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Officials pitch in with spray to save standing paddy crop

The Agriculture Department and Krishi Vigyan Kendra of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (KVK-TNAU) have stepped in to help farmers, who were struggling to save standing paddy crop by buying water.

After ‘The Hindu’ reported the plight of the farmers fighting hard to save the crop at the terminal stage in Erumaipatti, Naranamangalam and Mudhunal in Ramanathapuram block, officials of the department and the KVK have come to the rescue of the farmers.

Farmers in these areas had managed to bring up the crop for the first 60 days, using water from nearby waterbodies, but found it difficult after the water level in the irrigation tanks went low. While a section of them hired diesel engines for Rs.200 an hour to pump water, others left the crop to wither away.
Keeping hopes alive:A farmer spraying Pink Pigmented Facultative Methylotroph (PPFM) on the crop at Mudhunal in Ramanathapuram on Friday.— Photo: L. BALACHANDAR
As the tanks went dry and the crop, cultivated on about 100 acres in Erumaipatti and Naranamangalam areas and about 70 acres in Mudhunal were at the terminal stage, the farmers became desperate and hired water tankers paying Rs.1,200 for 6,000 litres of water.

Reacting to the report, R. Ramasamy Pandian, Assistant Director of the Agriculture Department (Ramanathapuram block), visited the areas and coordinated with the KVK to spray Pink Pigmented Facultative Methylotroph (PPFM) bacteria to mitigate drought and save the crop.

The KVK sprayed the PPFM on about 15 acres at Erumaipatti and Naranamangalam and about 10 acres in Mudhunal, free of cost, demonstrating the efficacy of the spray to mitigate drought even as the farmers substituted it with life-saving irrigation, R. Durai Singh, Programme Coordinator, KVK-TNAU, said here on Friday. The farmers were encouraged to spray the PPFM, by spending about Rs.200 an acre, he said.

As the farmers could not judiciously use the water from tankers, the KVK helped them with mini mobile sprinklers. By letting out the water from the tankers, the farmers could irrigate only about 20 cents in an acre, but by using the mobile sprinklers they could use one tanker of water for the entire one-acre area, Mr.Durai Singh told ‘The Hindu.’

R. Balasundaramurthy, a progressive farmer in Mudhunal, said farmers who had cultivated paddy crop on about 70 acres in the area could save it only on 10 acres.

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Use of biofertilizer in paddy to withstand drought

The Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) has advocated the use of Methylobacterium biofertilizer, popularly called Pink Pigmented Facultative Methylotrophs (PPFMs), to protect crops from heat and drought conditions.

“Methylobacterium” developed by the Tamil Nadu Agriculture University (TNAU) and available in liquid and powder forms could be a boon to farmers in this drought-prone district, who mostly cultivate paddy in rain-fed areas, said R. Durai Singam, Professor and Head, KVK, TNAU.

Explaining the benefits of Methylobacterium at the Agricultural grievance day meeting at the Collectorate here on Friday, he said spraying of the biofertilizer once in 15 days from the vegetation stage could help protect the crops from solar radiation and enhance growth and yield by 8 per cent.

PPFMs, naturally occurring beneficial bacteria in plants, soil, dust and various fresh water supplies, live by utilising the methanol evolved from leaves as the source of carbon and energy and in response, secrete essential nutrients such as cytokinin, auxins and nitrogen, vital for plants, Mr Singam said. “This can benefit the crops in many ways as it improves the chlorophyll intensity and increases the leaf area,” he said adding that increase in leaf area improved the yield. It also helps to considerably reduce flower drops, especially in chillies and pulses, he said.

Similarly, the seed germination and root dipping would help in early growth and to improve the vigour of the seedlings, he said.

The spraying of the biofertilizer had been successfully tried for the first time in the Cauvery delta region last year, when paddy crops on vast areas, faced the danger of withering for want of water. The TNAU sprayed the symbiotic organisms and saved the crop on hundreds of acres in the region, he said.

Farmers could buy the liquid at Rs. 300 per litre and use 200 ml mixed with water per acre, Mr Singam said.

Farmers could contact KVK for farm trial and demonstrations.

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