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Silent resurrection of spreading vareity of groundnut

A.D. Balasubramaniyan
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The traditional variety is gaining ground in Tiruvannamalai district

Farmers picking the pods from the freshly dug ‘kodi kadalai' plants in Naidumangalam village, near Tiruvannamalai.— Photo: D. Gopalakrishnan
Farmers picking the pods from the freshly dug ‘kodi kadalai' plants in Naidumangalam village, near Tiruvannamalai.— Photo: D. Gopalakrishnan

A traditional, spreading variety of groundnut (kodi kadalai in Tamil) that almost disappeared from the State has found resurrection in certain villages near here as farmers have realised it to be high in yield.

‘Kodi Kadalai’ was preferred by farmers of the State till a few decades ago, before the now ubiquitous bunch variety (kothu kadalai in Tamil) gained popularity. While the bunch variety grows straight and produces pods in single cluster in its main root, branches of spreading variety trail on the surface and pods are found scattered all along the branches.

The spreading variety, considered by many as the traditional variety, gradually lost its ground and faded into oblivion. However, the variety, low-in-fat and high-in-yield, has resurrected in Naidu Mangalam, Karkunam, Ladavaram, Vilvarani and Thangal villages as farmers feel that the variety fetches higher yield and higher price, and, as it is not spoiled even if harvest is delayed.

Venu, a farmer from Naidu Mangalam who switched to ‘kodi kadalai’ said that he would reap 25 bags in this traditional variety whereas he was reaping only 15 bags in ‘kothu kadalai’.

“Seed requirement is also less in the spreading variety. Kodi kadalai is healthy for consumption whereas kothu kadalai will give trouble if consumed more. Even pest menace is less in this traditional variety,” he said.

Santhan, another farmer of the same village, who recently reaped his kodi kadalai crop said that the variety fetches higher price since it is preferred in places like Bangalore and Chennai where vendors sell either wet or boiled kernels.

P.T. Rajendran, district secretary of Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam, a strong advocate of traditional seeds, says that ‘kodi kadalai’ used to have even up to 200 pods in a single plant and most of them would bear three nuts but ‘kothu kadalai’ would have only up to 50 pods bearing only two nuts.

“Kodi Kadalai is drought resistant. Dormancy period of its seeds is very long and hence the produce would not germinate and get spoiled if there is a delay in harvest or drying of pods. Its oil content is less and hence is preferred for raw consumption and for culinary purposes,” he said.

Despite all these advantages, bunch variety was propagated by the establishment decades ago and the spreading variety was systematically decimated. They used three excuses — spreading variety matures late when compared to bunch type and harvesting becomes difficult because when plucking the plant a portion of pods stay back in the soil and it yields less oil when crushed.

“Though the second problem could be overcome it was blown out of proportion, only to wean away farmers from the kodi kadalai,” he says.

“It’s news”

R. Vaidhyanathan, Head, Oil Seeds Research Station of Tamil Nadu Agricultrual University, located in Tindivanam told The Hindu that they stopped producing spreading type seeds though they preserve them in their fields. Sankagiri is the only area in the State which is known to have retained the spreading variety.

Resurrection of this variety around Tiruvannamalai was news for him.

He agreed that it is drought resistant and its dormancy period was 45 days when compared to the bunch variety that virtually has no dormancy period. But he attributed extinction of this variety to farmers’ preference for short duration varieties due to monsoon that grew undependable.

Differing with him, Mr. Rajendran argues that bunch variety is responsible for disaster in rain fed groundnut crop, once a life line of the district.

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