COIMBATORE: In a region where water is scarce and farmers take pride in ploughing the same land as their grandfathers, 42-year-old S Selvaraj is a maverick.
A resident of Vellanaipatti near Neelambur, Selvaraj tried his hand at paddy cultivation 40 years after local farmers abandoned it for rainfed crops such as maize and pearl millets.
To the surprise of many, he has succeeded, thanks to the borewell he sunk a couple of years ago. With the crop ready for harvest in 10 days, he expects better returns than rainfed crops he had been relying on for decades.
Chief secretary of Tamil Nadu V Irai Anbu invited the farmer to Chennai and appreciated his efforts on Tuesday. The official also gifted him a memento and a book he wrote.
Selvaraj cultivated Thooyamalli, a traditional white rice variety that is resistant to pests and requires less water compared to hybrid varieties. Taking up organic cultivation, he brought down the cost towards manure and pesticide, which helped him reap better returns.
Selvaraj took over his father’s millet farm after completing Class X. After digging a borewell two years ago, he decided to cultivate paddy and bought 10kg of Thooyamalli seeds from Thanjavur for 600 six months ago.
He learnt paddy cultivation by watching YouTube, the farmer told TOI. “No farmer in the area tried their hands at paddy in the last four decades. Till my paddy field produced grains, no one believed that paddy can be grown without fertilisers. Even my father did not have any hope. Now, farmers are showering praise on me.”
Choosing the right variety and going organic to minimize input cost has helped him reap the success. “Most of the paddy varieties require constant wetting, but Thooyamalli requires wetting once in two days. I partitioned the two-acre land into eight fields, so that less water can be utilized,” he said.
The farmer expects to reap 3,600kg of paddy, which can give him 2,340kg rice as the milling percentage is 65. As rice fetches a minimum of 80/kg, he expects more than 90,000 per acre.
Selvaraj used only organic manure he prepared and biofertilizer from the agriculture department. “I spent money only to buy the seed and prepare the land. I don’t have to spend money to prepare land and seeds next time. The returns I expect are way better than other paddy farmers in water surplus areas” he said. “I plan to use the rice I produced and sell the rest directly to make the most out of it.”