Avocado, popularly known as ‘butter fruit’, which was grown along the fences erected to protect other crops in farms, has now emerged as a prime cash crop in the hill station, thanks to low production costs and high returns.

As awareness of the low cultivation cost required for it and its easy maintenance spread among farmers on the lower Kodaikanal hill, the total area under avocado cultivation has shot up to 60 hectares.

To meet the growing demand in future, the Horticulture Research Station at Thadiyankudisai has started producing avocado grafts. “We will offer 50 per cent subsidy for avocado under the Integrated Horticulture Development Scheme from the next financial year,” says Deputy Director of Horticulture S. Raja Mohammed.

Seedlings take 10 years to give yield, but graft plants start giving yield from the seventh year. Yield per tree per year is around 265 kg and its maintenance is easy as it is not affected by pests and diseases. On an average, a farmer can get a yearly revenue ranging between Rs.5,000 and Rs.6,000 per tree.

He adds that 9,000 avocado seedlings have been distributed to progressive farmers at 50 per cent subsidised costs under the Integrated Horticulture Development Scheme.

At the farmers-scientists interaction on innovative crops and field problems meant for farmers on the lower Kodaikanal hill held here on Saturday, the cultivation techniques of avocado were discussed.

Avocado, botanically known as Persea americana, is an evergreen plant and can grow in diverse environmental conditions. On an average, one avocado tree produces about 120 to 150 fruits annually.

The fruit has a high monounsaturated fat content, which is considered healthy. One fruit contains 25 per cent of the recommended daily amount of saturated fat.

Avocados also have 60 per cent more potassium than bananas and are rich in vitamins B, E and K.

Its juice acts as an antioxidant and its seeds are used to manufacture paper.

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