BENGALURU: Venkat Reddy, a farmer in Sidlaghatta, a district in Karnataka known for its high silk production, has been into sericulture for almost 35 years now. Sericulture has been a family tradition for him which started with his great-grandparents and continues to date. His children also practice it. “My children completed their graduation but they still prefer this industry,” he says.
Farming for silk is not as easy as it seems. Farmers depend on many factors such as weather conditions, area of the land to cultivate mulberry plants and rear around 10,000 silkworms in one-acre of land, for better yield.
The silkworms are grown in a large round shaped mountage made from bamboo. It is used for feeding mulberry leaves and harvesting the cocoons. It takes around three weeks before they are developed and sent to reelers to extract silk.
A meticulous process
The newly hatched baby silkworms are ordered from centres in Chikkaballapur which are delivered to the farmers. Interestingly, these worms grow based on the amount of food they eat. Since the baby silkworms can barely eat and only nibble on their food, the worms usually become weak after three days of feeding. Only the silkworms that remain healthy after the third round of shedding are chosen for further processing. The weak ones, that usually drop off the bamboo ring on its own, are thrown away.
“It is a loss at times especially when about 25 of 100 silkworms become weak and are thrown away. But during rainy seasons, we get 100 per cent profit.” says 73-year-old Venkat.
Mulberry plants require a good amount of water to keep the silkworms healthy. But with the city facing water shortage, it is more likely that these crops get dried up. When asked about the challenges faced while rearing, he jokingly says, “cleaning and painting the room.”