Farmer Chintala Venkat Reddy, an innovator from Hyderabad, Telangana, has been conferred with Padma Shri Award 2020 for his innovations in farming. He went on to win patents for Vitamin D-enriched rice and wheat varieties from World Intellectual Property Organization, Geneva (WIPO) on February 11, 2021.
Born in Alwal, Hyderabad, in an agriculture family, his childhood passion was agriculture. Every day after finishing his school he used to go to the farm and look after the cows. During the summer holidays CVR, as he fondly called used to spend most of his time on the farm.
“It is a patented technique process to improve nutrient content of the soil in the cultivation lands. I applied for a patent in 28 June 2004 and within 18 months it was published in WIPO. So, this is a unique invention,” says Reddy.
Earlier organic manures as well as chemical fertilizers were used rampantly. The negative impact of chemical fertilizers and pesticides was soon realized. Necessity, they say is the mother of invention; CVR recalled his father’s feat of manually digging a 45 feet deep well with the help of labors, a unique feat in today’s context. The muddy water from the well was used for crop irrigation.
Reddy opines, every soil has natural nutrients that can be utilized for farming. His mantra is to rejuvenate top layer of soil to reduce depletion of nutrients. No fertilizers, insecticides or fungicides for agriculture are being used.
Of course, he is ecstatic to have won the honor, but his joy knows no bounds when he has the chance to present his farming beliefs. “The Padma Shri award has arrived, but I receive accolades on a daily basis in the shape of communications from farmers who share their success stories after using my farming ideas and methods.” He smiles as he says, “I have close to 35 farmer groups from across the country where farmers talk and share their questions with me.”
Farmers are drawn to his views because his concept is that “the answer of the soil is from the land.” The 71-year-old farmer goes into greater detail. “Don’t we all know that when there’s a problem in the family, the solution rests within the family?” Similarly, when the yield from the soil is inadequate, it is the soil that has a problem, and it is the soil that has the answer. Farmers have been sucked into the usage and subsequent abuse of pesticides in the hopes of boosting agricultural productivity, decreasing pest damage, and so on. “Look for the solution within,” I constantly say. Of course, after falling prey to my current ways and failing badly, I did just that. We are not just harming the environment when we introduce foreign agents to our crops in the form of chemicals; we are also consuming all of those chemicals at some point.”
Despite the fact that his admirers refer to him as a “scientist” on Whatsapp, CVR argues that he is merely a farmer. “I’m a farmer, therefore I have to know my land and absorb information from my surroundings.” Have you ever pondered why we only receive a whiff of dirt during the first few days after rain? “I believe it’s because the soil absorbs nutrients from the sun and the environment, and precipitation serves as the final component in enriching the soil,” he says with a smile.
CVR became a vital contributor to the National Seed Corporation after successfully experimenting with his methods and approach by growing wheat, paddy, maize, sugarcane, vegetables, and other varieties of seeds.
Reddy, approaches are distinguished by an intelligent blend of modern and indigenous practices that arose from his own ideas and experiences.
“Insects assault plants, fruits, and flowers because they can prey on them,” CVR says, citing an example of one of his investigations. Have we ever heard of insects wreaking havoc on the roots? Rarely. Consider this: as children, we used to eat mud. Animals lick soil as well, but it is completely expelled from the body. That means when soil/mud is consumed, our bodies have a way to deal with it. The liver and lungs are responsible for expelling dust that we may inhale. So, using my smartphone, I looked up if insects have a liver. They don’t, it turns out! I began experimenting on my plants by spraying light muddy water (produced by mixing subsoil with water) over them. The insects perished within two days, and my grape plants grew significantly. “Once I was sure of my discovery, I applied it to other crops with similar success.”
Apart from sprinkling the muddy water, the organic farmer also sets aside the topsoil to dry in the sun before gradually reintroducing it to the soil of other crops. He continues, “I was the one who introduced drip irrigation, organic practices in grape growing, soil and leaf petiole analysis-based nutrition, late pruning procedures, and weather-based disease and pest management in grape production.”
Many grape producers now follow his guidance to combat diseases, pest infestations, and better soil health management, pruning, and training new grape plants, among other things. CVR has a slew of patents to his name, including one for a system that may naturally raise vitamin D levels in rice and wheat. He took me on a tour of his vitamin-fortified wheat farm. “All of these are vitamin D-fortified naturally.” Imagine how future generations would benefit if farmers embraced my approach instead of taking vitamin D supplements or eating fortified produce. Like all of my other approaches, once I receive the patent, I’ll give it free to use. “I believe in sharing in order to benefit both the country and the farmers.”