Hit by drought, Tamil Nadu farmers turn to technology for saving crops

Farmers in Tiruchy district emerge strong from the past drought experience, employ micro irrigation methods.

Published: 29th April 2017 04:50 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th April 2017 04:50 AM   |  A+A-

Micro-irrigation technique for bountiful harvest.

Express News Service

TIRUCHY: Pushed to the brink by the unprecedented drought brought about by monsoon failure and the neighbouring State’s refusal to release Cauvery water, farmers in Tiruchy are increasingly turning to technology as panacea for their predicament.

Of late, farmers have been making a beeline to the Agriculture department seeking subsidy for micro irrigation systems. Official data shows three-fold increase in the number of farmers employing micro-irrigation techniques in just a year, underscoring the need for judicious use of available water through alternative systems.

In 2015-16, only 300-350 farmers applied for subsidy under the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) for micro-irrigation systems. A year on, the number rose sharply to 1,257 in 2016-17. Officials from the Agriculture department link the spurt to the drought that has gripped the State.

According to the Tamil Nadu Horticulture Development Agency (TANHODA), subsidy is given for growing horticulture crops like vegetables including potato and onion, and non-horticulture crops such as cereals and pulses, based on the area of cultivation.

“The cost of devices ranges between Rs 31,000 to a few lakhs depending upon the acreage. Those having up to 5 acres are classified as Small and Marginal farmers and provided full subsidy for installing micro-irrigation systems such as drip or sprinkler units. Large-scale farmers are also included in this scheme, and given 75 per cent subsidy,” R Mohankumar, Assistant Director of Agriculture told Express.

Selected farmers will be offered a choice of 34 government approved companies to choose their equipment from.

Officials, however, point out that  a majority of farmers employ micro irrigation techniques, despite the subsidy, only as the last resort.  

“February and March saw maximum enrollment of farmers for subsidy. Drip and sprinkler irrigation systems are thought of only during drought and as a last recourse,” an official said.

The success stories of farmers who reaped benefits of employing micro irrigation techniques are inspiring scores to adopt the same. Such was the reception that farmers who installed the drip and sprinkler system to irrigate horticulture crops are now extending its usage to non-horticulture crops by making minor modifications, officials added.

Speaking to Express, M Peter James, a black gram farmer from Manickapuram village near Manachanallur, said, “Prior to installing a sprinkler unit in my 4.5 acres of black gram and lady’s finger fields, I had to operate the borewell for nearly 4 hours a day per wetting. With sprinklers in place, the running time of borewells has come down to 1 hour per wetting. ”

Drip irrigation for paddy

Tiruchy-based Anbil Dharmalingam Agriculture College and Research Institute, in September 2016, cultivated multiple varieties of paddy using drip irrigation on experimental basis at Manikandam  where the soil is alkali (less permeable, saline)  and ground water saline. It turned out to be a success and harvest was done in January 2017. Paddy varieties such as ADT36 and TRY2 were found to viable for drip irrigation.

Maintenance of the system is also very important. Agriculture department officials urge farmers to carry out routine maintenance.

In the case of saline water, accumulation of salty substance in drip nozzles have to be regularly cleaned for better results, they say.

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