TN organic farmer-scientist

From growing 17 ratoon cane crops to selling branded jaggery and flattened rice flakes, V Antony Samy shows what farming for the future can be

Sugarcane, unlike most crops, yields not one, but two or even more harvests. The first one is the cane that grows from the seed (basically stem cuttings or “setts”), which is planted and harvested in about 12 months. But there is also a “ratoon” crop that sprouts from the leftover stubble of the harvested “plant-cane” and matures earlier within 11 months. In Uttar Pradesh, farmers take one ratoon in addition to the regular plant-cane, while their Maharashtra or Tamil Nadu counterparts generally harvest up to two ratoons.

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Viyagappa Antony Samy from Puliyangudi in Sivagiri taluk of Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli district is an extraordinary farmer. The 1943-born fourth-standard pass claims to have grown 17 ratoons – including the crop now in the field – from the ‘Co 86032’ sugarcane variety that he originally planted on a seven-acre plot in 2003. Further, his average cane yields, at 62 tonnes per acre, is way above the corresponding 30 tonnes figure for all-India and 42 tonnes of Tamil Nadu. And he is a 100 per cent organic agriculturist to boot.