Improved crossandra from a farmer-scientist

SIX HIGH yielding varieties of crossandra of attractive hues have been developed by an innovative farmer, Mr. T. Vengadapathi of Koodappakkam village in Pondicherry. A farmer-scientist with a passion for developing improved varieties of crossandra, Mr. Vengadapathi, has developed these varieties after years of painstaking research in his improvised tissue culture laboratory occupying a portion of his house.

Known for his distinguished work on crossandra tissue culture over the last several years, the 54-year-old Mr. Vengadapathi was pursuing the crop improvement work using mutation breeding techniques. He employed chemical mutagens and irradiation techniques to generate the mutants from which he carefully selected the new varieties.

He has named the new varieties as ``Kanakadhara'', ``Vijaya Kanakambaram'', ``Raj Kanakambaram'', ``Subasu'', ``Lakshmi'' and ``Neelambari''. All these are high yielding varieties, and they do well in field conditions. They produced attractive flowers of different shades of orange, yellow and light pink, and the flowers fetched premium price in the market, according to Mr. Vengadapathi.

``Kanakadhara'' is a mutant of Delhi crossandra, developed using sodium azide. It produced brilliant orange (``fire cracker'') flowers of normal size (the same size as the parent), and it had unique floral characteristics. It can yield 25 per cent more flowers than Delhi crossandra. This variety was tested for eight generations and it is propagated vegetatively for distribution to the growers, according to Mr. Vengadapathi.

``Vijaya Kanakambaram'' is a mutant of local variety developed by treating the seeds with colchicine.This tall variety is of free branching type with sturdy stems that cannot be easily broken.It has long inflorescence like Delhi crossandra, and flowers profusely. The large flowers will be light reddish orange, and it yields three times more than the local varieties. On an average it can yield 75 kg flowers per day per hectare from the 90 th day after planting. The plants can be maintained for over three years if the crop is free from nematode infestation.

``Raj Kankambaram'' is a mutant of Delhi crossandra, and it has leaf variations. Its inflorescence is also long (15 cm), and it produces deep orange flowers. It also yields upto 75 kg flowers daily per hectare under sound management practices. ``The attractive flowers of this variety will fetch as high as Rs 200 per kg in the market'' says Mr. Vengadapathi. ``Subasu'' is also a mutant of Delhi crossandra, and it resembles the parent. It has long inflorescence and light orange, medium-sized flowers.``Lakshmi'' is a mutant of local yellow variety, and it produces large leaves. It produces big, deep yellow flowers in long inflorescence (15 cm). It can yield 37.5 to 50 kg flowers a day from a hectare, and the flowers will fetch Rs. 70 to Rs. 100 per kg in the market. ``Neelambari'' is also a mutant of local yellow variety, and it has dense green foliage. It produces normal sized flowers in long inflorescence. All the new varieties flower all round the year, according to Mr. Vengadapathi. He has many more promising hybrids of crossandra in the pipeline.

This progressive-minded and enterprising farmer received continued support from the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), Coimbatore. ``I am particularly grateful to Dr. S. Kannaiyan, the Vice Chancellor of TNAU for his personal encouragement and prompt actions. I wish to dedicate all these varieties of crossandra to this supportive agricultural university,'' says Mr. Vengadapathi.