A small fraction of the millions of marigold flowers used during the annual Onam season to make floral carpets and decorate homes will come from a floating raft farming experiment undertaken by an enterprising young farmer in the Vembanad backwaters in Alappuzha’s Thanneermukkom panchayat.
Sujit Swami Nikarthil, who has been into farming for over a decade, said he had put up marigold plants on about 400 sq.ft. of floating raft set up on bamboo frames and held together by coir geotextile with a bed of degraded water hyacinth. He said the flowers from the one-cent raft would be harvested for the Onam season.
Floating raft agriculture, with water hyacinth forming the bed, has been experimented with extensively. It was found, over the last five years, that amaranthus flourishes on the floating raft beds, said K.G. Padmakumar, veteran agricultural scientist and director, International Research and Training Centre for Below Sea Level Farming, Kuttanad.
Floating raft farming had been taken up as a measure of improving adaptability and resilience in the background of climate change, said Dr. Padmakumar. He said experiments in the Alappuzha-Cherthala Canal near Kalavoor with amaranthus had been a great success. Another experiment had been taken up at Kanjippadom. These showed that crops like vegetable cowpea, chillies and tomatoes too were suited for the farming method. The crops should be of short duration so that they can be harvested in about 45 to 60 days, by which time the water hyacinth bed degrades completely.