Kerala draws lesson from Subhash Palekar’s Andhra model farming

Aims to implement eco-friendly cultivation in 84,000 ha in phases | It uses organic manure, chemical-free pesticides | Those who adopted it vouch for its benefits 
Rajashekaran Pillai’s farm in Alappuzha where the AP model was adopted
Rajashekaran Pillai’s farm in Alappuzha where the AP model was adopted

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala has taken a leaf out of the chemical-free agricultural method promoted by Subhash Palekar, often referred as the father of zero-budget natural farming in Andhra Pradesh, to boost its production by rejuvenating the farmland and mitigate the impact of climate change, apart from reducing the dependence on chemical fertilisers and pesticides.

The project titled ‘Subhiksham Surakshitham -- Bharatiya Prakartik Krishi Padhathi’ (Kerala Agro Ecology Based Biodiversity Conservation) is now being implemented in around 25,000 hectares with assistance from the Central and state governments as part of promoting natural farming. Through the project, the state is aiming to implement fully eco-friendly cultivation in 84,000 ha in different phases. In the first phase, 22,000 ha was converted into natural farming land as part of the 100-day programme of the state government.

“The project involves shunning the chemical fertilisers and pesticides in the farm lands and promoting different locally produced manures and decoctions. As part of it, the farmers would be trained for the preparation and application of Jeevamrutham -- a mixture of fresh native cow dung and urine, jaggery, pulse flour, water and soil and other ingredients -- on farmland. This will increase the microbial presence in the soil and help microorganisms and earthworms to grow in the soil which, in turn, will increase fertility of the soil and nutrient content of the produce,” said Vijayasree S B, assistant director, organic farming cell of agriculture department.

Similarly, a mixture, Beejamrutham, using natural ingredients would be prepared to treat seeds, while various types of concoctions would be prepared for insect and pest management. It also promotes soil aeration, intercropping, minimal watering, and topsoil mulching apart from discouraging intensive irrigation and deep ploughing. As part of the project, the produce will be given PGS (Participatory Guarantee System) Green certification in the first year and on completion of three years of natural farming, PGS Organic certification will be given to the produce. The produce will be sold to the consumers through the chain of eco-shops in all villages, Horticorp outlets, urban state markets and supermarkets in the cities.

“The main attractions are reducing the cost of farming and creating an alternative farming system taking lessons from the traditional practices. This will reduce the impact of global warming, and increase soil fertility and nutritional values of agricultural produce. The abundant use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides is causing nutrient imbalances and even leading to fatal diseases, which would be addressed through this system. The impact of drought, cyclonic weather and overdependence on groundwater will also be reduced through this method,” said K Vasuki, agriculture director, who took the initiative to replicate the model in Kerala customising it to suit the requirements of local farmers. Fifty-five-year-old Mohanan of Kulathur in Thiruvananthapuram, who cultivates around 15 types of vegetables and paddy in 23 acres, says the yield in natural farming is very high as compared to chemical-based farming.

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