: Delta farmers, who have been facing uncertainty year after year over the Cauvery waters, should change their cropping pattern during the non-paddy season to save themselves, feel experts.

Kapisthalam R.Ramanathan, who has been in this field for almost five decades, admits that with more than 75 per cent of the total area in the delta being wetlands and substantial flows in the Cauvery since June followed by the north east monsoon, paddy is the only crop possible beyond June.

Mr.Ramanathan, considered a pioneer in changing crop pattern, is confident that farmers could thrive if they were to switch over to crops like black gram, green gram, cotton, soyabeans, cholam, cumbu, and ragi between January 15 and June as there would be sunshine.

Besides, there is no possibility of any flooding and the land condition would also be ideal.

If there is some ground water, one can easily raise pulses, millets and cotton, as “minimum guarantee crops.”

D.Subramanian, Area Manager, Indian Farmers’ Fertilizer Co-operative Federation (IFFCO), observes “gone are the days when farmers could be dependent on just one crop. It is imperative to change the cropping pattern if they have to survive,” he adds. It is because of progressive farmers like Mr.Ramanathan, cotton, soybeans and sugarcane became popular in areas like Kumbakonam, Mayiladuthurai, Seerkazhi, Papanasan, Thiruvarur, Nannailam, and Thiruthuraipoondi.

The sugarcane area had expanded so much, that from just one sugar mill in the region, it has increased to four, he adds. Thus the total sugarcane area has exceeded 60,000 acres in the region because each mill requires a minimum of 15,000 acres of sugarcane. Mr.Ramanathan suggests raising a “relay crop” of black gram for about 65 days from January 15 “if your paddy is ready for harvest in the next 10 days.”

“An acre of black gram could fetch between Rs.5,000 and Rs.8,000 as against the cultivation cost of about Rs 1,000 as it would yield about 200 kg.” But, if one were to choose 85-day black gram crop around April 15 like ADT-5, it can yield even one tonne and fetch at least Rs.44,000 against the cultivation of cost of Rs 10,000 - Rs 12,000. “But this involves a lot of work including weeding and applying fertilisers apart from tilling.”

Mr.Subrmanian says in areas where there is ground water, two varieties of cotton, soyabean and red gram are also quite possible.” Cotton can fetch Rs 20,000 in just five months.” Mr.Ramanathan asserts that both for black gram and cotton, just wetland would do with minimum water. But, if it rains heavily as during the North East monsoon, the entire black gram would be lost.

One can go in for green gram which can fetch Rs.7,000 per acre against the cultivation cost of Rs.2,000. But if the crop were to suffer due to heavy rains, this could become a rich manure as it is a leguminous crop.

According to him, most of the people are labouring under the misconception that paddy is the saviour of farmers. While it does ensure food security, the break-even comes only when the yield is one tonne per acre. On an average it yields just 1.5 - 2 tonnes per acre and thus the profit is just Rs.12,000 for the “strain and uncertainty of six months.”

Hence, he counsels farmers to change their cropping pattern and go in for other crops between the middle of January and June so that they need not face the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune in the form of Mettur release. With Kuruvai crop gradually becoming a thing of the past, “the samba paddy itself could become a bonus crop if farmers were to change their mindset,” he observes.

Farmers urged to switch over to crops like black gram, green gram, cotton and soyabeans

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