Rice, grown with all things nice

Braving the risks of organic farming, S Bhuvaneswari has successfully revived some nearly-lost native paddy varieties in Madurai

A flock of egrets descends on S Bhuvaneswari’s farm and she runs, clapping her hands, to shoo the birds away. “The arrival of birds means that the soil in my farm is teaming with earthworms and hatchlings, but I can’t let them eat away the nutrients that my plants need,” she says. As the Periyar irrigation channel winds along the picturesque farm in Poolankulam village near Madurai and the newly-planted paddy saplings sway gently in the breeze,

Bhuvaneswari gets knee-deep into the slushy field with a plough in hand to give the soil a fresh round of tilling. Two of her helpers follow behind, spraying neem oil and turmeric mixture on to the saplings. “Nature has remedies for all kinds of insects and pests and the best fertilizer is cow dung,” says Bhuvaneswari, who has been raising native paddy varieties organically, in the 10-acre patch of her sprawling farm for the past six years.