Black rice farmer in Andhra hopeful of bumper harvest


Vissakoderu (Andhra Pradesh), April 8 : In what could be a trailblazer, a local farmer from Vissakoderu village in Andhra Pradesh's West Godavari district started growing black rice and is eagerly waiting to harvest it soon. Black rice is uncommon in this part of the state at a time when many people are transitioning into aquaculture, however, enterprising Arepalli Venkatramaiah is experimenting with the new paddy variety. "I first came across black rice when I ate prasadam from Chinna Jeeyar Swamy. That prasadam was made with black rice," Venkatramaiah told IANS. Following this encounter, the Godavari farmer sent his son to the pontiff's ashram to fetch some seeds of this variety to experiment in his black soil field, fed by irrigated water from the Godavari river. Venkatramaiah was informed that he should follow organic cultivation, without using any chemicals. His initial attempts to grow black rice failed. Later, with a small amount of seeds he procured from Hyderabad, Venkatramiah sowed them and began his experimental cultivation. "I started with 100 grams seeds and managed to produce 20 kg more," he said. It took three crops and about 18 months' time for him to multiply it to 20 kg of black rice. For the current crop, he used only 250 grams and noted that the black rice variety grows tall, making it vulnerable to strong winds. To suit this variety, he cultivated it by the roadside in 30 cents of land with an easy water outlet. Adhering to organic farming methods, he used neem oil, cow urine, cow dung and jaggery, including deviating slightly with the use of DAP, potash and urea. "With my limited resources, I followed organic methods. Currently the crop is fine but if heavy winds blow then I have to see," said Venkatramaiah. Without any further hiccups and wind, he hopes to harvest at least 20 sackfuls of black rice. Twenty sacks from 30 cents land is a big number as 40 sacks of paddy for an acre is a decent yield. According to Venkatramaiah, black rice grown in organic farming methods is good for cancer patients, diabetics, blood pressure issues, body pains and others. For his crop, Venkatramaiah admitted that he used some DAP and ureas which should also not be used. Though the black rice cereal is black in colour, he said the skin can be removed to make it white while milling. Organic style of black rice cultivation did not cost him much and highlighted that he used only about 40 kg of organic inputs. The black rice field turned into a cynosure, attracting many people to visit and check it out. Venkatramaiah said he has more varieties of black rice seeds with him now and is raring to experiment with them soon. However, to consume this variety, the peasant said that the rice variety should be soaked in water overnight. Majority of the people in AP consume rice as a staple and black in this part of the state is completely new. /IANS


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