Farmers in Mandya district are slowly adopting to grow alternative crops after being severely hit with the falling prices of sugarcane. Though this belt was famous for paddy and sugarcane which was their staple crop since several decades, falling prices have made them to rethink about growing traditional crops.
The demand for cashew plantation, drum stick, mango, Hebbevu (Millia Dubia), vegetables, and others has increased says officers of Agriculture Department, Horticulture Department, Forest Department who are engaged in creating awareness among farmers about the alternate crops.
Karnataka Cashew Development Corporation has provided one lakh saplings of cashew, of which around 30,000 saplings have been distributed to farmers over the past two days. Nearly 3 lakh saplings of Hebbavu has been distributed to the seven taluks of Mandya.
Deputy Conservator of Forest V Ramalinge Gowda said that compared to cane, water requirements of cashew is less and the farmers can grow inter crop. Saplings of Vengurla 4, a variety of cashew, is being distributed among the farmers and the main advantage of this special variety is it grows easily in any type soil.
As a pilot project cultivation of cashew has been taken up in 40 acres of land in Hulivana, Yarethittu Village located 12 kms from Mandya.
About 400 saplings can be planted in a hectare of land which yields around 300 kgs of cashew for very 100 plants. Cashew also being a commercial crop they can earn good returns. The first yield per tree is around 1.5 kg which later it will increase.
Hebbevu leaves can be used as fodder for cattle, while the bark of the tree is best suited for furniture. In a span of 8 years, the tree matures and the farmer can earn good money. About 400 saplings can be grown in an acre of land.
Small drum sticks which generates income between Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh in a span of three months is also being promoted and farmers are evincing keen interest, said an horticulture officer. After being hit by drought farmers have been advised to adopt drip irrigation on the lines of farmers in kolar district and grow vegetables.
Quite a good number of farmers have come forward voluntarily to grow alternate crops, while others are being educated by field officers at the hobli levels, especially those who have been growing cane for the past several years.
'Only for 48 per cent of the cane has to be grown in the region whereas farmers have grown sugarcane more than 70 per cent. Because of this excess production, sugar factories are unable to crush all the cane grown. Crop rotation techniques have to be adopted where farmers are encouraged to grow alternative crops,' said an officer.
“It is not just the fall in prices of sugarcane, but also the severe water crisis due to weak monsoon and the lack of Government initiative to provide remunerative prices have made farmers look to other alternatives', said Maddur Farmer Leader Nagaraj.