Rice n shine the indi-genius way

VILLUPURAM: On a visit to Ayyur Agaram, a strikingly green village in Villupuram, what strikes you first is the abundance of fresh air. On one side is a row of small houses and narrow lanes, horns by the two-wheelers routinely breaking the hush. On the other side is a blanket of different hues of green to hold you spellbound. Grand Southern Trunk Road, NH-45, running through the village draws a line between the residents and their livelihood, quite literally!
Nestled on the banks of the Pampa River, this quaint village, with just over a population of 5,000 people, is intertwined with agriculture, or at least used to be K Murugan, who thrives in cultivating traditional paddy varieties, stands out. The recent downpour leaving his land inundated was a clarion call, according to him. “This is the future with climate change. Practising chemical-free farming will only save the planet,” he says, stressing the need for cultivating traditional crops. If all farmers cultivated traditional paddy varieties, it would act as a lifeline to future generations, he believes.

“Poonkar, Karuppugavuni, Mappillai Samba, Sornamayuri and Iluppu Samba are the five paddy varieties that I grow,” he says. It just seems like yesterday Murugan began organically growing vegetables and traditional paddy for his family. Almost three decades later, now, he has now ventured into organic cultivation and preserving traditional paddy seed varieties. In a five-acre land, he practices traditional cultivation sans chemical fertilisers.
“I was growing vegetables and rice to cater to my family and close kin. However, only in the recent five years, it occurred to me that I could cultivate them widely to share the traditional seeds and preserve them,” he says. He has been using cow dung, sesame powder, neem paste, nutmeg solution, etc. as compost. “These traditional rice varieties are rich in medicinal properties and are less susceptible to diseases.”
In Tamil Nadu, a few groups of farmers have been cultivating endangered traditional paddy varieties to safeguard the food culture and heritage of the State. Murugan has been cultivating organic paddy commercially for the past three years.
“If you ask me — yield or preserving the crops for the future? I would choose to preserve the crops,” Murugan is quick to answer. Even with a low yield, more nutrients can be obtained from traditional paddy, he says, adding all the five varieties of paddy are suitable for monsoon season. “Every variety adapts to its conditions. Mapillai Samba grows to a minimum of 5 feet while Iluppu samba grows as low as 2 feet.”
Vikravandi agriculture office has been of support to organic paddy farmers. An official told TNIE that the compensation for organic paddy crop loss, due to the rains, will be provided immediately. The official added it was necessary to help the farmers to egg them on to continue their chemical-free farming.
Now, Murugan’s five-acre traditional paddy crop has been selected to compete in the State-level Crop Yield Competition representing Villupuram, officials say.