Wheat a viable alternative in Theni

THENI, MARCH. 3. Wheat has become a viable alternative to the highly water-consuming paddy in Theni district, particularly in the Cumbum valley.

The adoptive trial field meant for hybrid wheat, developed by a woman farmer, S. Gunamani, at Kamayakoundenpatti, under the guidance of Agriculture department, holds out hope for farmers in the dry belts.

Earlier, wheat was cultivated in the Udhagamandalam, Coimbatore and Namakkal areas.

Water shortage in the Cumbum valley, owing to poor storage in the Periyar reservoir, and an ideal soil and climatic condition tempted Agriculture officials to try cultivation of wheat.

Gunamani converted her grape field into an adoptive trial field for wheat in November 4 last. She sowed pest-free and disease-free hybrid varieties of HW-3094 and HW-3070, developed by the Indian Agricultural Research Station at Udhagamandalam. Now, the crop is in the harvest stage and the grains are big. Harvesting would take place in the next 10 days, she said.

The Deputy Director of Agriculture, P.P.R. Jeevanandham, said on an average, a 90-day-old yield would be 2.5-five tonnes per hectare. Suitable climate, a perfect soil condition and conducive environment were ideal for cultivating wheat. The high ridge of the valley is an added advantage. Water consumption was less when compared to other wet crops. While paddy required 1,500 mm of water, wheat required only 300 mm. Irrigation in five stages, including sowing, heading and hardening, would be enough. Moreover, water logging was not necessary. A direct sowing system and non-transplantation were the other advantages of the crop. Besides, the environment would not be affected.

Though the yield was slightly less than that of paddy, farmers would get a better price for wheat. Sowing must commence in November 1 or 2 and any delay in sowing would certainly affect the yield as harvesting must be completed by January-end. Excessive heat during summer would reduce the yield sizably.

To popularise the profit-making crop, the Joint Director of Agriculture, N. Krishnaswamy Pillai, said the Agriculture department organised a farm festival in the village last week and brought 100 self-help group members for a field demonstration. He suggested cautious expansion for sustainable crop development.

The Assistant Director of Agriculture, Periakaruppan, and the Agriculture Officers, Rajaram and Sankaran, inspected the field and recorded the growth of the crop.