Category Archives: Agriculture

Farmers find success in fighting bugs the organic way

Kozhikode :

Even as farmers following intensive farming are struggling to battle bugs which are increasingly turning pesticide-resistant, farmer groups who have adopted organic cultivation say they have been successful in keeping the pests at bay by adopting sustainable and integrated pest management strategies. Rajesh Krishnan, a biotechnologist turned organic farmer and winner of this year’s Youth Icon award instituted by state government, for instance, has not sprayed even a drop of pesticide in his ten-acre paddy field at Thrissilery in Wayanad in the past four years.

Still, he has been able to curb the deadly trio of major rice pests the leaf roller (Cnaphalocrocis medinalis), stem borer (Scirpophaga incertulas)and earhead bug (Leptocorisa acuta) using organic formulations and local traditional knowledge.

The farmer collectives say pest management is a built-in process in the overall crop production in traditional and organic farming process rather than a pest-killing activity using chemicals. “Pests have been evolving to overcome targeted chemical pesticides as part of their survival strategy . In organic farming, the focus is on management of pests instead of elimination of pests. We have been able to manage pests very well for paddy and other crops without using chemical pesticides,” he said.

Rajesh Krishnan said that the leaf roller can be controlled by a simple mechanical method of sweeping the rice plants with branches of `Parakam’ tree which has rough leaves.

“When we sweep the plants using the tree branches in the morning, the caterpillar will be dislodged from the leaves and falls into the water which will be drained out immediately,” he said.

For repelling the earhead bug (Chazhi), ‘fish amino’ made using sardines which are fermented in a jaggery solution and sprayed after diluting it with water. Farmers in the state who have taken up `zero budget natural farming’ advocated by Subash Palekar are also of the view that pest management is not a big issue.

“Under our farming practices, which uses only natural inputs, a healthy ecosystem makes the plants stronger and enhances their selfdefence against pest attacks,” said CA Gopalakrishnan, state secretary of Palekar Prakrithi Karshaka Samithi.

He said that farmers have been effectively using natural pesticides like Neemastram (a decoction made out of  cow urine, dung and neem leaf paste), Brahmastram (made out of fruits like custard apple, leaves of papaya, guava and pomegranate apart from neem leaves and cow urine) to manage various pests including borers, bugs and caterpillars.

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> City News> Kozhikode News / TNN / November 06th, 2017

It’s a story of rice to riches for Kerala farmer

Against the grain: Praseed Kumar with his children in his progressive farm at Sulthan Bathery.

When others moved to cash crops to cut losses, he brought Gujarat and Punjab varieties to Wayanad

India’s traditional rice diversity has brought riches to a farmer in northern Kerala .

Praseed Kumar from Thayyil at Sulthan Bathery went against the tide, when his peers in the loss-hit farming community in Wayanad switched to cash crops such as plantain and arecanut a few years ago.

The 43-year-old progressive farmer got a small packet of rice seeds from a friend in Gujarat, which stood out with its violet-coloured chaff. He decided to propagate this variety. Initially, it was on just one cent of land, but later, it was expanded to one hectare.

Mr. Kumar has been conserving the ‘Krishna Kamod’, a basmati rice variety from Gujarat known for its taste, colour and aroma on one hectare for the past seven years.

Last year, he harvested nearly 2,500 kg of this paddy and sold it as seeds to farmers at ₹ 200 a kg, rather than in the open market.

“While farmers procure the rare rice variety as seed, others buy it as a gift, or keep it in their pooja rooms and offer it to temples,” Mr. Kumar said.

Fights drought, pests

He spent ₹ 85,000 as costs and earned ₹ 5 lakh. The Agriculture Department, which finds the rice attractive, chipped in with ₹18,000 as incentive.

“It seems quite suitable for Kerala and its pest and drought resistance are plus points,” said M.K. Mariyumma, Agricultural Officer, Krishi Bhavan, Nenmeni. Many farmers coming under Krishi Bhavan are eager to cultivate it.

The farmer has become famous for growing 15 varieties of rice. These include Mahamaya, a hybrid with an average yield of 4.3 tonnes an acre, Ramli, a traditional Punjab rice, Navara and Rakthashali, with medicinal properties, Black Jasmine, a violet medicinal Assamese type, two basmati variants from Jammu and Kashmir, besides Valichoori and Adukkan, both indigenous varieties.

Mr. Kumar is looking at rented land now, to grow even more.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> States> Kerala / by E.M. Manoj / Kalpetta – October 31st, 2017

Intensive farming in Kerala a European legacy, says historian

Back to the past: Veritta Paitrukangal, an exhibition on agricultural implements of yore, in Thrissur.

