Staff Reporter

COIMBATORE: Farmers need to be regularly advised to raise horticultural crops suited to their locality to supplement their farm income because horticulture has immense potential to elevate their socio-economic status, P. Murugesa Boopathi, Vice-Chancellor of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, said here recently.

Inaugurating a two-day annual research meet on horticulture at the university, the Vice-Chancellor said horticulture was the fastest growing sector within agriculture.

“The area under horticultural crops in the country increased from 12.8 million hectares in 1991-92 to 20.7 million hectares in 2008-09 with a corresponding increase in production from 96.6 million tonnes to 220 million tonnes during the same period.

In Tamil Nadu too, the area, production, and productivity increased indicating the huge potential available in the horticultural sector both at the national and state level,” Mr. Boopathi said.

Fruit varieties

Pointing out that the university had so far released 90 varieties in fruits, vegetables, spices, flowers, plantation crops, and medicinal crops, Mr. Boopathi said efforts should be initiated to popularise these varieties among farmers and other stakeholders.

“The private sector is playing a dominant role in the horticulture seed market, and therefore the public sector research needs to rise up to the occasion and develop potential varieties with favourable traits,” he added.

N. Anand, Director of Research, Namdhari Seeds Private Limited, Bangalore, outlined the areas of research that needed special focus. They were: development of abiotic stress tolerant hybrids for drought, heat, and salinity, multiple resistant varieties, hybrids suited for export needs, etc.

M. Paramathma, Director of Research, TNAU, urged the horticultural scientists to introduce changes in their research activities in accordance with market needs and consumer preferences.

N. Ajjan, Director, Centre for Agricultural and Rural Development Studies, TNAU, said that though India ranked first in production and productivity of several fruits and vegetables at the world level, its share in horticulture trade was just two per cent. Also the quantum being processed was very negligible.

“There is a need to create awareness on hi-tech horticultural practices, to upscale precision farming practices, to develop fruits and vegetable varieties suitable for processing, and to form commodity groups to grow raw materials for the industry.