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Casuarina plantations protect banana crop from monsoon fury

P. Oppili
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Loss for banana growers in western part is around Rs. 5 crore annually

A banana plantation covered by casuarina plantation in a private farm land at Narasimha Naicken Palayam in Coimbatore district.— Photo courtesy: IFGTB
A banana plantation covered by casuarina plantation in a private farm land at Narasimha Naicken Palayam in Coimbatore district.— Photo courtesy: IFGTB

Monsoon always brings cheer to farmers, but when accompanied by gusty winds, it poses a grave threat to banana plantations with plants ready for harvest being often uprooted. Now, there is a ray of hope for banana growers, as a pilot project implemented by the Coimbatore-based Institute of Forest Genetics and Tree Breeding (IFGTB) has proved to be a relief.

By planting casuarina, a natural wind-breaker, the institute has successfully saved banana plants in Coimbatore.

Giving details to The Hindu about the ‘Windbreak Agro-forestry System’, institute director N. Krishnakumar said there was heavy crop damage in Coimbatore and adjoining areas during monsoon. Banana being the third most important commercial crop in the State, loss for banana growers in the western part of the State is estimated to be around Rs. 5 crore annually. In Coimbatore and its surroundings alone, banana is cultivated on 30,000 hectares with an annual production of 11 lakh tonnes.

In order to help farmers, the institute, on a trial basis, took up planting of casuarina in four different banana plantations owned by private people, on a total of four hectares of land spread in Narasimha Naicken Palayam, Bodi Thimman Palayam, Idigarai and Royarpalayam, Mr. Krishnakumar said.

Sharing his experience, N. Velusamy, a farmer from Bodi Thimman Palayam in Coimbatore district said he had raised banana crops on five occasions. But, the yield was affected due to monsoon winds.

“The institute raised the bio-shield in my banana plantation in January 2012 and by November, I harvested one crop. This time the yield was more than the previous occasions,” he said.

Mr. Krishnakumar said his organisation had chosen casuarina, which is normally grown in the inlands, for the windbreak system. Casuarina trees increased revenue to farmers and could be harvested in three years for sale to pulp wood industry. Even in the second year, fully-grown casuarina plantation could be harvested as there is a great demand for this wood in gasifier units of the energy production companies. Thus, bio-shield provided dual income to farmers, he added.

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