Farmers eager to get GI tag for ‘Ayyamapalayam Nettai’ coconut variety

September 30, 2023 07:31 pm | Updated October 11, 2023 12:51 pm IST - DINDIGUL

‘Ayyampalayam Nettai’ coconut trees near Marudhanidhi dam in Dindigul district on Saturday.

‘Ayyampalayam Nettai’ coconut trees near Marudhanidhi dam in Dindigul district on Saturday. | Photo Credit: G. KARTHIKEYAN

On the way towards Marudhanidhi dam, after crossing Ayyampalayam, the road dips, climbs and dips again as houses disappear and tall, slim coconut trees begin to flank the twisting stretch. This region is home to Ayyampalayam Nettai, a variety of coconut for which both the farmers and the agriculture department are striving to get the GI tag.

Just above the dam, bordering the catchment area, are coconut farms where this variety has been thriving for more than 120 years with many of them easily crossing the 100-foot mark in height  

Surprisingly, these century-old trees that have more than 60% oil content and an extremely sweet kernel have still not lost their crop yielding ability. On an average, a single tree can give an yield of about 120 nuts per year and if fertilizers are applied the yield can increase to about 150 nuts.

The hybrid trees, on the other hand, start yielding early giving about 200 nuts per tree per year but they also finish yielding early, says an Agriculture officer. He adds that the Ayyampalayam Nettai has oval shaped nuts that are not just drought resistant but also disease resistant.

Though some trees were attacked by whiteflies and leaf spot disease, these trees were able to withstand it unlike the hybrid trees, says A. Rasool Mohideen, a coconut farmer.

Why is ‘Ayyampalayam Nettai’ coconut variety unique?
| Video Credit: G. KARTHIKEYAN

Mr. Mohideen, who is into organic farming, adds that without any application of chemical fertilizer, the Ayyampalayam Nettai are able to overcome the disease.

Another aspect is the sustainable intercropping that this variety promotes. With these trees growing extremely tall, the canopy that is formed is not dense thus letting in ample sunlight for other varieties of crop to grow.

The hybrid trees with a lifespan of about 40 years are short in stature and sport a thick canopy making intercropping a difficult endeavour.

With farming not being very lucrative, Mr. Rasool says it is important to go in for a variety that sustains yield and promotes intercropping in the long run. Farmers in the region have started experimenting by raising nutmeg, mangosteen and rambutan. “Nutmeg and mangosteen cultivation has been successful and in our farm we are also trying to grow macadamia nuts.”

Veeramani, another farmer in the region, says that due to intercropping coconut farming is turning economically viable.

“In the 1980s, a coconut was sold at ₹3 and now it is ₹8, while the salary of a farm worker then was ₹10 and now it is ₹500. Thus, intercrop like nutmeg fetches good revenue making coconut cultivation lucrative,” says another farmer.

Mr. Rasool adds that, “the government procures copra at ₹108 per kg, whereas in the open market it is about ₹80. But there is a rider, once the government meets its target from a region, then there is no procurement and the farmer is forced to sell it in the open market. Again in this situation intercropping helps the cultivator.”

In order to protect and help the native species thrive, farmers in the region have sent in their application for getting a GI tag for this variety. 

Deputy Director of Agriculture C. Amala says, “This is a unique variety as even with age the yield is constant. The saplings from this region are also thriving in other places, thus proving it to be drought and disease resistant. Hence, a proposal has been sent as the first step to getting a GI tag for Ayyampalayam Nettai, and we are expecting to get the tag at the earliest.”

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