A 24 – year – old, Sooraj CS Purushothaman, an organic farmer from Sulthan Bathery, Wayanad, Kerala. The passion for plants, nature and agriculture is believed to be inherited from my mother who used to nurture plants for us in our back yard garden. Being her help from a very young age, a Seedlings grown from a rotten tomato, subsequently harvesting its fruit was a life changing turning point for me to get involved into organic farming from a hobbyist to serious farmer.
He grows Avocados, Lychees, Mangoes, Passion fruit commercially and has collection of 100 plus fruits for his own consumption and also grows different kinds of vegetables, rice spices, medicinal plants etc.
This kindled him to surf, read, agri – related literatures, internet, television programs, and also met farmers to quench his knowledge thirst. The very next year his farming kick started with cabbage, carrots and other vegetables. He attended the zero – budget farming workshop of Subash Palekar’s where he got exposed to zero-budget natural farming and also to a group of similar interest. This further enhanced his knowledge base and gave new perspective on agriculture at the age of 15.
The Following year, adopting the SRI method (system of rice intensification) I tried my hands-on paddy, which gave higher yields than conventional farming.
Sooraj has won many awards in the year 2014 Kerala state honored him by awarding ‘Best organic farmer’ award of Wayanad and ‘Karshaka prathibha’ award for best student farmer of the state. He was inspired by his mom at a very young age where most of the kids at his school were busy playing or exploring.
He has completed his Graduation in Agriculture from, College of Agriculture, Vellanikkarara from Kerala Agricultural University.
What do you think about chemical pesticides, which are being used in farming?
There is too much use of pesticides than recommended dose. This can harm us and also our environment. When we have other options for pest control like botanicals, bio-control agents. We could use this instead to make farming more sustainable. This sector has not been explored well in our country.
Could share some insights regarding organic farming?
There is 78% nitrogen in the atmosphere, but the plants growing below it are deficient in nitrogen. This is usually overcome by application of nitrogenous fertilizers; instead we can use microbes like Acetobactor, Azospirillum, Rhizobium, which fixe atmospheric nitrogen to soil biologically. This is what happens in organic farming; all the nutrients are fixed or either solubilized. Adding organic matter can accelerate this. Here we are letting nature do its job like correcting nutrients for plants managing pests, diseases and stress etc.
What types of crops do you cultivate in your land?
We grow Avacados, Lychees, Mangoes, Passion fruit commercially and have a collection of 100 plus fruits for one own consumption. We also grow different kinds of vegetables, rice spices, medicinal plants etc.
What type of fertilizers do you use?
We use cow dung, composts etc as organic matter that helps microbes to survive and perform activity of nitrogen fixing or nutrient solubilization, etc. We also use biofertilizers, adding on organic matter and green manure to the soil. Further crop rotation is followed to replenish soil nutrients.
What are the latest technologies being used in organic farming?
Basically, new technologies in farming include ultra-high-density planting, production of new varieties and its use; it may help in building resistance or other qualities. Many companies have come up with new technologies in farming, such as the use of microbes to control pest and diseases, farm mechanization etc. Except for pesticides or Chemical fertilizers, all of these technologies are applicable to organic farming.
What are your achievements and are you working on any new projects?
When you are truly passionate, accolades and appreciations will follow you and you don’t need to follow the same. Appreciation in any form is the best gift and the motivation to go further without self-doubt.
I was honored with ‘Best Organic Farmer’ award by Wayanad district administration while I was hardly 15 years old (10th grade).
‘KarshakaPrathibha’ state award from Government of Kerala, for the best student farmer of the state.
‘krishiRatna’ award for best organic farmer.
Edex‘ecosapiens under 40’ award. Kerala state award while I was in 12th grade.
“No one supports you better than your family. I started farming by seeing his mom’s kitchen garden and farming activities. My father always cautioned me of the ill effects of pesticide, and I made sure that all my farming will be done organically. Every person I met in my life was indeed a learning experience, and many did inspire me in many ways. One of the proud moments was to deliver lecture at Kerala legislative assembly soon after selecting as the youth ambassador for organic farming, Kerala state”, recalls Sooraj.