Exhibition on agricultural tools at Sahitya Akademi draws history lovers

Intensive and extensive cultivation was practised in Kerala by European colonialists, the fruit of which were reaped mainly by the middle class, Michael Tharakan, chairman of the Kerala Council for Historical Research (KCHR), has said.

He was addressing a three-day national seminar on ‘Social changes in Kerala: The last five centuries’, organised by the Kerala Historical Research Society (KHRS) at the Kerala Sahitya Akademi here. The seminar will conclude on Sunday.

The progress of education in modern Kerala could be traced back to this rise of the middle class, he argued.

Kerala Institute of Local Administration (KILA) Director Joy Elaman delivered the keynote address.

Kerala Sahitya Akademi president Vysakhan inaugurated an exhibition titled ‘Uprooted Heritage’. KHRS president George Alex presided over the function. Joseph John Keethra, general secretary, KHRS, and C.R. Valsan, Chairman, Kerala State Textile Corporation, spoke.

At the technical session, historian M.R. Raghava Warrier said colonialism in Kerala was based on a slavish mentality in material life, knowledge life, and individual life. Colonialism uprooted occupation groups and controlled the resource base of the land, he added.

Samuel Nellimukal presented a paper on education and social progress in the 19th and early 20th century Kerala. T.R. Venugopalan moderated the session.

The seminar is organised in six sessions, and 15 papers will be presented by experts in relevant areas. At the valedictory session, Alexander Jacob, IPS, will deliver a lecture on ‘Keralam: Innele Innu’.

Veritta Paitrukangal (Uprooted Heritage), an exhibition of agricultural tools and implements organised in connection with the seminar fascinated history lovers.

The exhibition explores the possibility of attracting youth to Kerala’s history and culture, and thereby, attempts to open fresh avenues in research and studies. Indirectly, it looks forward to creating awareness among youth and the public about the State in the past five centuries.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> States / October 21st, 2017

A fisher couple who defies conventions

Braving waves: The CMFRI will felicitate K.V. Karthikeyan and K.C. Rekha on Friday.

Rekha is the first woman in the country who goes fishing in the sea by boat, according to CMFRI

The Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) will felicitate K.V. Karthikeyan and his wife K.C. Rekha who have been venturing into the sea for fishing using gill nets and hooks since the past 13 years.

Sudarshan Bhagat, Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, will present a memento to the couple at a fishermen meet to be held at CMFRI here on Friday. He will hand over fish seeds to the couple for launching sea cage farming. The programme is part of the ongoing platinum jubilee celebrations of the institution.

An official release here said that the couple hails from Kundazhiyoor near Chettuva in Thrissur district. It claimed that Ms. Rekha is the first woman in the country who goes fishing in the sea by boat. Although there are women engaged in fishing in backwaters, no record about women’s presence in fishing along the Indian coasts is available so far, said A. Gopalakrishnan, Director of CMFRI. He said that the institution wanted to felicitate the courage shown by the couple.

Financial support

“There are some superstitious beliefs in the society that women are not supposed to go to the sea for fishing. But, here a lady has courageously broken all these unreasonable customs and conventions and made a living out of fishing,” said Mr. Gopalakrishnan. The CMFRI has offered them financial and technical support to launch cage farming in the sea.

The Minister will address the representatives of fishermen and fish farmers. An interactive session will also be held on the occasion to solve the issues being faced by stakeholders.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Kochi / by  Special Correspondent / Kochi – May 04th, 2017

Nilambur teak set to enter elite club of products with GI tag

prized wood: The superior quality of the Nilambur teak was identified by the British. — Photos: Special Arrangement

The timber has superior mechanical and physical properties, besides an incomparable aesthetic appearance

Nilambur teak, internationally known for its superior quality and elegant appearance, will soon be added to the list of Kerala produces with the Geographical Indication (GI) tag.

The effort to obtain the GI status for this unique timber variety, pioneered by the IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) Cell of the Kerala Agricultural University (KAU) with the support of the Nilambur Teak Heritage Society, the Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI) and the Department of Forests, is set to bear fruit within a month.

It was the Britishers who identified the superior quality of teak from Nilambur plantations and forests. Later, the region became the major supplier of quality teak in the world.

Global appeal

As its fame crossed the seven seas, Nilambur was christened the Mecca of Teak. Tonnes of timber, blessed with superior mechanical and physical properties as well as incomparable aesthetic appearance, were taken to London and other parts of the world. The Nilambur-Shoranur Railway line was laid for transporting the teak logs.

