Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sundararaman - Organic Farmer and Trainer


The problem of degraded soils, insects and weeds

Degraded soils are a major problem in many developing countries and the Bangalore conference heard practising experts explain how organic techniques can be employed for restoration.

Claude Alvares

Facing insects, disease and weeds

One major problem facing all farmers, organic or conventional, is the appearance of troublesome insects, weeds and plant disease. SR Sundararaman, a highly respected and knowledgeable organic farmer from Tamil Nadu, made the main presentation on techniques farmers can use to solve most of their plant disease problems and any difficulties with insects.

The interesting thing about Sundararaman is that he not only functions as a knowledge centre, but his knowledge and expertise keep growing. Universities find it hard to keep up with him. Having been a chemical farmer two decades ago, he knows what he went through and why chemical methods failed.

Sundararaman has worked with interested colleagues and engineers to create microorganism-enriched mixtures (which he calls MEM) for the control of soil-borne diseases, nematodes and root grubs. He also has a large number of recipes made from leaf extracts, buttermilk, waste fish and egg extracts, panchagavya and some unique other solutions which he calls 'fruit gaudi' and 'archae'. While some of these are bacterial preparations, others deal effectively with unwelcome visitors to his soils, including grubs. All his recipes and techniques today are freely available to other farmers.

Sundararaman was followed by Joseph John, another organic farmer, who presented a wide range of non-chemical-based bioremedies for plant illness and disease.

On behalf of herself, her husband Dr Anurag Goel and their daughter Maya (a family of organic farmers from Coorg), Sujata Goel shared 10 years of rich insights on their organic farm which grows largely coffee and spices. Goel told her attentive audience that plants have their own natural defence mechanisms and it is far more effective to work in tandem with the plant's own defence strategy than to attempt to bypass it with deadly chemicals. Unless we understand these natural defence mechanisms, she said, we would continue to make costly and unnecessary mistakes. Using deadly sprays of chemical poisons not only suppressed these defence mechanisms, they ruined the product as well since pesticide residues are bound to remain after the harvest as most pesticides are non-biodegradable. The Goels are trained microbiologists and lab technicians who deserted Delhi to move to Coorg in south India where they took over an existing spice farm and turned it completely organic over a 10-year period.

*Third World Network No. 230, October 2009, pp 18-19

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