Coimbatore

The silk route; M Kanagaraj who won the Best Farmer Award from the Department of Sericulture shares his experience of rearing silkworms

M Kanagaraj, who recently won the Best Farmer Award from the Department of Sericulture, on how he began rearing silkworms

M Kanagaraj’s day begins with milking his cows. But what he is really known for starts after that. “I harvest mulberry leaves at 7.00 am to feed my silkworms,” says the sericulture farmer from Solavampalayam who recently won the Best Farmer Award (which carried a cash award of ₹25,000) from the Department of Sericulture; Government of Tamil Nadu.

The silk route; M Kanagaraj who won the Best Farmer Award from the Department of Sericulture shares his experience of rearing silkworms

Kanagaraj, who earlier cultivated tomatoes, cucumber and lady’s finger, has been rearing silkworms for 13 years. “The crops then failed to give me a steady income, as the price always fluctuated,” he says. He learnt sericulture from his in-laws who were experts. “I started with 400 silkworm eggs. The first seven days after the eggs hatch are very difficult, as the larvae need a lot of care. They should be fed with only tender mulberry leaves. The temperature also should be maintained at 25°C,” he explains.

The silk route; M Kanagaraj who won the Best Farmer Award from the Department of Sericulture shares his experience of rearing silkworms

Now he buys larvae from the stores, which helps him “skip this difficult phase. The larvae is only half an inch long when I get them. In the next three weeks, the worms will grow to three and a half inches in length.” Kanagaraj usually rears 50,000 worms in one batch and 10 batches in one year.

The quality of the leaves and the space available for the worm’s growth contribute to the development of the cocoon. “The worms should not be crowded and have to be fed twice daily. In the first week, one batch of worms consumes around 40kg of mulberry leaves at a time. By the time the worms are mature, it can go up to five tonnes. If these two conditions are not met, the growth of the cocoon will not be uniform and it will affect the price.” Kanagaraj grows mulberry trees in one acre of land and uses organic manure once in two months. “The trees are low maintenance and resistant to pests. I water them once a week.”

The process
  • It takes 21 days for the larvae to mature and, during this process, it sheds its skin five times.
  • On the 21st day, the larva’s colour changes from white to yellow, an indication that it is ready to spin a cocoon. This takes up to three days.
  • The cocoons are then dried in the shade for two days to remove any moisture before being taken to the market inside the District Sericulture Centre in the city.
  • Kanagaraj harvests 100-150 kg of cocoons from one batch. “One cocoon weighs around two grams and it requires six kilograms to make a kilogram of silk,” he explains.

The market price of the cocoon is based on the price of silk. “One kilogram usually sells for around ₹400,” he says. He attends workshops organised by Department of Sericulture regularly to keep himself updated. “It helps me understand the different government schemes and also how to maintain mulberry plants,” he says. He has also trained 10 farmers near his village. “I clear their doubts and also keep them informed of any new developments in the field. It is a good feeling to see that they are also succeeding in this,” he says, adding that his award was unexpected. “I was very happy,” he smiles.

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Printable version | Mar 31, 2020 8:23:26 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Coimbatore/m-kanagaraj-who-recently-won-the-best-farmer-award-from-the-department-of-sericulture-on-how-he-began-rearing-silkworms/article31117928.ece

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