SSI doubles sugarcane output

G. Sathyamoorthi
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A farmer at Pattalapettai adopts the method, reaps benefit

A PROFITABLE IDEA:A sugarcane farm at Pattalapettai under the sustainable sugarcane initiative method.— PHOTO: R.M. RAJARATHINAM
A PROFITABLE IDEA:A sugarcane farm at Pattalapettai under the sustainable sugarcane initiative method.— PHOTO: R.M. RAJARATHINAM

If the farm of I. Antony at Pattalapettai in Tiruverumbur block, raised under the Sustainable Sugarcane Initiative (SSI) method, were to prove inspirational and were to be replicated, the sugar mills in Tiruchi district could face a problem of plenty.

While Mr. Antony expects an yield of not less than 80 tonnes an acre as against the normal 40 to 45 tonnes, G. Anandhakumar, Deputy Manager, Cane, EID Parry (India) Ltd., one among the two companies entrusted with the task of propagating SSI in the district, predicts it could be even 100 tonnes.

Mr. Antony says he raised sugarcane on 10 acres of land five years ago under the conventional method. “I could get a maximum yield of 55 tonnes an acre then. Under the SSI, we use seedlings and drip irrigation which has brought down the requirement of water considerably. Besides, by resorting to machinery for various operations, the total expenditure on labour which used to be around Rs. 20,000 an acre has been reduced by half.

“”The normal cultivation cost is Rs. 40,000 an acre. This year I hope to get a profit of not less than Rs. 40,000,” says Mr. Antony.

He says he is indebted to the State government which has given him one time subsidy of Rs. 30,000 an acre.

Besides, the sugar mill offers Rs. 2,500 an acre as incentive if the yield is more than 40 tonnes an acre. He is very happy to point out that a number of his friends are visiting his field to study the growth of the crop. There is every possibility many of them might resort to SSI next season. “I am certain to go in for SSI once again,” he adds.

Mr. Anandhakumar points out that the main feature of the SSI is that raising nursery using single bud chips and transplanting young seedlings (25-30 days old). Besides, it envisages maintaining wider spacing in the main field, using subsurface drip fertigation and resorting to Integrated Nutrient Management and Integrated Pest Management mode of cultivation.

The entire district has been set a target of 140 hectares of land where SSI is to be propagated. Of that, his mill was allotted 80 hectares. “Unfortunately, all that we could achieve this year is about 10 hectares.”

The State government has earmarked 27 shade-nets where seedlings are produced.

Each shade-net costs Rs. 1 lakh, shared equally by the sugar mill and the State government.

He says the thumb rule is that the water required for irrigation of sugarcane in an acre under the conventional method will be sufficient for one hectare under drip irrigation. But the initial investment for drip irrigation works out to Rs. 50,000 an acre. Though there is a subsidy of Rs. 43,816 an acre, still this method is yet to become popular because this subsidy is given only to the small and marginal farmers (below five acres of holding) and they feel it to be too heavy for them.

With specific reference to Mr. Antony’s farm, Mr. Anandhakumar says the clumps have a minimum of 15 tillers each as against the normal five to six. All the cane is millable and the girth is also uniform. “That is why I am confident of 100 tonnes per acre here,” he says.

M.P. Ramasamy, an official of a private drip irrigation company, endorsing the view of Mr. Anandhakumar, says only those farmers capable of footing the bill initially and waiting for the subsidy to come a couple of months later opted for this. But once drip irrigation facility is laid, the companies give the farmers guarantee even for 10 years.

  • It uses surface drip fertigation

  • It saves considerable quantum of water

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