A recipe of a different kind

By TheHindu on 20 Nov 2016 | read

Innovation: Farmer K.M. Sella Muthu explains the use of asafoetida in agriculture. –Innovation: Farmer K.M. Sella Muthu explains the use of asafoetida in agriculture. –

Karthik Madhavan

Asafoetida as pest repellent, plant-growth promoter was a chance discovery

KODUMUDI: Farmer K. M. Sella Muthu uses asafoetida on paddy, turmeric, brinjal and a few others not to prepare a meal but for agriculture.

The Karukampalayam farmer uses the gum resin as a pest repellent and plant-growth promoter and has found success as well.

“It is a low-cost, effective alternative to pesticides,” the farmer says and adds that with asafoetida farmer can save money protect not only their health but also that of plants, soil and consumers.

For an acre of turmeric, brinjal or any other crop, the farmer uses a kg, which he places in a sack along the water path. “As the water flows through asafoetida dissolves in water, which when reaches the plants repels pests and promotes growth.”


The Standard VII dropout only knows that asafoetida is good for plants but not why. In fact his use of asafoetida as pest repellent and plant-growth promoter was a discovery-by-chance.

“I suggested my neighbour to use the surplus half-a-kg asafoetida he had on ring gourds, affected by pests. I said that to just tease him and was not aware of what the consequences might be,” recalls Mr. Sella Muthu who gave the suggestion four years ago.

To the neighbour’s and his surprise, the plants not only survived the pest attack but also grew well to yield gourds bigger and healthier than the normal ones.

After the surprise success, Mr. Sella Muthu got second opportunity when a farmer friend of his from neighbouring Semmandampalayam complained about pests in jasmine.

“I suggested that he use two-and-half kg for his 2.5 acre plot by dissolving it in water and letting the solution reach the plants.” To his surprise he succeeded a second time as well, the farmer says.

Mr. Sella Muthu then experimented asafoetida on sesame seeds, ground nut, tomato, brinjal and a few other plants. His success in the area has been so good that farmers in the neighbourhood have stopped spraying pesticides.

The result: hundreds of acres in the area have become pesticide-free.

That is not all to the story: Mr. Sella Muthu has one more feather to his cap. He has won the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad’s National Innovation Foundation award for coming up with plant-based pest repellent, ‘Thazhai Marunthu’.

His experiment with the Thazhai Marunthu began in 1997, after pesticide-spraying almost killed him. “The impact of spraying pesticides on my health was so harsh that I lost my speech and was partially paralysed,” says the farmer, who for a fee sprayed pesticides on fields.

He then met Dr. K. Natarajan, who besides curing him suggested the use of plant-based pest repellents.

After recovering completely, Mr. Sella Muthu went about convincing farmers about the Thazhai Marunthu but failed until he came across a farmer who agreed to let him experiment on a 30-cent plot.

“That was the beginning. Turmeric on the plot, within days of spraying the Marunthu, was better than the rest of the crop,” Mr. Sella Muthu says and adds that the farmer not only let him spray the rest of the three acres but also recommended the plant pesticide to his friends.


The success spread by word of mouth, Mr. Sella Muthu says and adds that it finally led him to win the innovation award.

The interesting tail piece to the story is that the farmer by selling the Marunthu and spraying it not only regained health but also the wealth he spent on his treatment.