Society

From the soil, for the soil: Padma Shri awardee Chintala Venkat Reddy

Son of the soil The vineyard in Keesara, Chintala Venkat Reddy examines a bunch of grapes, wheat in the milk seed stage By arrangement By arrangement

Son of the soil The vineyard in Keesara, Chintala Venkat Reddy examines a bunch of grapes, wheat in the milk seed stage By arrangement By arrangement  

Padma Shri awardee Chintala Venkat Reddy draws upon his experience to find indigenous solutions to soil problems and shares it zealously with farmers

It is sunny in Hyderabad. Yet the breeze on your skin feels a few degrees cooler than in other parts of the city. Standing in a grape farm in Keesara, all I could wish for was a hammock and some wine; nothing that would disturb the peace and silence. Chintala Venkat Reddy, the owner of the grape farm spread over several acres and a Padma Shri awardee this year for his natural innovation techniques in farming, says, “Come in March and pluck grapes; you will witness grape harvesting.”

Born into a farmer’s family in Alwal, Secunderabad, Chintala Venkat Reddy, or CVR as he is fondly addressed in the farmer community, always knew he would take up farming after completing his studies. Even as a child, he had been inquisitive about farming, he recollects.

He is thrilled to have received the honour of course, but his excitement knows no bounds when he gets an opportunity to discuss his theories on farming. “Padma Shri award has come now, but I get awards every day in the form of messages from farmers who share their success stories after using my ideas and methods of farming. I have close to 35 farmer groups from across the country where farmers discuss and share their queries with me,” he smiles.

His theories appeal to farmers because his premise is ‘the solution of the soil is from the soil’. The 69-year-old farmer elaborates. “Don’t we all know when there is a problem in a domestic set up, the solution lies in the family itself? Similarly, when the yield from the soil is not satisfactory, it is the soil that has a problem, so that has the solution as well. Over the years, farmers fell prey to the use and subsequent overuse of pesticides in the hope of increasing crop yield, reducing crop damage by pests etc. I always say ‘look for the solution within’. That is what I did, of course, after falling prey to modern methods and failing miserably. When we introduce foreign agents to our crop in the form of chemicals, we are not just harming the environment, eventually, we also consume all those chemicals.”

Chintala Venkat Reddy at his vineyard in Keesara, the wheat cultivation with

Chintala Venkat Reddy at his vineyard in Keesara, the wheat cultivation with  

Though his followers fondly address him as a ‘scientist’ on Whatsapp, CVR insists he is only a farmer. “I am a farmer, so I must know the soil and learn from my surroundings. Have you ever wondered why we get the distinct fragrance of earth only during the first spell of rain? I believe it is because the soil takes nutrients from the sun and the environment, and the rainwater acts as the final ingredient to make the soil richer,” he smiles.

Methods and techniques

After successfully experimenting with his methods and technique by growing wheat, paddy, maize, sugarcane, vegetables, and other variety of seeds, CVR became the key contributor to the National Seed Corporation (NSC) for almost 10 years.

What makes CVR’s methods unique is the intelligent combination of modern and indigenous practices that were born from his own ideas and experiences.

Citing an example of one of his experiments, CVR says “Insects attack plants, fruits and flowers because they can prey on them. Have we ever heard of insects attacking roots? Rarely. Also consider this: as children we ate mud. Animals too lick soil, but all of it is excreted from the body. That means there is a mechanism in our body that takes care of soil/mud when ingested. That mechanism is the liver and lungs to expel dust that we may inhale. So I turned to Google on my smartphone to see whether insects have a liver. Turns out that they don’t! From then I experimented by spraying light muddy water (made by mixing subsoil with water) on my plants. In two days, the insects died and my grape plants showed considerable growth. After I was convinced about my finding, I used it on other crops with equally good results.”

HYDERABAD, 25/02/2008: Chintala Venkat Reddy, a commercial cultivator resting under his vineyard in Alwal. He created a record by allowing weeds to grow all over the cropped area to increase productivity. He resorted to the age old practice of crop diversification. Photo: Mohammed Yousuf

HYDERABAD, 25/02/2008: Chintala Venkat Reddy, a commercial cultivator resting under his vineyard in Alwal. He created a record by allowing weeds to grow all over the cropped area to increase productivity. He resorted to the age old practice of crop diversification. Photo: Mohammed Yousuf   | Photo Credit: Mohammed_YOUSUF

Apart from spraying the muddy water, the organic farmer also sets aside the topsoil to dry in sunlight, and gradually transferred to the soil of other crops periodically, to replenish it. “I was the one to introduce drip irrigation, organic practices in growing grapes, soil and leaf petiole analysis-based nutrition, late pruning techniques and weather-based disease and pest management in grapes production,” he adds.

Now, many grape growers follow his advice to tackle diseases, pest attacks and for better management of soil health, pruning, training young grape plants etc.

CVR has many patents under his name; he has now applied for a patent on a technology that can naturally boost Vitamin D in rice and wheat. Giving me a tour of his wheat farm, CVR shows the crops that are in the milk seed state. “These are all naturally enriched with Vitamin D. If farmers can adopt my technology imagine how the future generations will benefit, without depending on Vit D medicines and fortified foods. After I get the patent, I will make it free for all to use, like all my other methods. I believe in sharing to help the country and farmers benefit.”

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Printable version | Apr 8, 2020 11:53:29 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/padma-shri-awardee-chintala-venkat-reddy-keesara/article30840873.ece

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