The College of Agriculture at Vellayani, near here, is gearing up to give a helping hand to the Kerala's efforts to shake off its dependence on neighbouring States for vegetables.

The college has embarked on an ambitious programme aimed at boosting vegetable production in the State and promoting organic farming.

A vegetable seed laboratory comprising a full-fledged seed processing unit, seed storage facilities and testing laboratory has been established on the campus. Funded by the State Horticulture Mission, the project also offers training for farmers in seed production methods.

“Farmers report that the poor quality of seeds sourced from neighbouring States has seriously affected output. Our project is designed to help them overcome the problem by ensuring a regular supply of scientifically produced seeds suitable for the agro-climatic conditions here,” says K. Harikrishnan Nair, Dean, College of Agriculture.

As many as 500 kg of seeds of 16 different tropical vegetables have already been produced under the project that uses modern farm equipment and micro sprinklers. Scheduled to be inaugurated by Shashi Tharoor, MP, on Tuesday, the seed testing laboratory is one among a slew of projects to be launched on the campus on Tuesday under an integrated plan to improve academic standards and infrastructural facilities.

Technology innovation

The college is simultaneously taking up a Rs.2-crore project to boost vegetable production in Kerala through technology innovation and mission-mode activities. Funded by the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, the project focuses on promoting vegetable cultivation at the homestead level and in schools.

Thrust areas

It seeks to enhance production by utilising cultivable waste land, developing technology for production of cool season vegetables and produce value-added products from ethnic varieties.

Conservation of agro-biodiversity in vegetables and promoting team work in vegetable farming are other priority areas. Apart from farmers, the project will also involve scientists and extension personnel of the Department of Agriculture, Vegetable and Fruit Promotion Council of Kerala, the State Horticulture Mission and local bodies.

Another major programme on the anvil is the establishment of a Centre for Organic Farming on the campus. The Rs.1.01-crore project seeks to promote teaching and research activities in organic farming and natural resource management.

The college is setting up two model organic farms on the campus. Farmers in the southern districts are being trained in organic farming methods and production of vermin compost.

A bio-control laboratory set up under the Department of Entomology is another major intervention by the college aimed at promoting eco-friendly methods of agriculture in Kerala.

The laboratory will produce various biological agents to replace chemical pesticides used for management of pests and diseases in various crops. The bio-control agents will be supplied to farmers free of cost. “The facility will help them avoid indiscriminate use of pesticides that has seriously affected soil health by destroying micro organisms,” Dr. Nair said.

New course

Other projects to be launched in the campus on Tuesday include laying the foundation stone for a new building for the Integrated Biotechnology course, inauguration of a mushroom spawn production centre and a website for the college.

As many as 11 new-generation courses and projects on production of quality planting material and integrated management of fruit flies are also to be launched at the function.

Agriculture Minister Mullakara Ratnakaran is scheduled to lay the foundation stone of the new building for the integrated course.

Dr. Nair said the new-generation courses had been approved by the Board of Studies of the Kerala Agricultural University for award of diploma or certificate. They would subsequently be upgraded to degree and postgraduate courses.