Andhra Pradesh

Micro-irrigation to farmers’ rescue in parched Prakasam

Cost-effective methods have helped many reduce input cost by one third

Cutting costs is the mantra for 30-year-old chilli grower Ramesh Babu from Uppumaguluru village in Prakasam district to expect decent returns under drought prevailing in the district for the fifth consecutive year.

To achieve this, Mr. Babu has adopted the Israeli micro-irrigation technology to ensure that water and manure reaches roots of plants through a network of pipes.

Moreover, as many importers across the world reject produce with pesticide residue, the organic farmer has switched to water soluble cow dung-based manure - Gana Jeevamrutham - and begun laying mulching paper, which helps to maintain natural soil-building process as in forests, to ward off weed and pest.

“Earlier, I used to spend up to ₹1.50 lakh per acre to maximise productivity and struggle to make profits. Now, the input cost has come down to just ₹50,000 per acre thanks to savings on buying fertilizers, pesticides and weeding process,” he says, while overseeing plucking of chillies by labourers at a field in the village, near Ballikurava, 60 km from here.

Inspired by Mr. Babu and others who’ve used similar methods, many have taken up the methods which include the use of pheromone traps to stave off pest attacks.

The change in the attitude of farmers came about after the bad experience of 2017 when some were forced to leave their crop to wither away in fields just after a couple of plucking rounds as prices plummeted to less ₹5,000 per quintal, says Ramakoteswaramma, a farmer.

Mr. Babu, who has grown chilli in 1.15 acre of his five acre land to get a yield of 30 quintals this time, says, “Now, I am able to irrigate five acres of land with the quantity of water I used to use for irrigating an acre.”

Traders come to fields

But for the prolonged dry spell in the region, the yield could have touched the 40 quintal mark, he says, as traders vie at the field to buy the Teja variety paying a price of ₹10,000 per quintal.

This means he isn’t travelling to Guntur this time to sell his produce. “I could have got ₹1,000 more per quintal at the Guntur market. But I wanted to avoid the trouble of travelling there,” he says.

With a better price on offer, farmers hope to earn a profit despite a relative fall in productivity, adds S.Subba Rao, another farmer, who uses micro-irrigation to cultivate chilli.

“We have realised we cannot farm without adopting methods to save water and fertilizers,” adds Adusumalli Mallaiah, a farmer.

This year, acreage under chilli cultivation has fallen to 30,300 hectares in the district as against 57,000 hectares last year and 46,000 hectares in 2017 in view of the continuing drought, according to Horticulture Assistant Director M.Hariprasad.

Average productivity

The average productivity was 3.50 to four tonnes per hectare this year as against six tonnes last year and 3.5 to four tonnes in 2017. Gemini virus infestation has hit productivity.

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 6:12:30 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/micro-irrigation-to-farmers-rescue-in-parched-prakasam/article26460931.ece

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