Though mono-cropping (growing a single crop) is seen as the corporate buzzword in farming, multi-cropping (growing multiple crops such as fruits vegetables, grains, herbs, pulses, oil seeds and flowers on the same land) is stated to be a better option commercially and for the betterment of the ‘organic’ eco-system, learns SUMITRA KUMAR from Alladi Mahadevan, an organic farmer.

Alladi Mahadevan has immersed himself into organic farming with passion, making it his profession. Adopting multi-cropping as the technique, which offers him expected and unexpected benefits in terms of optimum usage of sun, water and soil, is what he is convinced about after his own practical experiments in his 36 acre farm. He lives there and breathes the surrounding air, continuously inspiring himself to bring out new environment-friendly ideas to innovate, and improvise and thus, evolved the Sun Ray Formation System of soil enrichment, where you have a central compost pit and a concentric circular arrangement of crops with the taller ones towards the periphery. He invites all to come and see his farm to better understand the value of sustainable living.
Mahadevan says that Africa and India are countries that are best suited for agriculture. Therefore, he strongly believes that the land here should not be wasted, but used optimally through organic farming alone, as inorganic farming can eventually destroy the soil structure. According to him, food and agriculture are conceptually different in India and the west. It’s simple – here the agricultural output is more for human consumption whereas in the west agriculture is more focused on feeding livestock, which in turn is consumed by humans. There is no doubt in his mind that as a country we can be completely self-sufficient in food if we are willing to go back to our roots.

His ideas about farming techniques are based on clear time-tested traditions. And “pests are not pests, we need them”, he surprisingly says with all emphasis. To support this he quotes Pam ayan, noted food journalist and a social worker, who said that there are two types of insects, namely vegetarian insects and non-vegetarian insects. The vegetarian ones eat plants and the non-vegetarian ones eat other insects. Everything is part of the food chain and hence maintains a natural balance without human interference.

The final output from any farm depends on how we treat the soil, says Mahadevan. Different leaves lend different characteristics to the soil. Water conservation too plays a large role and he stresses growing only native crops as they are the hardy ones that will have better compatibility with the environment. For example his sapota tree has not been watered for over a month and still thrives. “Go native, be native in India. Be a Roman in Rome. Visit other places and eat the native vegetables there” says he, when asked why Indian vegetables like drumsticks don’t taste and smell as good abroad.

Mahadevan feels children should be exposed to farming very young. Many schools have realized this and have associated with him to make their students learn about crop cycles and not take their food for granted. His farms are a constant ‘hands on’ learning ground for school children, who make frequent field trips and the result is – barren school campuses are dedicating spaces for a useful and productive green cover!

In these times when traditional farmers are selling their land and moving to cities, it is refreshing to see well educated people like Mahadevan choose organic farming, thus, embracing Mother Nature and enjoying her true gift.