Diversity is key to success of this farmer couple

Diversity is key to success of this farmer couple

Meenakshi and Dhareppa Kittur in their farm.

Crop diversity, innovative cultivation and post-harvest methods have made farming a meaningful venture for Dhareppa Kittur and Meenakshi Kittur of Terdal village in Jamakhandi taluk of Bagalkot district. Their inclination towards innovation, eye for novelty, sustainable farming practices and diversified agri enterprises have made agriculture a meaningful experience for them.  

Agriculture, horticulture, sericulture, animal husbandry, apiculture, fisheries, hydroponics, their 18-acre farm is always abuzz with experiments. Some of the interesting cropping patterns they have include multiple crops, relay crops, annuals, biennials, perennials and the seasonal. “It is extremely difficult to make profits from agriculture if one relies on only one or two crops. Also, it is not about investing more in farming, but about cutting the production cost,” says Dhareppa.

Organic inputs

They prepare the compost in-situ and manage pests and diseases organically. Growing green manure and leguminous crops also helps improve soil fertility. Vermicomposting, jeevamruta and biodigester are some other methods to ensure productivity. Not depending on the market for fertilisers and other ingredients have reduced the production cost considerably. Instead of burning crop residue they convert it into organic manure. They believe that retaining organic matter is key to maintaining soil fertility and crop productivity. They also have a waste decomposer. They avoid using hybrids as these varieties necessitate buying of new seeds every time. They rear six buffaloes, four cows and a few goats, which besides providing milk are major sources of organic manure. 

As droughts are common in this region, the couple adopted water conservation measures such as bunding, rainwater harvesting, drip irrigation and farm pond. Also, organic matter in the soil enhances its water holding capacity.  These measures have also helped them improve the water levels in the borewells and the open well. Added to this, Dhareppa has made the provision for borewell recharging. In the farm pond, he rears Catla fish. They will keep the pond free of algae and bring subsidiary income in a span of six to eight months.

Meenakshi has conserved seeds of over a hundred heirloom varieties. She feels that one has to follow proper preservation techniques to ensure that the seeds remain intact. “For instance, seeds of brinjal and lady’s finger have to be smeared with wood ash, and most of the seeds have to be kept in warm places, away from humidity,’’ Meenakshi says. Many fellow farmers from the surrounding villages collect these native seeds from the Kitturs. 

Worth emulating

“Dhareppa is a dedicated organic farmer and has adopted integrated and systematic farming methods. I have been inspired by his success, particularly value-addition and direct marketing efforts. Many others also feel that the experiments and techniques are worth emulating,” says Sreekanth Kumbar, an organic farmer in Mugalkhod village in Bagalkot district. Farmers groups, agriculture scientists and other enthusiasts visit the farm regularly.

Interestingly, the Kittur couple play music while milking the cattle, and in the fields too. They claim that this has improved plant-health and enhanced milk production. They have even recorded an increase in the crop yield by 5-10%. Dhareppa has studied it systematically using control plots but agrees that science has to elucidate the actual mechanism responsible for the enhanced crop and milk productivity.  

While crop diversity in the farm keeps the pests under check, organic manure helps enhance the crop’s resistance against pests and diseases. They use biocontrol agents like Trichoderma and Pseudomonas; erect yellow sticky traps to attract sucking pests; periodically use neem oil and garlic-chilli decoction, and a special organic pesticide called dashaparni made from 10 different kinds of leaves to control pests and diseases.

The couple has developed a patch of land (two gunta) into a model farm with a unique crop combination. They have planted nine coconut, 30 areca nut, 30 coffee, sapota and a few custard apple plants besides 12 other tree species in the patch. The space between these trees is covered by a herb known as basmati, called so because it adds basmati flavour to normal rice when cooked together. Crops in this area contribute greatly to the nutritional security and income of the family. “Coffee powder from these 30 plants meets our annual requirement,” they say. That apart, they grow certain crops, mainly flowers, during the festive season. This year, they had grown chrysanthemum in a patch of land. 

While a company buys sugarcane at a slightly higher price, Dhareppa prepares jaggery from a part of the harvest. Value addition, which includes making products like turmeric powder and organic jaggery, and direct marketing are two other aspects that have helped them make profits. He also does minimal processing of other produce. Over the years, they have developed a strong customer base making it easy for them to market the produce. Srikantaprasad D, assistant professor at Arabhavi horticulture college appreciates the couple’s efforts to create awareness among the consumers.

Dhareppa, who was into business, developed an interest in organic farming and moved to the village a few decades ago. Looking back, he says there are no regrets, rather he is happy that he made a wise choice. Dhareppa and Meenakshi have shown that with proper use of resources, hard work and dedication, one can get a good income in farming. One can call them on 9916238273.

Harish B S

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