03 August, 2021

Faradays In The Backyard

A band of unsung, homespun scientists sets mind and technology to devise simple, everyday innovations

Faradays In The Backyard
Sunda Ram Verma, 50, may not hold a doctorate in agriculture but his ingenuity on the farm would make any scientist envious. This ordinary farmer from Sikar, Rajasthan, has evolved a variety of chilli that gives handsome yields even in drought conditions. The Indian Council for Agricultural Research did award him the first Jagjivan Ram Kisan Puraskar, but he would have been happier had his greening experiments been endorsed by the boffins in Krishi Bhavan.

He has grown over 15,000 trees—ranging from indigenous varieties like ber, neem, amla, adoo and sisam to foreign ones like the Australian babool and even the water-guzzling eucalyptus—in Sikar’s parched soils by tapping soil moisture from a depth of one foot. His unique method, developed over 15 years of trial-and-error dryland farming, draws heavily on his uncle’s meticulously-kept diary of 35 weather parameters in relation to farming practices, recorded over 30 years. Sunda Ram has a simple observation: plants that "survive the stress of the first fortnight can survive any severe stress". Indeed, his trees...

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