Minister for Agriculture K.P. Mohanan has stressed the need to develop value-added products from plants.
He was addressing a meeting held at the Central Tuber Crops Research Institute (CTCRI) here on Tuesday to inaugurate a pilot plant for the production of a biofumigant from cassava leaves.
Mr. Mohanan said the project was part of a pest-control programme. He added that it would also benefit cassava farmers by ensuring better remuneration.
The function was held in connection with the golden jubilee of CTCRI.
The biofumigant plant was established with financial aid from the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and technical support from the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC).
Project leader and Head of the Division of Crop Protection at CTCRI C.A. Jayaprakas said the by-product from the plant could also be used as cattle feed.
Secretary, Agriculture, K.R. Jyothilal; VSSC Deputy Director S. Aravamudan; councillor V.R. Sini; and CTCRI Director S.K. Chakrabarty addressed the gathering.
According to Dr. Jayaprakas, stored products, particularly cereals and pulses, were prone to infestation by a number of pests.
“The development of an eco-friendly fumigant is relevant because synthetic versions have an adverse impact on human health and the environment.
Though a number of plants possess insecticidal properties, the non- availability of sufficient quantities and cumbersome procedures in the extraction of bioactive molecules impede their commercial exploitation,” he said.
A large quantity of biomass including leaves and tuber rinds are discarded after the harvest of tapioca.
“We succeeded in isolating the bioactive molecules from the biomass and converted it into a biofumigant.
The gas can be compressed and stored in portable cylinders to fumigate storage pests,” Dr. Jayaprakas said.