Small farmers to gain from integrated fish farming

Tilapia is emerging as a feasible option for lowland farmers looking to supplement their income

September 16, 2017 06:52 pm | Updated 11:47 pm IST - Thiruvananthapuram

Genetically Improved Farm Tilapia (GIFT), a fish variety adaptable to shallow waterbodies and limited oxygen environment, is emerging as a feasible option for lowland farmers in the State looking to supplement their income from agriculture.

The fish is one of the key components of the coconut-based integrated farming system developed by Kerala Agricultural University (KAU) and approved by the Department of Agriculture for popularisation among lowland farmers in the State.

The model involves fish farming in the shallow channels in between the raised bunds in coconut groves. “With the highest acreage in Kerala, coconut assumes significance as the base crop for integrated farming,” says Jacob John, Professor and Head, Integrated Farming Systems Research Station (IFSRS), KAU. The other components in the coconut-based system are inter-cropping of spices such as ginger and turmeric, tubers such as cassava, fruit crops such as papaya and bread fruit, vegetables such as cowpea, ash gourd and amaranthus, and fodder crops, besides dairy farming and azolla units.

“The genetically improved (not modified) Tilapia was found to be suitable for the model because of its fast growth and weight up to 700 gm. Fetching ₹300 a kg, it is more remunerative for farmers,” says Mr. John.

“Compared to other freshwater species such as Rohu, Catla and Pearl Spot, it has more amount of flesh.”

The fingerlings at the working model at the research station were procured from the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Aquaculture, Vijayawada. The channels between the bunds in the coconut grove were protected by nets to thwart birds and reptiles. Two ponds within the 50 cent property were utilised to grow azolla, a water fern to feed the fish.

After the fish is harvested, the nutrient rich silt from the channels is used as manure for coconut palms, along with leaf toppings and cow dung generated in the model. “This reduces the reliance on chemical fertilizers,” says Mr. John. The coconut-based model has been profitably maintained on the Nedumcad campus of the IFSRS here for the last three years. “We could realise an average yield of 50 kg fish from one cent area. This works out to an income of ₹75,000 from just five cents,” Mr.John says.

The IFSRS has developed three other models of integrated farming systems, two with rice and banana as the base crop and the third for homestead farming.

The Department of Agriculture has earmarked ₹700 crore to popularise integrated farming systems this year.

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