A good number of farmers in the Malnad areas of Hassan district are cultivating native varieties of paddy, thanks to the encouragement by the Department of Agriculture promoting organic farming.
Nearly 700 farmers have been growing native paddy varieties and are happy with the earnings. As they are certified organic growers, their produce is attracting demand.
“When we began field work in 2007, traditional varieties of paddy were cultivated hardly in 100 acres,” recalled Jayaprasad Ballekere, chief executive officer of Bhoomi Sustainable Development Society. The Agriculture Department had involved the non-government organisation to promote organic farming in Sakleshpur, Alur taluks of Hassan and Somwarpet of Kodagu. “A majority of farmers were after hybrid and improved varieties of paddy. Following constant efforts, now native varieties are grown in more than 1,500 acres in the three taluks,” he said.
Rajamudi considered good for diabetics, Navara with medicinal value, Ghamsala a scented variety, Rathna Choodi, Netti Bilakki, Holesalu Chippuga, Kempakki (red rice), and Kappu Akki (black rice) are the native varieties of paddy.
“Holesalu Chippuga is the best variety for puffed rice. Last year, I sold paddy at ₹4,500 per quintal. Almost the entire yield goes to places like Sangli in Maharashtra and Davangere, where there are many puffed rice producing units,” said Y.C. Rudrappa, a progressive farmer of Yedehalli in Sakleshpur. He has been cultivating Holesalu Chippuga variety in eight acres of his land.
Alur, Sakleshpur and Somwarpet taluks are known for heavy rainfall, which is well-suited for traditional varieties.
“Traditional varieties take 150-160 days for harvest and is suitable for this area. However, the duration of hybrid and improved varieties is about 120-130 days,” said Mr. Jayaprasad. The organic farmers of Hassan and Kodagu districts have formed a federation to market their produces. Mr. Rudrappa, who is chairman of the federation, said more than 3,500 farmers are part of it. The Agriculture Department and NABARD have helped the formation of the Farmer Producer Organisation (FPO) and promote organically grown produce. V.G. Bhat, District Development Manager of NABARD, told The Hindu: “The bank has been encouraging organic farming. We have provided ₹9 lakh for the FPO. The response has been impressive.”