However, fake products with false tags started flooding the wood/ furniture markets as the fame of Nilambur teak increased. Understanding the potential risk, the IPR Cell and the College of Forestry of Kerala Agricultural University motivated the people of Nilambur to protect their rights legally, by registering the unique product as a Geographical Indication under the GI Act.

The Nilambur Teak Heritage Society joined hands with the Kerala Agricultural University to register Nilambur teak as a GI product of India. The IPR Cell of KAU coordinated the legal procedures. Scientific studies to validate the unique qualities of Nilambur teak were done at KAU’s College of Forestry. The KFRI Centres at Peechi and Nilambur and the Kerala Forest Department also supported the venture.

The preparations for registering Nilambur teak were initiated with a workshop of stakeholders organised by KAU in 2013. The application for GI registration was submitted to the GI Registry, Chennai, in December 2015. The modalities completed, the formality of bestowing the GI tag on Nilambur teak is expected at the next sitting of the Registry, according to KAU sources. Members of Nilambur Teak Heritage Society, Coordinator of KAU’s IPR Cell and experts from the College of Forestry have been asked to attend the sitting at the GI Registry, scheduled for the end of February.

GI registration of Pokkali rice, one of the first Kerala produces to get the GI tag, meanwhile, has been renewed. Other Kerala products with GI registration include Vazhakulam Pineapple, Wayanadan rice varieties Jeerakasala and Gandhakasala, Tirur Betel vine, Central Travancore Jaggery and Chengalikodan Nendran, a banana variety.

source:  http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Stats> Kerala / by Mini Maringatheri / Thrissur – February 10th, 2017

Going native

Media entrepreneur M.R. Hari rears Cheruvally cows | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Many city dwellers are rearing native cattle breeds

Veterinarian Easwaran E.K. is passionate about cows, specifically breeds native to Kerala. Among his prized bovines is a six-year-old pure breed Vechur cow that he rears on his home farm in Aruvikkara. For media entrepreneur M.R. Hari though, it’s Cheruvally cows that have captured his interest. He rears five of these cows that are endemic to villages in central Kerala in his farm at Puliyarakonam.

Not too far away, in Malayam, government employee and dairy farmer Suraj S. considers a playful 10-month-old Kasaragod dwarf, yet another native breed, as the star of his 40-strong herd. For R.G. Arundev, an award-winning dairy farmer from Balaramapuram, meanwhile, his herd of indigenous cows, comprising two Vechurs, two Kasaragod dwarfs and North Indian natives Gir, Sahiwal, Kankrej and Krishna Valley, are his favourites within his herd of 87 cattle…

At a time when the hullabaloo over Jallikattu turns the spotlight on the need to preserve native breeds, there are quite a few farmers and agriculturalists in the city who have already taken the bull by the horns and are helping to conserve indigenous cattle of Kerala. “Native breeds are the BMWs of dairy farming!” says Hari.

“They’ve become so rare and consequently expensive that it’s now become a bit of a prestige issue for people to rear them” he adds. Suraj is one of them.

“It’s very difficult to procure a Vechur cow and also they cost a bomb – upwards of 1.5 lakh. The next best bet was a Kasaragod dwarf. I bought 10 of them from Kasaragod but had to sell them because they are naturally free-ranging animals and there was no space at home for them to roam at will,” he says. Unlike ‘super cows’ the native breeds are easy to rear, say the farmers. “All that they require are green grass, fresh water and plenty of sun. These animals are very hardy and have a make-up that’s suitable to our climate and as such rarely fall ill, ” says Suraj, who turned to dairy farming when he hit 30 nine years ago. “I don’t think of it as business but my way of giving back to society. It gives me great satisfaction,” he adds.

For many of them, though, their interest in organic farming appears to have led them to native breeds.

Dr. Easwaran, a veterinary surgeon at the Animal Husbandry department, for instance, practices Subash Palekar’s zero-budget natural farming, for which native cattle are essential. “Their manure is rich in microbes that can revive the fertility and nutrient value of soil. Their discharges have medicinal properties,” explains the vet. “I have a professional interest in conservation of native breeds but it’s also my passion. At home we’ve always reared cows,” he adds.

Hari also practices zero-budget agriculture. “Actually, converting rocky or barren land to fertile natural forest is my passion. For that I need indigenous, cows, goats, hens and so on. To me these animals are small organic processing units that send many nutrients from native shrubs, trees and herbs that they eat, back to the soil,” says the entrepreneur.

His interest in cows stems from the pioneering efforts of Sosamma Iype, a professor of Animal Breeding and Genetics in College of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Mannuthy, to bring back the Vechur cow from extinction. “I went to film a documentary on her and was blown away by what she had achieved and I immediately resolved to buy native cattle,” he explains.

