Adoption of high production technology and cultivation of high yielding varieties have put tremendous pressure on soil nutrient reserve in the country leading to a great imbalance in nutrient status in the soil.

A large chunk of soil in the country has been rendered deficient in micronutrients, which is one of the major reasons that crops have stopped responding to fertilizers, according to Dr. M Anandaraj, Director of Indian Institute of Spices Research (IISR) in Kozhikode.

Proven

Studies show that 40-55 per cent of soils are moderately deficient in micronutrients like Zn (Zinc), while 25-30 per cent is deficient in B (Boron). Deficiency of other micronutrients occurs in 15 per cent of soils. These deficiencies/limitations reduce yield significantly.

“Micronutrients are those essential elements which are required by plants in very small amounts. Besides promoting plant metabolic activities and growth of the plants, they play a major role in improving quality, size, colour, taste, input use efficiency of fertilizers, water use, disease resistance etc.,” says Dr. Anandaraj.

A lesser-understood phenomenon is their role in determining quality and post harvest life of the harvested produce. As these nutrients are costly and required in very small amounts normally a fertilizer dealer does not stock them like other bulk fertilizers and hence farmers find it very difficult to correct micronutrient deficiencies. “In order to find a solution to this serious problem, our scientists have developed crop/soil specific micronutrient mixtures for foliar application in black pepper, cardamom, ginger, and turmeric crops which guarantees 15 to 25 per cent increase in yield and quality,” he adds.

Advantage

An innate advantage of these mixtures is that they can also be used in organic agriculture and therefore are environment friendly. They are guaranteed to enhance both yield and quality of the crop produce.

The technology is a low cost one and also farmer friendly. Every acre crop needs about 2 kg micronutrient mixture spray, costing about Rs. 400.

For each crop two sprays during specific growth stages are recommended.

The scientists have also standardised its application for various crops. For black pepper foliar spray at 5gm per litre water should be given once during spike initiation with the onset of monsoon and another after two months. For cardamom foliar spray at 5gm per litre of water should be given once during panicle initiation and another after three months.

For ginger and turmeric foliar spray at 5gm per litre of water once during 60 days after planting and another 90 days after planting are recommended.

Use alone

While increased yield and growth is possible due to these mixtures, it is important to note that these should not be mixed with any other chemicals to save labour and time.

Though these mixtures are essentially for spice crops, these can be used for increasing yield in fruit and vegetable crops as well, according to Dr. Anandaraj.

The mixtures were tested in six farmers’ fields in various parts of the country. Field trials in ginger were carried out in Kerala and Karnataka while turmeric was done in Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. The micro nutrient mixture for black pepper was tested in Kerala and Karnataka states and for cardamom in Karnataka.

The products are in the process of patent protection and commercialisation.

Contact

Entrepreneurs who want to produce and market these mixtures on a commercial scale can approach the institute for getting non-exclusive licenses.

“The Institute Technology Management and Business Planning and Development Unit (ITM-BPD Units) at IISR will also help the entrepreneurs prepare business plans for establishing manufacturing units. BPD unit will also provide consultancy services for commercial production. The mixtures are available at IISR Chelavoor campus as well as at Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Peruvannamuzhi.

For more details readers can contact Dr. V. Srinivasan, Senior Scientist at email:vsrinivasan@spices.res.in and entrepreneurs can contact Dr. T.E. Sheeja, Senior Scientist at bpd.iisr@gmail.com, Phone: 0495-2731410.