Lessons in integrated farming

Lessons in integrated farming
Organic cultivation was not a choice for us, but a compulsion.” Brothers Veerappa and Rudrappa, from Vithalapura village in Tarikere taluk, who are now well known as organic farmers, share the circumstances that led them to achieve success in organic farming. “We were not financially sound and could not afford to buy chemical inputs.”

Veerappa and Rudrappa took to farming at a very early age due the untimely demise of their father. They had to cross many hurdles and even work at others’ farms to understand the basics of farming. Compulsion turned into a passion as organic movement picked up in the State.  They visited many organic farmers including Dummalli Shivamma and D R Prafullachandra. Such exposure visits helped them get a clear picture of the intricacies of organic farming. In the process, they realised that soil nourishment is key to healthy crops.

To ensure proper soil nutrition, they set up vermicomposting and biodigester units. They have raised about 12 cows of different native breeds like Gir, Kankrej, Hallikar, Amrutamahal and Malenad Gidda. Congo signal grass, grown on the bunds of the farm, is fed to the cattle. This grass variety, which grows even on infertile soil and doesn’t need water or manure, meets a major portion of the fodder requirement. They also feed nutritious food made or mixed at home to the cattle. Ajola, grown in ponds in the farm also serves as fodder to the cattle.  Two Gir cows yield 10 litres of milk.

When Veerappa and Rudrappa realised that the production cost crosses the income generated by selling milk, they decided to make ghee. It has proved effective, and now they sell ghee at Rs 1,500 per kg. Cow urine is used in the preparation of biopesticide. Cow dung is used in gobargas, biodigester and vermicompost units.

The water level in the farm is very low and a borewell is the sole source of water. Though drip irrigation is followed to supply water, they have realised that the system is not of much help in the rocky terrain of the farm. Still, they are able to maintain the moisture with the help of water harvesting structures like bunds and trenches.

They grow a major portion of the household needs — from vegetables to fruits, grains and pulses — in the farm. Thus, along with areca nut, cocoa, coconut, banana, pepper and nutmeg they also cultivate fruit crops, grains and pulses. Forest species like teak, bamboo and hebbevu add to the biodiversity of the farm. The annual income from the farm is about
Rs 12 lakh.

Multiple cropping and integrated farming methods have helped them reap rich benefits with minimum investment. For example, nutmeg, cocoa and pepper are grown in the arecanut patch. Through their efforts and experiments, Veerappa and Rudrappa have realised that the secret of a successful farm reflects in the health of the soil, which gradually leads to good yield.

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