That said, native breeds are not cash cows when it comes to the quantity of milk. “They produce much less milk per day than European or hybrid breeds. From a Vechur cow, for instance, one can get a maximum of two litres of milk per day and that’s pushing it. Compare that to an average of 20 litres from a Holstein-Friesian,” says Arundev, a CISF officer-turned-dairy farmer. It’s the quality that counts.

“There is high demand for their milk, cowdung and urine, all of which have medicinal value. Most of my customers are Ayurveda companies. I have to get up with the cows to collect the first discharges of the day and squeeze the first milk out of them, for they are all top dollar, literally and figuratively,” says Arundev.

Did you know?

Kerala has several indigenous breeds – Vechur, Cheruvally, Kasaragod dwarf, Kuttampuzha dwarf, Vadakara and Vilwadri, though only the Vechur is officially recognised as a ‘native’ breed. Pure breed native cattle are always of single colour,says Dr. Easwaran.

Cow conservation

Sosamma Iype motivated a group of environmentally-conscious university students to conduct an extensive search for Vechur cows and bulls. The Vechur Conservation Project was launched in Veterinary College, Thrissur, in July 1989 with eight animals. Today, there are, reportedly, 1600 or so Vechur cattle in Kerala. The Vechur Conservation Trust came into being in 1998 and is now ‘dedicated to the cause of domestic animal diversity conservation.’ (Source: PIB, Government of India).

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Society / by Nitya Sathyendran / Thiruvananthapuram – February 10th, 2017

Tribe offers clues to hidden wonders of medicinal plant

Based on traditional knowledge of Cholanaickan tribe

A medicinal plant endemic to the southern parts of Western Ghats and Sri Lanka could offer scientists the key to new herbal formulations and modern drugs for the treatment of cancer and wounds and burns.

Scientists at the Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute (JNTBGRI) here have confirmed the multiple therapeutic properties of Neurocalyx calycinus used by the Cholanaickan tribe, one of the particularly vulnerable groups in Kerala, to treat inflammations and wounds.

The researchers have filed for a patent on a novel herbal drug formulation possessing wound-healing, burn-healing, anti-cancer, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, immuno- enhancing, platelet-augmentation and anti-oxidant effects.

The scientists came to know of the miracle plant in 1988 during a biological survey deep inside the Nilambur forests. The team led by S. Rajasekharan, former Head, Ethnomedicine and Ethnopharmacology division, JNTBRI, came across Kuppamala Kaniyan, a tribal elder, with hideous scars right across his chest. On inquiry, it was revealed that he had been terribly mauled by a bear a few years ago.

“We were told that the animal had pinned him down and was trying to rip open his chest. The bleeding tribesman somehow fought back and managed to hack the bear to death,” says Dr. Rajasekharan. “It took three days of persuasion before Kuppamala Kaniyan revealed how he had made a paste from the fresh leaves of N.calycinus, known in local parlance as ‘pacha chedi,’ to arrest the bleeding and heal the fresh wounds on his chest.”

Systematic documentation of traditional knowledge helped scientists take up the research work later.

Animal trials have proved that the leaves of N.calycinus possess wound-healing properties comparable to the standard drug Povidone/ Iodine in the early phase of inflammation. The anti-inflammatory activity of the leaves was found comparable to the drug diclofenac sodium.

The pre-clinical trials confirmed the therapeutic effects of N.calycinus against burn wounds and pain, besides its immuno-enhancing, platelet augmentation, and anti-oxidant potential. The presence of high Vitamin E content and potent cytoprotective activity in cell lines in the plant species have also enhanced the prospects of developing an anti-cancer drug.

In a presentation that won the best paper award at the Kerala Science Congress last month, Aneeshkumar A.L., a member of the research group, said the work had thrown up promising leads for the development of novel herbal formulations and modern medicines.

“It will now need multi-institutional studies to take the work forward,” says Dr. Rajasekharan.

The paper said the JNTBGRI would share the commercial benefits of its work with the dwindling Cholanaickan tribe.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Sci-Tech> Science / T Nandakumar / Thiruvananthapuram – February 04th, 2017

Where tea production is a lasting legacy

teafactorykerala15oct2016

The factory was set up by Britishers in 1935 and production is still on the equipment installed then

 Acclaimed as the highest altitude tea plantation in the world, Kolukkumalai, near Munnar, has the unique feature of preserving the British heritage in tea-making at the factory here.

Located at an altitude of 7,130 ft. above sea level, the factory is housed in a two-storey wooden structure set up by the Britishers in 1935 and the method of tea production is still on the equipment installed at that time.

