As part of the measures to become an active contributor to the food security programme, the Kollam district panchayat has finalised plans to develop all the four agricultural farms and one animal husbandry farm under its management.
The agricultural farms are at Kottukkal, Kadakkal, Karunagapally and Kottarakara and the animal husbandry farm at Kuriyottumala.
Talking to presspersons from the Kuriyottumala farm near Anchal on Friday, district panchayat president R. Gopalakrishna Pillai said the entire area of these farms would be put under production in association with the Agriculture Department. The prime thrust would be to promote food cultivation in the district through the development of these farms, he said.
The farms at Karunagapally and Kottarakara are promoting coconut cultivation and the one at Kadakkal is promoting paddy cultivation. At the 330 acre Kottukal farm, various fruit and vegetable farming are promoted. The biotechnology unit of this farm produces tissue culture banana saplings, high-yielding vegetable seeds, pepper shoots and cashew and mango grafts to be distributed to farmers at prices that are much lower than the open market rates.
The farm produces the much-needed pseudomonas bacteria which is an effective bio control for crops. The product produced in association with the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) is sold to farmers at prices much below the market rates. The product is highly effective against quick wild fungal disease in black pepper.
As part of the steps to develop the farm, a check dam will be constructed across the Ithikara River at its Kottukkal course and the water will be used to irrigate the farm during summer.
Mr. Pillai said there were some encroachments in the farm and these would be evicted. Entry into the farm property would also be restricted. He said the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) would be extended to the operations of the farm to overcome the labour shortage. Though the farms had an approved strength of 140 labourers, at present there were only 70 labourers. Effective steps would be taken to prevent the frequent outbreak of fire inside the farm during peak summer, he said.
Chairman of the district panchayat's development standing committee S. Jayamohan said the Kottukkal farm would give training to farmers for growing tissue culture crops. Mango crops would be revived in the district. Farmers turned apathetic to mango farming because of diseases during flowering and harvest seasons. The farm was developing techniques to overcome these problems, he said.
S. Mohanachandran, principal agricultural officer, Kollam, said every year the Kottukkal farm produced and distributed about five-lakh tissue culture banana saplings, 50,000 coconut saplings, more than 30,000 cashew grafts, an equal number of mango and jackfruit grafts and a huge quantity of high yielding vegetable seeds to the farmers. The mango grafts were mainly from 27 different species of mango trees growing inside the farm.