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Project to boost vegetable production in new phase

T. Nandakumar
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KAU to lay thrust on intensive homestead cultivation by women

Kerala Agricultural University is embarking on a project to promote intensive homestead cultivation of vegetables by introducing farmers to new technologies, techniques, and practices.

The project represents the second phase of a three-year programme launched by the university in 2010 to boost vegetable production in the State.

Titled ‘Namukkum Oru Pachakkarithottam’ (A vegetable garden for us), it seeks to expose aspiring farmers to high-tech agriculture, modern crop management practices, hybrid vegetables, biocontrol methods for pests and diseases, organic farming, terrace cultivation, and market access.

L. Rajamony, Professor (Research Coordination), College of Agriculture, Vellayani, says the programme is designed to reach out to farmers and offer them the latest technologies and research findings for enhanced output.

“Nearly 40 per cent of the 1,200 plus research projects taken up by scientists in KAU involve vegetable crops. A large number of these projects have thrown up promising findings. That technology has to reach the field. That is why we decided on this initiative to train aspiring farmers.”

Value-addition

Value-addition will be a major component of the training programme.

“Farmers will be taught that it pays to add value to their produce,” Dr. Rajamony says. “Riverbed and riverbank cultivation is another potential area that can be effectively tapped to improve vegetable crop production in the State.”

Kerala produces less than 10 lakh tonnes of vegetables a year, against a demand of 25 lakh tonnes. The rest is imported from other States. Ironically, a major share of the locally produced vegetables is exported to the Gulf countries.

“That is because, in the absence of market regulation, farmers do not get assured price for their produce,” Dr. Rajamony says.

Ever since the university launched the programme three years ago, 2,000 acres has been brought under vegetable cultivation, resulting in additional production of 60,000 tonnes a year. “It was a team effort involving scientists from different faculties. Our training sessions drew a tremendous response, mainly from women and schoolchildren,” he says.

The university installed seed-vending machines to distribute high-quality seeds to farmers and distributed literature on farming techniques.

As many as 23 species of perennial and under-exploited vegetables were collected and conserved, and 160 training sessions were held.

Dr. Rajamony says the focus on homestead cultivation involving women is aimed at obviating the need for a market mechanism.

More than 200 farmers from across the State are expected to participate in a seminar and panel discussions to be held at the College of Agriculture, Vellayani, on Wednesday in connection with the inauguration of the next phase of the project.


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