TNN Mar 22, 2013, 03.40AM IST
In the spotlight for creating a world record in paddy production, 35-year old farmer Sumant Kumar has come to realize that too much publicity from the national and global media is adversely affecting his farming.
In 2011-12, the farmer from Darveshpura village in Nalanda in Bihar sweated it out and produced 224 quintals of paddy a hectare (22.4 tons) using the system of root intensification (SRI), which is based on principles of nurturing the roots, enriching soil and giving plants more space to grow. Using these methods, Kumar shattered the world record of 194 quintal/ha registered by China’s ‘father of rice’ Yuvan Longping.
China has not accepted Kumar’s feat. Longping, in an interview to China News Service, trashed the claim that his record had been beaten by saying, “It’s 120% fake. He (Kumar) said they had lots of rain and little sunshine that year, but high yields would be impossible without adequate sunshine.”
Kumar said he never talked about little sunshine. “The Chinese travel to Gaya and Rajgir which are largely barren and possibly Longping thinks Nalanda is also barren,” said Kumar, who is now Nalanda’s most recognized face.
Every day, he has to meet visiting media people as well as officials from the agriculture department, representatives of fertilizer companies and many more. “It is our privilege to receive them in our village. Earlier, we only heard about records in cricket. Now, we are told that records are made and broken in farming too,” said Kumar’s farmer father Ramanuj Pravin, who records each new person’s visit in a diary.
On the list in Pravin’s diary is a team from China’s CCTV news channel, who visited late last month. They quizzed Kumar about his farming techniques and, of course, the dispute over his record.
In 2012-13, the yield came down to 135 quintal/ha and Kumar blamed insecticides and fungal disease. “I laboured hard on the one acre of crop. It was so good that other farmers would come to see it but unfortunately tragedy struck,” he said. “I didn’t take proper care at the fag end due to other engagements. If I have to travel more, farming gets less attention,” he said.
Kumar received the Krishi Karman award on January 15 with a citation and Rs 1 lakh in cash from President Pranab Mukherjee. Kumar, who has been farming since 2007, said he experimented with SRI in 2010 for paddy after government gave incentives and he received special training.
Rajiv Ranjan, who trains farmers to use SRI, said government started encouraging farmers in SRI from 2007 but there were few takers. SRI was originally used to improve rice cultivation but has been adopted successfully for wheat. Cultivation is taken up in a biologically enriched environment. Yields increase by 50% to 100% with a reduction in plant population, use of less water, no chemical fertilizers, said Ranjan. Aerated soil conditions are maintained to rediscover the potential of synergy and symbiosis.
Kumar is not the only farmer of his village who has used this technique successfully. His friends – and competitors – Sanjay Prasad Singh, Nitish Kumar, Krishna and Bijay also grew more than 190 quintal/ha of paddy the same year. “More young people are taking up farming full time and there is a growing sense of competition. This is good,” Kumar said.
Nalanda has traditionally been a hub for agricultural activities, but in recent years the region – to which Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar belongs – has emerged as a green belt due to organic farming of rice, wheat, potato and green vegetables.
About 30km from Darveshpura is another farmer who has grabbed the world record for potato production. The farms of Rakesh Kumar, 36, of Sohdih, yielded 1,088 quintal/ha of potato this year. Sitting on a mountain of potatoes, he said, “I have developed a different pattern of plantation that is usually used in tomato. The result is exciting. ”
Rakesh broke the world record of a Darveshpur farmer, Nitish Kumar, whose potato yield last year was 729 quintal/ha, taking the record from a Dutch farmer.
Rakesh has also become an international figure with Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz visiting him a couple of months ago. He has been selected to attend the International Horticulture Conference to be organized by Griffith University in Australia later this year. Rakesh has been using only vermicompost for vegetable production as an alternative to chemical fertilizers. Rakesh is now trying to replicate the potato success story with onion in the same field. He gives credit to Nalanda’s horticulture officer D Mahto for encouraging the farmers to go for organic farming.
Initially, the farmers were unwilling to take any chance and refused to use only vermicompost. After much prodding, some farmers, including Rakesh, agreed to go for organic farming on a small scale and started with cauliflower. The result, Rakesh said, was very encouraging. He said 345 farmers’ interest groups are engaged in organic farming of vegetables on over 3,000 acres of land. “The economy of the region has changed remarkably. The farmers who earlier rode bicycles are now riding two-wheelers and four-wheelers.
These farmers are being provided marketing facilities through Nalanda Organic Vegetable Growers Federation, which sends their products to Patna, Kolkata and Mumbai. Rakesh said talks were going on to export the produce to Hungary, Ukraine, Japan and Saudi Arabia.