Farming has literally proved a ‘greener pasture’ for G. Venkatrama Raju, a former IAF employee, who has bagged ICAR award for diversified agriculture
TIRUPATI: He is as adept in wielding the plough as handling a gun. The proficiency and ingenuity of the ‘farm-savvy’ G. Venkatrama Raju of Railway Kodur mandal in Kadapa district has fetched him the N.G. Ranga Best Farmer Award from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) for diversified agriculture. He received the award from Minister for Agriculture Sharad Pawar at ICAR campus on July 16, thus becoming the only ex-airman to become an award-winning farmer.
Venkatrama Raju, who had taken part in the 1962 China war, 1965 Pakistan war and 1971 Bangladesh liberation war bagging five medals in his 15 years of service, chose agriculture as his next ‘battlefield’ after retirement from the Indian Air Force (IAF) in 1977. He has not just turned a farmer, but a progressive one at that by embracing the best technology of the time.
He holds the world record in growing banana by registering a mind-boggling yield of 52.8 tonnes per acre. He got the best farmer award from the State government in 2006 for growing 14.3 quintals of sunflower crop per acre. Also, he won the national-level first prize four times for growing mango with highest quality in terms of size, colour and sweetness.
It is not perhaps without reason that agriculture wizard M.S. Swaminathan, during his visit to Sri Venkateswara Veterinary University here in 2006, himself called Raju a ‘Three-in-one’ - Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan and Jai Vigyan, the third one referring to his love for technology. Venkatrama Raju met US president George Bush and presented him red bananas and a plough made of red sander wood, during the latter’s visit to Hyderabad in March 2006.
“Benishan (a local mango variety) was the talking point at the ICAR award function, as I presented to all the dignitaries mangoes weighing 1 kg each,” Venkatrama Raju told The Hindu, adding with a grin that the mammoth fruit was initially mistaken for a papaya.
Venkatrama Raju, who grows banana in 20 acres, sweet orange and mango in five acres each and vegetables in three acres, depends only on native cows. His pesticide is a mixture of cow dung and urine, cultured with jaggery and cereals, which he sprinkles on the land. By this, he vows to maintain soil fertility, avoid chemical residue getting into his produce and above all, preserve the environment.