Plan to promote micro irrigation

G.V. Ramana Rao

VIJAYAWADA: New ways of using micro irrigation are giving a fillip to tillers of the soil. Farmers of all crops are looking to micro irrigation to earn better returns and make agriculture a profitable enterprise. Sugarcane growers are trying to increase the sugar recovery percentage. The fruit and vegetable growers are trying to reduce cost of cultivation to increase returns. Paddy farmers are toying with the idea of boosting production using sprinklers and drip irrigation systems.

Good response

The Horticulture Department has set for itself a target of introducing micro-irrigation in 4,800 hectares under the Andhra Pradesh Micro Irrigation Project (APMIP) in 2005-06.

Deputy Director of Horticulture (AEZ) R. Vidyabhushan says that 470 farmers have installed drip irrigation systems to irrigate a variety of crops in 812.49 hectares and 275 farmers have installed sprinkler systems to irrigate 695 hectares.

Drip and sprinkler irrigation works out to be cheaper is in the long run than traditional irrigation. But for the initial investment of Rs. 33,000 per acre to install the micro irrigation systems, the farmer can save on water, power and other inputs like fertilisers.

Under the APMIP, the Government is giving farmers 60 per cent subsidy on the cost of installing micro irrigation systems in their farms. For the remaining 40 per cent, they can take a loan.

The Horticulture Department has convinced managements of sugar factories to play the role of banks and extend 40 per cent of the cost for the benefit of sugarcane growers. KCP and Delta Sugars are ready to fund the sugarcane growers and recover the same from the additional income generated by the growers. Highly beneficial

"A 0.5 per cent increase in sugar recovery will increase the revenue of the factory by Rs. 40-50 crores per season," says Mr Vidyabhushan. The SC and ST finance corporations are also eager to release as a grant 40 per cent of the cost so that their beneficiaries can avail subsidy.

At least 3,000 gallons of water is required per hour to irrigate an acre of sugarcane using traditional irrigation methods and 2,500 gallons are required to irrigate an acre of paddy. Six to eight acres can be irrigated with same amount of water using micro irrigation.

A man of ideas, Mr. Vidyabhushan says paddy productivity can be increased manifold by combining drip irrigation and SRI cultivation. "It is possible to get a yield of 130 bags per acre," he says. This is, however, in the theoretical stage and has not been put into practice anywhere.

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