Agriculture

Planting trees can help farmers tide over financial loss

Thangasamy in his nursery at Pudukkottai. Photo: Special Arrangement

Thangasamy in his nursery at Pudukkottai. Photo: Special Arrangement  

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For the last 25 years government farms are running at a loss

Answering the phone with a “hello” is a practice for most people, but not for Mr. Thangasamy.

He prefers to respond with ‘maram’ (tree in tamil) while taking a phone call. The person’s interest in tree growing is so avid that many people and organizations call him “Maram Thangasamy.”

Along the Pudukottai-Tiruchi highway, the numerous well grown trees owe their existence to this man who dedicatedly planted the saplings. “It was a sort of penance for me. It is a duty for me towards conserving and protecting my living abode,” he says with childlike enthusiasm.

Agriculture and nature must be in a harmony; otherwise it can cause negative effects on farm resources, seems to be his view.

Turning point

It all started with planting 100 teak tree seedlings many years back. Their excellent growth encouraged him to plant mango, cashew, tamarind, neem, sandal, rose wood, red sandal, amla, mahogany etc.

Within 5 years, his farm turned into a thick forest. At present the farmer grows more than 150 species of trees on his 12 acres.

Small plastic tubs filled with water are placed in many places in the farm so that birds can drink from them. The birds serve two purposes. One, they prey on the insects and leave their droppings (along with some seeds) on the soil.

Sometimes a new seedling grows from the droppings. Thus, it contributes to the establishment of new tree species in the farm and increases tree diversity.

“Compared to what the birds have contributed, what I may have planted all these years is very little,” he grins.

He owns another 13-acre farm, where he cultivates a wide range of food crops for his family needs and the surplus for the market.

Crop rotation

He has not faced any major pest problem during the last ten years of organic farming of paddy. The crop rotation pattern followed, reduces weed growth considerably.

He feels that weeds come up only if the fields are ploughed. If left unploughed, the growth of weeds is very low and workload gets reduced.

He feels that it is difficult to practise organic farming without cattle and hence he keeps cattle, sheep, turkeys, ducks and chickens. Fodder for the cattle and sheep is grown on the farm itself.

Different varieties

Coconut is cultivated along with banana, guava, pomegranate and gourds so that income is generated from three months onwards from gourds, one to four years later from guava, banana and pomegranate and five years onwards from coconut.

He plants trees in long pits of three feet depth and three feet breadth. Crop waste and other plant materials are filled in these pits. When the rains come, not a drop runs off from the pits, thanks to the composting material.

It also prevents water evaporation from the soil by minimizing direct exposure to the sun. Further, this method enriches the soil as micro-organisms proliferate in these conditions and erosion of soil is prevented.

Before the changeover to organic farming, Thangasamy’s paddy yield was only 1,300 kg per acre. Now he gets 1,800 kg per acre. But he cultivates only for his family consumption and not for the market.

When both farms are taken into account, his annual income is enough to meet expenses. Fluctuations in income and occasional losses from agricultural crops can only be offset by income from tree crops like teak, rosewood, etc., which he considers a great wealth that he is accumulating for future generations.

Seed farms

At present, there are more than 100 seed farms and nursery farms under the maintenance of Tamil Nadu Agriculture and Horticulture Department.

According to him for the last 25 years, these farms are running at a loss. If the losses are calculated they will run to more than Rs. 25 crore. If the government farms continue to run at a loss, no farmer will come forward to plant trees.

“Government should discourage the cultivation of monoculture trees like mango, coconut etc. Considering the drought situation, the State should properly guide the farmers on which trees they should cultivate according to the changing climate conditions.

“It should allow the farmers to cultivate high money value trees like sandal and give proper instructions to the village administrative officers to register them in the record,” says Thangasamy.

Interested readers can contact Maram Thangasamy at Senthankudi village, Nagaram post, Alangudi Taluk of Pudukkottai District, Tamil Nadu, mobile: 097866 04177.

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2019 7:52:02 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/agriculture/planting-trees-can-help-farmers-tide-over-financial-loss/article3862750.ece

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