A farmer’s invention is a result of a curious mind, a keen eye for observation and hours of relentless pursuit.
"But when such discoveries are ignored by some in the scientific fraternity it causes pain and dejection and a good invention, which could have benefited the society, gets lost.
"Experts should understand that innovative farmers may not be scientists theoretically, but their creativity is no less than that of any scientist. They may not be working in formal laboratories, but they work in the laboratory of life," says Dr. R.A. Mashelkar, Chairman, National Innovation Foundation, Ahmedabad.
Mr. K.J. Baby of Puliyanmala, Idukki district, Kerala, developed a white flowered variety of cardamom, with a higher oil content than other varieties.
The cardamom variety he developed belongs to Vazhuka type cultivars bearing purely white flowers.
The productivity of this variety is higher than that of other varieties and it can be grown in waterlogged areas as well. The plant with its sturdy and deep rooting system, makes it resistant to various infestations.
The prominent features of the variety are (a) a single tiller planted in the nursery gives rise to about 30 tillers, (b) recovery ratio of one kg dry cardamom from four and half kilograms of green cardamom (d) a single plant yields nearly 4 - 5 kg dry cardamom with size varying from 6 mm to 8 mm.
Puliyanmala is a small town, having around 60 per cent Tamil and 40 per cent Malayalee population, chiefly comprising agricultural laborers.
Common agricultural crops cultivated by the farmers in the region are cardamom, pepper, coconut, and on a very limited area, arecanut, banana and lemon.
“In 1996, while strolling through my garden I noticed a white flower plant which seemed to be unique. I carefully isolated the plant and multiplied it through vegetative propagation.
Observe and record
“A lot of people showed interest in it, but I did not want to distribute the plant as I wanted to observe and record the results,” says Mr. Baby.
By 2001, the farmer raised around 800 plants, which were similar to the mother plant and bore white flowers. In the same year, when experts from Indian Institute of Spice Research (IISR), Kozhikode visited his farm to inspect the rare variety, they appreciated his efforts.
The farmer started selling the plants to several farmers from Idukki and surrounding districts of Kerala and border districts of Karnataka. As a result, the variety is commonly found in Idduki, Wayanad (Kerala) and Chikmangalur (Karnataka), as also some parts of Tamil Nadu.
Several researchers’ also evinced keen interest in this variety, bearing white flowers, as it negates the whole concept that peculiar colour of the cardamom flower attracts insects for pollination.
No major problems
Mr. Baby did not face any major problems in developing and distributing this variety as he hails from an affluent background (which is absent for a number of small farmers cum innovators). His family supported him.
“My family took personal care of the plants. My family shares an important role in the evolution, multiplication and dissemination of this variety over the years,” he explains.
“As far as agriculture is concerned the selection of best quality seeds and technical inputs from research and development institutions are sufficient to prevent losses for the farmers,” he says.
For more information contact Mr. K.J. Baby, Kalaricakal (H), P.O. Puliyanmala, Idukki, Via: Kattappana, Kerala - 685 515, phone: 04868270254.