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Aromatic, medicinal plants in multi-tier farming

By Our Agriculture Correspondent

"AAROMATIC AND medicinal plants can be ideally grown in a multi-tier cropping systems in Kerala. Besides adding to the biodiversity of the farm, they will contribute to enhancing the farm income," says Mr. K. Sasikumar, an enterprising and innovative farmer of Nattinchira village in Chelakode of Thrissur district, Kerala.

Mr. Sasikumar, the 32-year-old hotel management professional, is passionately involved in cultivating medicinal and aromatic plants in his 4-hectares farm, `Kaippully House'. He grows a number of high yielding varieties of ginger and turmeric along with several medicinal plants such as Safed Musli, Bacopa and Stevia. He has planted vanilla in about 0.4 hectares in his multi-tier, multi-cropped farm.

"Ginger and turmeric are my favourite crops and I have raised several improved varieties developed by the Indian Institute of Spices Research (IISR). I am also field testing some of the varieties that are yet to be released for commercial cultivation. IISR scientists, especially its director Dr. Parthasarathy, its former director Dr. Y.R. Sarma and Senior Scientist Dr. B. Sasikumar, have been encouraging me by giving technical guidance and seed material for growing them," says Mr. Sasikumar.

He cultivated the two new varieties, `Prathiba' and `Prabha', and they did exceedingly well in his farm. "I got an average yield of about 39 tonnes of rhizomes from Prathiba variety in one hectare. The variety had a curcumin content of 6.2 per cent and 16 per cent oleoresins. It had 6.2 per cent essential oil," he pointed out. The other variety, `Prabha' recorded an output of 37.47 tonnes of rhizomes from a hectare. It had 6.52 per cent curcumin and 15 per cent oleoresins. It registered an essential oil content of 6.5 per cent.

"I am also growing three selections of turmeric, which are yet to be released for commercial cultivation. Their performances are being evaluated by the scientists of IISR," says Mr. Sasikumar.

In addition to these, he has good crops of Kasturi turmeric (Curcuma aromatica), and the rare black turmeric (Curcuma caesia). He has been successfully growing the high yielding ginger variety `Varadha'.

A strong advocate of organic farming technologies, Mr. Sasikumar firmly believes in ensuring high quality in planting material.

His farm serves as a model farm for students of agriculture and horticulture from the Kerala Agricultural University, and he sells quality seed materials to various Government seed farms in Kerala and progressive farmers.

In his multi-tier farm he grows more than ten crops. Rice is grown in about a hectare at the lowest level of the farm, while rubber trees occupy the highest point.

Coconut, areca nut, pepper and coffee are the other important crops in the farm. Tall teak trees, cashew, mango, jack, gooseberry (amla) and Glyricidia are the productive tree crops in the farm.

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