Staff Reporter

An initiative of Krishi Vigyan Kendra in Kannur

Sharp fall in coconut productivity Alternative control measures to be adopted To train youth in climbing palms

KANNUR: The Krishi Vigyan Kendra at Panniyur here is experimenting with a group action, with participation of farmers, for controlling the mite menace on coconut palms in a contiguous area. Ineffectiveness of organic and inorganic control methods adopted individually by farmers, as well as a dearth of coconut climbers, has made the centre go in for such an action.

The Compact Area Group Approach (CAGA), with the help of trained coconut climbers, has been under way at Vellavu in Pariyaram Grama Panchayat limits. Technologies proven to be effective against the pest have not worked in the field, as they have been adopted individually. Shortage of coconut climbers has been another handicap in the battle against the mite (Aceria guerreronis), which has been wreaking havoc on coconut groves in the State over the past decade, according to agricultural scientists.

Productivity down

Over the years, productivity of coconut has fallen in the district, touching 34 nuts a palm now. Coconut cultivation on homesteads form the basic type of farming in the district, as elsewhere in the State. The centre has adopted CAGA for farm testing, to evolve a suitable method for promoting group action among farmers of a contiguous area to eradicate the mite and train rural youth in coconut climbing for applying control measures.

"The rationale behind farm testing is that technologies which are developed in the ideal situation of research station do not, often, work in the complex, diverse and risk-prone environment of farmers' field,'' says K. Abdul Kareem, Associate Professor at the centre at Kerala Agricultural University's Panniyur research station. The group approach is to evaluate alternative technologies, or refine existing technologies in farmers' land, with their full participation, he adds.

The mite spreads, primarily, through wind. After being first observed in 1997 in Elanchi panchayat limits in Ernakulam, the menace spread to the entire State over the years.

According to experts at the centre, three types of control measures, using a neem-based miticide called azadiractin, are being evaluated through CAGA: crown spraying, root feeding and the latest stem remedies recommended by university entomologist A.M. Renjith. Various committees, including those for pest management, motivation and publicity, have been formed for the implementation of CAGA.

A monitoring committee, with grama panchayat president V. Muthukrishnan as head, has also been constituted. In the first phase, five youth have been trained in coconut climbing and applying control measures. Awareness about the control methods is spread through word of mouth and leaflets. The results and impact of the measures will be documented, the centre's officials say.

The experimental programme also envisages joint meetings of farmers, leaders, including panchayat president and ward members, and agricultural officials.