Did you know that about Rs. 320 crore is being spent in the country annually just to de-stem/stalk the chillies? To tackle this labor-intensive issue, a Dharwad-based private research center has come out with a chilli variety which can be harvested without stalk/stem from the plant.
When the fruit is plucked after ripening, the stem/stalk remains on the plant in the new variety called ‘Dandicut’ (without stem) unlike the normal varieties where even the stem/stalk comes attached with the fruit on plucking. “We have induced a semi-deciduous gene into this variety to ensure that the fruits get de-stemmed on the plant itself while plucking,” says N. B. Gaddagimath, a plant breeder who heads the Sarpan Agri Horticultural Research Centre, that has come out with the new variety. The de-stemming happens only after ripening – when the fruits are red and wet, he notes. According to him, such a variety has been developed for the first time in the country.
It took nine years of research work to develop this variety, says Dr. Gaggagimath, a former faculty member of the University of Agricultural Sciences-Dharwad. The stem, he notes, is one of the major contaminants during the value addition process as it adds fungi, mites and fibre materials into chilli products.
However, de-stemming is a massive process as it requires 106 lakh labour days to handle the country’s total chilli production of 16 lakh metric tonnes. The cost of labour comes to Rs. 15 to 20 for de-stemming a kilogram of chillies, he points out.
Apart from costing huge money and taking a long time, the present method of manual de-stemming is causing health problems such as asthma and TB to labourers, he notes. Also, the detached stems amount to 5,000 truck loads of garbage.