About 17 tonnes of fresh turmeric was harvested from an acre

Mr. Muhammed Busthani, from Koduvally in Kozhikode district of Kerala, does not claim to be an experienced farmer, but a casual chat with him can make one realise that the man’s knowledge in the subject is quite deep rooted.

His interest, particularly in turmeric, is surprising when he asserts: “Among all crops turmeric is the least affected by pests and infestations.”

No clue

On return to his home town after leaving a private sector job in New Delhi, Mr. Busthani was planning to venture into business.

But he was totally clueless on where to start. His friends floated many ideas, but he was all the more confused.

It was a meeting with an expert at the Indian Institute of Spices Research, Kozhikode, and an old acquaintance, which helped him to realize that agriculture was his next calling.

In February 2011, he, along with his five friends, attended a three-day seminar and technology showcasing conducted at the Institute under the aegis of National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP) of ICAR.

That was a turning point in the life of Mr. Busthani and his friends.

“After attending various sessions in the seminar and hearing the success stories of farmer participants, we decided to grow turmeric,” he recalls.

Initially, they booked one tonne of seeds of Prathibha turmeric variety from a farmer delegate in the seminar. The friends formed a trust and took one acre land on lease at Sultan Bathery, Wayanad, and thus Bucca Farms was born.

From that one acre plot the team harvested around 17 tonnes of fresh turmeric in January 2012.

“We dried about 100 kg of Prathibha turmeric and powdered it for domestic use. After that, the home made dishes were all in a different taste. When my wife pointed out the superiority of turmeric powder, I thought of cultivating it on commercial scale,” he recalls.

Exploring options

He took the appreciation seriously and explored the opinions of the neighbouring housewives — a sort of survey study.

All the neighbours who used Prathibha turmeric for cooking endorsed the ‘magic’ of Prathibha turmeric powder.

This year, the friends leased out around 18 acres of land at Pazhayangadi near Vellamunda in Wayanad district of Kerala and the entire area was planted with the remaining Parthiba seeds.

Today, Bucca Farms may be the largest farm growing a single variety of turmeric in Kerala. The farmers adopt the production packages recommended by IISR.

The operations including the fertilizer applications are targeted to get a yield of 320 tonnes. IISR scientists’ team has developed specific fertilizer recommendations to obtain a fixed yield from a unit area of land, known as ‘targeted yield’.

As the crop is showing good health and uniform growth, the farmers are expecting a yield somewhere near the targeted levels.

Tonnes per hectare

“Maturing in 225 days under rainfed conditions, Prathibha gives an average yield of 39.12 tonnes per hectare. Relatively higher levels of curcumin (6.25per cent), oleoresin (16.2per cent) and essential oil (6.2 per cent) make this variety a hot choice for industrial, medicinal, and culinary purposes.

“The variety is proven to give 6 to 7 per cent of curcumin under Kerala conditions,” says Dr. B Sasikumar, Principal Scientist of the institute who developed it more than 10 years back.

“The Prathibha variety, which was released in the year 1996, has proved to be more adaptable to different states of India like Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab etc, owing to its better phenotypic plasticity and other favourable conditions,” says Dr. M Anandaraj, Director, Indian Institute of Spices Research.

With his two years of experience of turmeric cultivation, Mr. Busthani is now aware of the problems of farming in the state — labour shortage and high labour costs.

Remedy

And he has a remedy too for this malady — farm mechanization. In fact, one of the major labour requirements for turmeric in the state is for bed-making for planting. With the help of local skilled workers, he converted a tractor mounted disc plough into a bed maker.

“Though the topography of the area was undulating; we could make uniform beds for planting turmeric in the entire 18 acres land using the bed-maker. It helped us to save about 300 labourers’ work,” he adds.

The farmer is also contemplating going in for available modern techniques in other farm operations so as to bring down the cost of production.

“We are working on a tractor mountable device to harvest the crop in the coming season,” he adds.

He was also one of the farmers identified for scientific cultivation of ginger (varada) under the institutes’ NAIP project on multi-enterprise farming models to address the agrarian crisis of Wayanad, Kerala in 2011.

For more details contact Mr. Muhamed Busthani, Thotathil House, Elettil PO, Koduvally, Kozhikode, Mob: 09946041946.