G.K. Nair

Kochi, April 9

Integrated farming is emerging as a viable proposition for farmers in Kerala, given its geographical and weather conditions, as can be inferred from the experience of a successful farmer in Wayanad.

Dairy farming is vital for integrated farming, says Mr K.V. Divakaran, a farmer in a village near Kalpetta. He is engaged in cultivation of coffee, pepper, cardamom, areca, coconut, vegetable, paddy, banana and fodder under organic farming practice.

“I’m engaged integrated homestead farming,” Mr Divakaran, formerly an officer with the Central Warehousing Corporation, told Business Line. He makes use of organic manure generated through composting.

Vermiwash from vermi-compost is diluted and sprayed and cow urine is used as a pesticide. A unique combination of pesticide developed using turmeric, panchagavyam and traditional plants are used, which has been found to be effective in paddy.

He takes a yield of two tonnes of paddy from 60 cents and “it is enough for the family for a year.” The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) introduced by the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) branch in Wayanad has contributed significantly to paddy cultivation. It has helped reduce the cost of seeds, apart from raising the yield per hectare.

According to Mr Divakaran, vegetable cultivation throughout the year is possible in Wayanad under poly-houses. Four poly-houses in each Panchayat can meet the requirement of the population. He has set up a bio-gas plant near the cattle shed. Small dairy farms could supplement the income of the farmers apart from providing them with organic manure and pesticide and biogas.

Mr Divakaran felt that the breeding policy of the state government was not farmer friendly. Through better and scientific calf management methods, the calves would grow healthy to be ready for impregnation in 24 months.

“In fact, there isn’t any calf feeding formula here,” he said adding, he “has developed a formula of his own that has so far proved to be successful.”

Kerala does not produce enough milk to meet its daily demand and, therefore, has to depend on supplies from other states. Whereas it could achieve self-sufficiency in milk production, provided proper policies aimed at supporting the farmers are introduced and implemented effectively.

Fodder cultivation also has to be promoted and encouraged with proper support. Dairy farming will help a lot in cultivation of paddy by providing enough organic manure and pesticides, he said.

Rotation of crops would be an added advantage. After harvesting the paddy farmers could take up cultivation of minor millets and pulses some of which would help in nitrogen fixing in the soil. Following harvesting the waste would help in biomass development in the fields, he said.

Integrated farming would, however, become fully successful only when the government is ready to extend full and timely support to the farmers with credits, seeds, technology, irrigation, power supply, value addition and marketing facilities etc, he said.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated April 10, 2009)
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