Drought-resistant crops in focus at monsoon seed festival
The three-day seed festival has also brought seed producers and consumers on a common platform to provide direct market links.
The monsoon seed festival with its display of nearly 2,000 varieties of millets, rice, vegetables, fruits, and tubers, most of which can be cultivated under drought conditions, got under way in the city on Friday in what the organisers say is the way forward in times of climate change with severe water stress across the country.
Organised by Sahaja Samruddha, an organisation propagating cultivation of indigenous varieties of millets and paddy, the three-day seed festival has also brought the seed producers and consumers on a common platform to provide direct market links.
Being held at the Nanjaraja Bahadur Choultry, the festival has brought 32 seed saver groups from across the State together, providing them a forum to propagate their produce not only to consumers but also to farmers keen to make a switch from cultivating hybrid varieties to indigenous varieties of crops.
Krishnaprasad of Sahaja Samruddha said the focus of the festival was to promote traditional varieties of millets, paddy, etc., that are not water intensive. He said all traditional varieties be they of millet or paddy, do not require heavy doses of pesticides and insecticides or fertilisers. Their cost of cultivation was low and the growing acceptance of millet, which was making a comeback among consumers, held hope for farmers in times of drought, he said.
A case in point was the profit reaped by a group of farmers of a village in Hanumanahalli who procured brown top millet and sold nearly ₹30 lakh worth of the produce to tide over drought, he added. “Traditional varieties can withstand water stress unlike hybrid varieties. Hence, we are promoting them,” said Mr. Krishnaprasad.
This is the third annual edition of the seed festival in Mysuru and has seen the participation of individual farmers as well as farmer groups. ‘Beeja Maate’ Papamma, from Kolar, is reckoned to be a star among farmers as she cultivates a variety of seeds ranging from millets to paddy on her 3 acre plot of land which lacks irrigation facilities. “I channelise waste water after domestic use to my fields and that moisture content is sufficient to help cultivate a variety of seeds that I sell to other farmers and earn ₹30,000 per year for my effort with negligible input cost,” she said. She is stated to be an example of how tapping indigenous varieties of seeds could help bail out farmers from agricultural distress.
Seed production workshop
The Organic Farming Research Centre of Shivamogga has displayed nearly 250 variety of indigenous and fast moving seeds. The centre has so far reached out to scores of farmer groups keen to move away from the hybrid variety. For the benefit of farmers, a seed production workshop has been organised on Saturday while a seed swap programme is slated for Sunday.
Farmers participating in the festival aver that cultivating drought-resistant crops held a ray of hope for them amidst water stress coupled with rise in agricultural input cost and decline in crop income.
First published by The Hindu on 29 Jun. 2019