Meet Mr. P Chandra Sekhar Azad, a 73 year old enterprising farmer from Vijayawada of Andhra Pradesh, for whom agriculture is not a mere profitable business. It is his vision, passion and mission. Azad is still young in his words, deeds and thoughts.
Azad’s innings as a farmer began 23 years back. “I was running a small printing press at Vijayawada till the age of 50. Later I turned into farming cultivating turmeric, paddy, maize, banana, etc in a nine acre land which I inherited from my father,” recalls Mr. Azad.
Like any other farmer in the area, turmeric was his main crop. He was growing local cultivars like Duggirala, Kadappa, Armoor, Tekurpet etc. “Turmeric was not at all that much profitable at that time because of low yield and high disease incidence,” he adds. Azad was searching for a high yielding and good quality turmeric variety. “It was eight years back I came across with the Prathibha turmeric variety developed by the Indian Institute of Spices Research.” He started the cultivation of Prathibha in 2004 on an experimental basis procuring 50 kilograms of rhizomes from Kerala. It was the beginning of an unending saga of an aged yet industrious farmer.
From 2007 onwards, things have been changed a lot for Mr. Azad. His turmeric production has increased manifolds. He started supplying seed rhizomes to horticultural departments and other farmers in the area.
During 2007-08 Azad supplied 12 tones of seed rhizomes to the Horticulture Department, Nizamabad in Andhra Pradesh. Next year he supplied 30 tones of Prathibha planting material to Adilabad district and another 12 tonns to the Renga Reddy district under the department.
In the year 2010-11, cultivated Prathibha in 2.75 acres and harvested around 43 tons of fresh rhizomes. “Last year my total expenses were around two lakhs including the cost of seed rhizomes, planting and harvesting etc. I was able to sell my produce for around 14 lakhs of rupees,” says a beaming Chandra Sekhar Azad.
“I am following organic farming methods with minimum use of chemical fertilizers. Timely crop management is the mantra for success in agriculture,” he points out.
Higher yield, better drainage, early maturity, good quality and a good demand for seed rhizomes are the factors that endear the variety to Mr. Azad and other Prathibha growers in the area.
He follows ridges and furrow method of cultivation which is customary in the state of Andra Pradesh. He applies super phosphate, vermicompost, sugarcane filter cake, bio-remediators and bio-fertilizers at different growth stages.
Harvesting is done with the help of bullocks. He also employs labourers for cleaning the rhizomes. Cleaned turmeric is then boiled using huge turmeric boilers. The boiled rhizomes are then dried in sun for 20 days and then polished using mechanical polishers. But still a major chunk of his production is being sold as seed rhizomes.
In his experience, Prathiba is highly resistant to rhizome rot while all local varieties near his field like Tekurpet and Duggirala etc were devastated by rhizome rot.
Prathibha is a turmeric variety developed by IISR through Open Pollinated Progeny Selection. “IISR’s Prabha and Prathibha are the lone turmeric varieties evolved through true turmeric seedling selection in the whole world till today. Among these two, Prathibha has earned a name and fame across the country,” says Dr. B Sasikumar, Principal Scientist at IISR, Kozhikode.
His success saga has been a source of inspiration for many. Now Azad is like a brand ambassador for the Prathibha turmeric in the state. Azad was able to bring many farmers, from the state and outside, to Prathibha cultivation. Many of them are taking his advice and guidance for cultivating turmeric.
What makes Azad different from other farmers of his age is his readiness to adopt innovations. Even at this age he is computer friendly. He keeps constant touch with IISR scientists via phone and internet at each and every stage of cultivation. He maintains the record of all farm activities; clicks photos of the crop at regular intervals and sends them to the scientist for their advice.
“Agriculture will never be a loss, if farmers are ready to adopt high yielding varieties and follow scientific crop management practices. Timely crop management practices and use modern technologies will increase the productivity many times,” says Dr. M Anandaraj, Director, Indian Institute of Spices Research (IISR), Kozhikode, Kerala.
(Source: NAIP Sub-Project on Mass Media Mobilization, DKMA with inputs from IISR, Kozhikode, Kerala )