The equipment still in use at the Kolukkumalai tea factory in Idukki are those installed by the Britishers
The equipment still in use at the Kolukkumalai tea factory in Idukki are those installed by the Britishers

Tea is made here through a process of withering. Manual labour is an integral part of the process, from hand-plucking to the final stage of making tea dust. The factory is set in the ambience of green tea plants on the mountain stretch bordering Tamil Nadu.

Though Kolukkumalai is in Theni district of Tamil Nadu, it is 32 km from Munnar. The story of Kolukkumalai is linked to the tea plantation era of the British Raj in Munnar.

Leased land

The visit of British resident of the erstwhile Travancore Kingdom, John Daniel Munro, to Munnar in 1870s paved the way for tea plantation. He leased the land in 1877 from Poonjar Koikal Rohini Thirunal Kerala Varma and started cultivation of various crops under the North Travancore Land Planting and Agricultural Society. However, it was A.H. Sharp, a European resident who started tea cultivation on 50 acres of land in Munnar in the 1880s.

The tea plantations later extended to the nearby hills, reaching the present border areas of Tamil Nadu. Though tea production in the Kanan Devan Hills is still done in the factories set up by the Britishers, the process and the equipment underwent a lot of change under the modernisation process

An official at the Kolukkumalai factory said the organic method of production is followed here. Since the plantation is located on a peak, the attack of pests is minimum and the natural elements in the soil are preserved. Kolukkumalai also provides a bird’s-eye view of land extending up to Kodaikanal and it is also a natural habitat of bird species that are seen in the high altitude ranges.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> National> Kerala / Idukki – October 15th, 2016

Whipping up a record with a mammoth salad

EGGCELENCE ON DISPLAY:The salad that was prepared using 7,000 eggs and vegetables in the city on Sunday, as part of World Egg Day observance.— Photo: Thulasi Kakkat
EGGCELENCE ON DISPLAY:The salad that was prepared using 7,000 eggs and vegetables in the city on Sunday, as part of World Egg Day observance.— Photo: Thulasi Kakkat

One hundred-and-forty students from St. Teresa’s College, ten staff members and 43 professional chefs came together to prepare a mammoth egg salad to mark the World Egg Day celebrations in the city.

A statement issued by the Indian Farmers’ Association said the event was organised as part of the ongoing ‘Harithotsavam’, based on farming and allied activities.

The egg salad was prepared using 7,000 eggs and vegetables. When laid out, it measured 814.5 feet, the organisers said.

They also claimed that the egg salad had created a record for its length.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Kochi / by Special Correspondent / Kochi – October 10th, 2016

Savour a jackfruit-based wedding feast

JamesMathewKERALA22aug2016

Palakkad :

More than two decades since his active engagement as a campaigner of the seemingly-innocuous jackfruit, suggesting it as a rich source of food security in the years to come, Kerala’s celebrated jackfruit promoter James P. Mathew is now preparing to convert the marriage of his son, Lino, into a mega jackfruit event.

Apart from his friends and relatives, a huge gathering comprising agricultural scientists, organic farmers, opinion makers, senior officials, politicians and activists will attend the wedding on September 15 at Santhom Parish Hall in Kanjirapuzha here. The guests will savour an 18-course jackfruit-based feast. The dishes to be served along with chicken, mutton and fish include the traditional Kerala jackfruit meal and jackfruit-based delicacies such as juice, pickles, ‘payasam,’ wine and fries.

Talking to The Hindu at his residence here, Mr. James said the event has been organised in such a manner as to help policy-makers realise the importance of promoting jackfruit. Lack of awareness of its multiple benefits is directly responsible for the wastage of an estimated Rs.500 crore of the fruit in India, he said. He suggested forming jackfruit clusters and network of growers to convert its cultivation into an organised business.

“A rich source of nutrients, jackfruit has carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals. Its medicinal properties include strengthening of the immune system and anti-cancer, anti-ulcer and anti-hypertension action. The by-products include beverages, nectar, clarified juice, wine, vinegar, canned products, candied fruit, dehydrated flakes, laddus and biscuits, pickle, pappad, sweets and jackfruit bulbs and leather,” he said. “It is the duty of the government to conduct scientific studies on jackfruit to validate the claims of its promoters.”

Mr. James, who has made a set of jackfruit processing devices, has developed a basketful of products. These include golden-yellow jackfruit wine, dehydrated flakes that can be stored, a health drink, baby food and jack seed powder. His homestead has 60 jackfruit trees of the firm-fleshed ‘varikka’ variety, scattered among coconut, areca nut, cocoa and rubber.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> National> Kerala / by K.A. Shaji / Irumpakachola – August 21st, 2016