The grafted vines come to commercial harvest after two years

When the yield improves, so does the farmer's income. But a drop in the yield affects a farmer's livelihood.

“To rise from a loss like a phoenix requires fortitude, sagacity, scientific temperament and an innovative mind,” says Dr. T.N. Prakash Kammardi, Co-ordinator, Honey Bee network and Editor, Hittala Gida (Kannada version of Honey Bee).

Economic loss

Mr. Ravishankar, from Dakshina Kannada district, suffered severe economic loss in pepper due to infestation a decade back. But today, a new pepper variety resistant to wilt infestation owes its success to the same farmer who lost his entire yield.

The farmer had cultivated some local pepper varieties such as Panniyur, Karimunda, and Vayanadu and suffered severe loss due to wilt infestation.

New variety

“Initially I thought that pests caused the damage but later learnt that it was a wilt disease, a common infestation in pepper, which affected my vines. Continuous search for a superior wilt resistant variety did not fetch a satisfactory result. I decided to develop a new variety by grafting a local spice plant called Hippali (endowed with a smell similar to pepper) and Panniyur variety," he explains.

Mr. Ravishankar selected both plants of the same age and grafted them. He planted 6 -7 grafted plants in the field. All the plants grew well and exhibited resistance to wilt infestation.

Commercial yield

“The new grafted pepper variety is wilt resistant and has high phenolic content. The number of spikes in a vine ranges from 30-40 and the berries, 100-165. The dry yield is 1.5 kg/year/vine. The variety takes eight months to fruit after flowering and yields economically after two years,” explains the farmer.

The leaves are dark green in colour compared to Panniyur variety bearing moderately green coloured leaves.

Require shade

He also observed that after grafting, the plants required to be kept under shade to ensure a healthier growth. Flowering in all the plants started during month of June and harvesting done once a year. For better root growth, he encourages the careful use of V-notch method during grafting.

Scientists from the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, and Agriculture Research Station, Thirthahalli, visited Ravishankar's farm and found the phenolic content was higher - the reason for its wilt tolerance.

Cement beehives

In addition to pepper, the farmer also makes beehives from cement. In India hive boxes are usually made of teak wood. During monsoon the wooden hives get damaged quickly.

To overcome this problem and to save trees from being cut the farmer says he developed cement hive boxes.

“Cement hives solve the problem of hornets attacking bee hives. The heavy weight of the cement hive makes it less prone to theft and is better adapted to vagaries of weather such as rain and sun.

Several benefits

“Unlike wood, cement provides protection from termites, bush fires, worms, and pests,” explains Mr. Ravi.

Regarding the cost of the hives he says:

"These cement boxes cost less than wooden boxes and are long lasting. Bees readily occupy the hives." They are easy to handle and cost Rs.250 per box.

For more information contact Mr. Ravishankar, Amadula house, Madyanthyaru post, Belthangady Taluka, Dakshin Kannada, Karnataka, mobile: 9972715411, phone: 08256-279390 and Dr. Dr. T.N. Prakash Kammardi, email: prakashtnk@yahoo.com, mobile: 9448772202.