Sep 1, 2010 – I had heard of a red-carpet welcome. I had never heard of a green-carpet reception. Yet, as I stepped into the Jalgaon farm of Viswasrao Anandrao Patil, my feet sank into a verdant, velvety surface. I am a farmer too; and a good one at that but nothing prepared me for the soft feel of sponge under my feet. I knew instantly that I was stepping on to ‘quality’ soil. Welcome to the world of Viswasrao ji’s organic farming at Village: Lohara; Taluka: Pachora; District: Jalgaon. (Maharashtra).

Viswasrao Anandrao Patil has been a very distinguished member of the Bharat Krishak Samaj (BKS) and he was one of the first people I met as I went about rejuvenating our heritage farmers’ organisation; farming knowledge as it were. Mr Patil was the epitome of wisdom and innovation; the rains in the region had been poor for a few years in a row but his 100 acres looked lush.

Water is a scarce commodity in this region and Mr Patil’s farm is a dry one. He has 23 wells but being rain dependant many of them run dry. The master innovator that he is, Mr Patil has devised a system of connecting 10 wells with an underground pipe system, which helps him provide an ample supply of water to his farm.

His brother and he realized way back in 1973 that the land was fast losing productivity and the two had the scientific acumen to understand the essence of organic farming. They studied literature, talked to experts and learnt on the job. Over time they became experts and they have their prosperous farm as a testament to their commitment to conserving nature, earth, water and greenery.

Today the farm grows sesame over five acres; cotton over 10 acres; corn over 10 acres; javari over five acres; moong over five acres; bajra over six acres; sugar cane over 10 acres; custard apple over three acres, mango over three acres, sago over three acres and there are two acres left unused. Life has not been smooth sailing all the time. Mr Patil’s mind goes back to the days when he had to uproot his orange trees because he could not control the disease with organic practices and there was just not enough water. Later he learnt to grow sugarcane
with dryland practices even as he learnt to recharge his wells with stored water and how to use every bit of waste productively; as fertilizer.

So what does his brand of organic farming imply? “Well, instead of burning the residue of the previous crops, we started to bury it in the farm itself or cover our crop land with it. We stopped using chemical fertilizer and replaced it with bio fertilizers. We started rainwater harvesting and cross harvesting on the slopes of the farms. That enables us to save more water. To do so we built five check dams and started storing more water. Each drop of water is now stored in the land; to store more we planted trees such as bamboo, bhenda or neem on all four sides of the farm to prevent evaporation of the water stored in the land. The added boon was that birds starting sitting on our trees and started eating insects visiting our crops. This is the essence of our organic farming”.

Cotton is Mr Patil’s forte. He has sown 6301, super Maruti, Ajit 155 and Ankur 3028 this year
because they are fully dry crops and consume minimal water. “Last year, the rains were good so I used Mallika and Brahma. This year there is no water and I was unable to use Brahma”. It is experience that tells him what to choose and experience that tells him how to grow it. “My farm is dry; therefore I started using water-management by increasing the distance between the two lines. I used state-of-the art seeds; a new breed, twin testing, cross sowing on the slopes and short spanned crops. Normally I do the dry sowing as well”.

How does he manage for fertilizers for the cotton crop? “It depends on how you manage your crop. When it rains, I use wet cow dung (20 kgs), rotten besan (500 gms), rotten jaggery (250 gms), cow urine (as much as is available) and a kilogram of compound. After mixing it well, I spread it on an acre of land. Besan has urea, jaggery has phosphorus and cow urine is rich in nitrogen”. The fertilizer must be applied when the land is wet. It need not be used more than twice of thrice, or even once or twice but it should be used on wet land.

There are lessons to be learnt on the pest management front too. “We have to deal with two
types of pests; one is a friendly kind and the other is the harmful kind. The friendly one comprises 98 per cent of the pest population. It is to deal with the two per cent harmful pests that we use mixed farming. I use raai, corn, chowli, bhagar, javari, bajra, sesame and cotton. After every 25 to 30 feet, we sow cotton by the 4×2 system. This is because if the pests get whatever they want on outskirts they will not enter in the main crop. Ultimately the main crop is saved. This is called as 10-floored crop system”.

Why this 10-floored name? I ask. Mr Patil explains: “This is also called the multi-storeyed cropping system because with cotton as the main crop, the farmer can alternate with different crops every three years. Thus we can have 10 different crops sown in alternating rows to avoid pest attacks and to save the main crop”.

Nothing goes to waste in his farm. Weeds are removed and stored and used as fertilizer when they get fermented. This is to be used between the two rows to prevent the rainwater from flowing away from the crop.

There is more innovation in sight. Mr Patil has used bamboo and neem trees on the borders.
“Bamboo gives some extra income but also helps in saving water from flowing away from the farm. It helps retain water in the farms. Also, silica is derived from bamboo leaves. Neem leaves serve as very useful fertilizer too and also help the earth retain water; it saves more water in the earth. The returns are satisfying. “Dry land gives eight quintals and fertile land gives me 13 to 14 quintals per acre”.

The knowledgeable are open to knowledge; the unwise have closed minds. Clearly, despite his achievements and experience, Viswasraoji and his brother are always soaking up information; putting it to test. I have always believed that farmers would have to combine age-tested practices of farming with new technology and Viswasraoji is the living embodiment.

He uses ancient techniques even while using the most modern technology; he even grows BT
cotton on his farm. When I asked him if there was any contradiction in being an organic farmer and also growing BT cotton, he answered simply: “It is a matter of economics. BT cotton is giving better yields and works with organic practices. This combination helps me to increase profits and conserve the environment”.

The idea, says this super farmer, is to combine science with tradition. “That will give you more
life; make your land alive and bountiful”.

Is any one listening?