoon the major chunk of 1,100–1,200 mm of rain.

Therefore, the south-west monsoon period was an ideal season for the paddy crops to attain full growth as ample amount of sunshine would also be available for inducing photosynthesis for the formation of grains.

Mr. Kathiresan said the research conducted by his faculty had clearly established the fact that in the region only paddy crop could be raised with such traceable rainfall during the south-west monsoon and none other crops.

He said as the region was situated close to the sea, the sub-surface water salinity was high. Moreover, the clayey soil too was not conducive for raising any other crop during the season.

The Dean said that during the north-east monsoon, there would be sumptuous rainfall and this would greatly affect the standing crops due to water-logging. Therefore the south-west monsoon was the ideal season for the paddy crops in terms of productivity, and suggesting any alternative crops for the region was futile.

Mr. Kathiresan warned of a lurking danger in resorting to direct sowing. He said the undesired fallout of such a practice would be proliferation of the “weedy rice” in the farms.

The weedy rice was a wild relative of the cultivated rice (oryza sativa) that would flourish in the farms but would not bear any grains.

Since the weedy rice would consume all the nutrients and suppress the growth of the cultivated rice there would be drastic decline of up to 80 per cent in the yield level of the cultivated rice.

Traces of weedy rice had started appearing in the delta region and it did not augur well for the farming community. Therefore, to get rid of such a menace, the countries such as Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia had totally given up the practice of direct sowing.

Mr. Kathiresan decried the notion that the paddy farmers were indiscriminately using water. For transplantation standing water in the farm would be required.

It had another advantage too: for, the weedy rice would not germinate in standing water. Therefore, for getting unfailing paddy crops water management had become vital, Mr Kathiresan added.

P.V. Srividya writes:

NAGAPATTINAM: Dry PWD channels, parched fields, broadcast seeds and the wilted grass of the occasional germinated field greeted the team members.

In Anandhamangalam, farmers showed mud strewn with seeds that had failed to germinate due to absence of rains. The team visited directly-sown fields in Sellur, Erukattancherry, Kazhiyappanallur and Annanperumalkoil and mapping fields from Velankanni up to Kollidam.

Against the normal cultivable area of 35,000 hectares in the Nagapattinam district for kuruvai, the area covered this year was 13,318 ha. Normally, the coverage under samba is 1.02 lakh ha. However, only 36,408 ha have been brought under the crop. The expected production loss due to non-release of water was placed at 6.6 lakh metric tonnes, amounting to Rs.85.8 crore.

According to the figures of the Agricultural Department, about 1.39 lakh marginal farmers cultivate 55,598 hectares and over 27,759 small farmers cultivate 38,789 hectares. The department has placed the district’s water requirement for samba at 38.40 TMC from October 1 to second week of February.


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