Package of Practices to explore improved farming amid extreme weather in Kerala

A view of a waterlogged paddy field at Mankombu in Kuttanad in November.   | Photo Credit: Suresh Alleppey

From Kuttanad to Wayanad, renowned rice barns of the State are under stress. Prolonged spells of heavy rain have caused unprecedented loss to farmers. While these extreme weather conditions threaten farmers’ sources of income, they also pose a grave threat to production of food items such as vegetables and fruits, which can plunge the entire State into crisis.

A community of scientists, researchers and stakeholders will meet online for three days from Wednesday to discuss a new package of practices over the next five years to fortify agriculture in Kerala. The Package of Practices is considered the Bible of farming in the State and recommends a slew of measures, from fertilizer application to pest management, for the farmers as well as field-level officers. It is revised every five years.

New technologies

Kerala Agriculture University sources said climate change might not figure prominently in the discussions, while new technologies and findings would be discussed for approval. The discussions will prominently feature the experience and findings of farmers, scientists and researchers over the last years.

Ever since the epic floods of August 2018, rice farming has drastically changed, says K. K. Renil Kumar of Kuttanad, a rice farmer. He said the situation is such that farmers are mostly considering leaving their fields altogether.

He said that support price was not enough to sustain the farmers because with support price going up, the cost of labour inputs, such as fertilizers, goes up, leaving the farmer with little choice.

Veteran pineapple farmer Baby John from Muvattupuzha says that soil acidity would have increased with heavy rain washing away entire tracts of pineapple fields. The new Package of Practices should consider the current situation in which extreme weather conditions have affected productivity and long-term sustainability, he added.

Loss of farming days

Philip Chacko, who is engaged in vegetable farming at Kanjikuzhi in Alappuzha and in Palakkad district, says the extreme weather conditions had resulted in loss of farming days. The losses have resulted from both flooding of fields as well as reduction in the number of farming days, especially during summer. Floods washed away entire fields and continuous rains compound the negative effects on crops, he said, adding that harvests had come down to about 20% of the normal levels after the rain set in early this year.

A senior KAU scientist said that farmers, both in Kuttanad and Wayanad, had experienced the bitter effects of the weather conditions. Heavy rain had affected rice production in these centres, and the effects of shifting weather conditions are obvious, the scientist said.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2022 5:48:34 AM |

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