Wednesday, December 9, 2009

just finished sowing my paddy fields



I wondered if I would ever be able to do the impossible given the last minute snags I encountered, in what one would consider a pretty mundane exercise. The pokuru samba (vadimal vee) the 4 month variety was planted in the adjacent property that my sister acquired. The sowing was done on Poya day December 1st. As soon as we finished sowing, the rains came for the first time in 10 days. The last thing one wants is rain immediately after sowing, as the sown seeds are likely to be washed away to the ditches that have been created to drain excess water out of the fields. The only saving grace was that this property has very muddy soil that will hold the seed, while a sandy soil will wash it away. As a precaution to transplant areas where there is low density of paddy, a small nursery was also set up, and in retrospect was wise due to the heavy rains.

So my fields that should also have been prepared a while ago, also became a last minute one due to the main man lying on a hospital bed in Kurunegala with a broken foot, caused in an accident between the trishaw that he was in and a motorcycle. I had to take charge and find stand-in paid helpers to complete the task. The going wage rate had gone up this season to Rs700 a day, which really points at more mechanization being a better proposition. Then one of the neighbors managed to get the tractor stuck in the only part of my fields where that could conceivably happen and in the effort in trying to extricate it managed to get it to go upside down resulting in more damage, where many of the parts had to be removed and cleaned and some replaced before recommencing the second tilling.

Needless to say there were some fundamental errors, which had not been corrected, like not using the mud wheels in the wet tilling and also not replacing the rotary blades that had been bought. There are so many areas to consider in this process.

In amongst all this I had to complete the complicated fertilizer subsidy forms, then find the secretary of the farmers coop who had to approve them. It was tough finding his place in the dark. Then I had to get the approval of the agricultural extension officer. The wild goose chase finding that person was an exercise requiring a seperate blog story. Once that was done, then I had to go the office to pay my money and get the bill for the fertilizer. The lady said that they were out of urea so she could only bill me for the fertilizer that the store actually had. I then went to Minneriya to the stores to pick of the fertilizer that was actually available. Some of my neighbors wanted me to help them transport their entititlement in my cab saving them transport costs, as they do not have their own tractor trailers, to bring it.

At the store I had to lug the 50kg bags to my pick up as there is no help around there, and the bureaucrats are only supervising that we correctly take only that which we have bills for. Just as I was putting it on the truck, the rains came, so there was another delay in getting the stuff back to base dry.

All this while the fields were being prepared for sowing. A seperate blog entry will describe how the seed paddy is washed and prepared so that the seedlings are in a form ready to be sown, with maximum germination.

We usually decide in advance what form of pre emergent weedicide that we have to put, and depending on the variety chosen, the spraying schedule is determined. The weather can affect the practicality of that too, and if one had purchased one that has to be sprayed within 4 days of sowing, as I did, rain can adversely affect its effectiveness. It is also very important to note that the cost of this exceeds the total price paid for the fertilizer that will be used for the whole season, enriching the companies like BASF, Monsanto, and the like whose products are used under different brand names, and under license from them. A little known fact is that the total cost to the farmers nationally of what they pay for fertilizer is less than what the farmer spends on the pre emergent weedicides to the half a dozen companies, like CIC, Hayleys, Lankem, Harrisons, Finlays, that have an oligopoly on these products. I will use 'Tiller Gold' on the Pokuru Samba, and 'Sofit' on the BG 352 variety (100day) of nadu that I am planting in my fields. I used Solito last season, and my yields were less than hoped for.

My seed paddy was purchased from CIC, which is probably the most expensive at over Rs62 a kilo of usable paddy once the "boll" is extracted in the soaking and washing process. The timing of the rains can affect the planting schedule and also the eventual harvest, and this season, the rains came late and in my case the timing could not have been worse.

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