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Kalaiselvan – Making the most of mixed cropping system

Kalaiselvan on his farm

Mr. Kalaiselvan is a young and enthusiastic farmer who hails from Kovil Veerakudi of Pudukkottai district in Tamil Nadu.  Like many other places across the country, Kovil Veerakudi, has been experiencing the impact of severe drought for the last 5 years. Kalaiselvan owns 7 acres of farmland and cultivates crops like paddy, groundnut, cotton and millets. Being interested in organic ways of cultivation, Kalaiselvan participated in the Farmers Field Schools organized by Kudumbam, a local voluntary organization working with resource poor farmers and involved in promoting bio-diversity based ecological agriculture alternatives.  He switched over to organic cultivation of paddy.

After five years he realized that even with organic ways of cultivation, his expenses on crop cultivation had not reduced while the well which is his only water source was getting depleted of water. This made him to realize the need for a change in his crop cultivation methods and decided to do an experiment with mixed system of crop cultivation with the available water resources.  He took a portion of 75 cents of his field for his experiment with mixed cropping system. He took groundnut as major crop and intercropped with pulses like red gram, cowpea, mung dal. In order to effectively use the irrigation water, he planted onion crop on the irrigation bunds and similarly planted sesame on the main field bunds.  After second weeding and earthening for groundnut, he planted cotton seeds and during the harvest of groundnut he grew short term greens.

With mixed cropping, Kalaiselvan reaped diverse crops – 8 bags of groundnut, 40 kgs of black gram, 10 kgs of mung dal, 10 kgs of cowpea and 50 kgs of onion. With value addition, he could get groundnut oil and sesame oil, sufficient for family consumption. By this mixed cropping system, he was able to get sustained crop harvest continuously for 6-8 months at different intervals meeting food and nutritional needs of the family.

The surplus sold in the market yielded a net income of around Rs. 59,700 from 75 cents. This was way ahead than the net profit of Rs.7315, received from 40 cents of paddy mono cropping. Also, mixed cropping reduced weed and pest infestation to a large extent.

The biggest gain in the mixed cropping system is the water saving in irrigation. Crops were now being irrigated once in 15 days while mono cropping system with paddy required irrigation once in 4 days.  Above all, mixed cropping became the best climate resilient option with some crop harvests being assured in the event of other crop failures.

Many farmers are getting inspired by seeing these developments and willing to adapt his approach to farming. Around 30 farmers in the village are now trained and have allotted a small portion of their land towards mixed cropping method.  Many print and visual media covered his experience on mixed cropping system. He was also invited to an International Seminar on Global Warming and its impact on Women and Environment, to share his experience on mixed cropping methods and how it helped in strengthening agro ecology from a farmer’s perspective.

Kalaiselvan’s approach towards farming has always been different. He is innovative and is constantly engaged in searching for alternatives, attempting innovative experiments on his field to study and understand the nature and climate variations. He strongly believes that farming is the only profession which will give livelihood security to farmers in rural areas.

Mr. Kalaiselvan can be contacted at No. 75, West Street, Kovilveerakudi, Andakulam Post, Kulathur taluk, Pudukkottai district, Tamil Nadu. Ph: 097513-25207

The article was compiled in conversation with the farmer by Mr. Suresh Kanna, who can be contacted at sureshkanna_kudumbam@yahoo.in