Groundnut farming has the potential to generate income irrespective of weather conditions. The requirement is wisdom in adapting to changed circumstances. Reverting to traditional methods of inter-cropping can bring in a wholesome ambiance where crops, birds, and insects live in a symbiotic relationship. This is a model for us to emulate, instead of quick fixes for ‘big bucks’ using chemical fertilizers, mono cropping and aggressive marketing. This blinkered view has destroyed a whole generation. Dependent industries like oil extraction plants have all but collapsed in the Central Districts of Karnataka, throwing thousands out of gainful employment. The underlying theme of the writer is an appeal to go back to the rhythms of our forefathers or face the brunt of mass annihilation.
The whole world is enduring the extreme effects of global warming and climate change. Droughts, hurricanes, and cyclones are occurring in one place, and tsunamis, floods, and earthquakes are shattering people in other places. People have also been noticing both droughts and untimely heavy rains during the monsoon seasons.
Climate change has directly or indirectly affected every single person on the planet. But the first person to be affected is the humble farmer, primarily his or her activities related to agriculture. At present, agriculture is in distress. Sown seeds are not sprouting because there is no rain. When the crop does grow, it is destroyed by heavy rain. There is no agricultural produce, and agro industries are shut down. There is an increase in rural to urban migrants since there is no agriculture and agro industry to sustain them. Farmers are either selling or leasing out their farmlands to rich men and looking for minimum wage jobs in the city.
Globally, groundnut is the sixth important commercial crop. For the farmers of Challakere, it is a ‘food-income-industrial-commercial’ crop. Groundnut contains 48-50% oil and 26-28% nitrogen. High in fiber, it has many nutrients necessary for the human body. Around the world, about 26.4 million hectares are under groundnut cultivation. Total production is 37.10 million tones. Its average yield is 14 quintal per hectare.
About 94% of the total production is in developing countries. But the yield is low. Yield varies from one country to another, from one state to another, and from one province to another.
Groundnut is grown as both a rain-fed and irrigation crop. The crop is often cultivated under rain-fed conditions. The ideal season to grow it in India is in summer and during the monsoon. The best-suited temperature is an average of 250C to 300C. Temperatures higher than 350 C adversely affect the crop.
Changes in rainfall patterns during the monsoons are contributing to a reduction in groundnut yield. Some areas are witnessing a decline in groundnut cultivation. During the decade of 1990-2000, Karnataka received less rainfall than average during the monsoon. During this time, groundnut yield came down and the area under groundnut cultivation decreased. In 1980, farmers grew groundnut on a total of 18.98 lakh acres of land. By 1990, it was spread to 29.85 lakh acres. But by 2000, it was down to 26 lakh acres.
The important food crops in the district are Ragi (finger millet), Paddy and Jowar. Cotton and groundnut are the main commercial crops. In the last 10-12 years, onion and green chillies have also been widely grown. 80.37% of total cultivated land is under groundnut cultivation. Three taluks – Challakere, Molakalmuru and Hiriyur–have sand-mixed red soil, which is ideal for groundnut cultivation.
In these three taluks, groundnut is grown as a rain-fed crop. Tube wells also are being used for irrigation. There are both very small farmers and rich farmers who grow groundnuts in these areas of the district.