The tissue-cultured seedlings of two dwarf hybrid varieties of arecanut developed by the Central Plantation Crops Research Institute (CPCRI), Kasaragod, Kerala, are likely to be commercially available to farmers from January next.
CPCRI director P. Chowdappa told The Hindu that the institute developed the varieties — VTLAH–1 and VTLAH–2 — more than three years ago. Its tissue culture technology has been transferred to a Tamil Nadu-based company, which in turn is likely to start its commercial seedling production from next year. Both are chali (white arecanut) varieties.
Mr. Chowdappa said VTLAH–1 yielded 2.54 kg a palm while VTLAH–2 yielded 2.64 kg. They started yielding in the fourth year and grew up to 4 m in height.
Given the acute shortage of skilled labourers for harvesting arecanut from tall trees and spraying prophylactic solution to control ‘kole roga’ or mahali (fruit rot disease) by climbing the trees, the cultivation of dwarf varieties has more scope in the near future, Mr. Chowdappa said.
He said that normally, 600 seedlings of tall varieties can be planted on an acre, but if it was dwarf hybrid ones, up to 800 can be planted.
Mr. Chowdappa said the commercial launch of a tractor-mounted blower for spraying prophylactic solution to control ‘kole roga’, developed by the CPCRI in collaboration with ASPEE, would also be done next year. “Its results are highly positive,” he said.
With this, farmers can spray the recommended prophylactic solutions on arecanut palms from the ground. The blower can be fitted to a garden or mini-tractor of 22-25 horse power. When the tractor is driven, the blower mounted on the rear of the vehicle sprays the solution from a plastic tank fitted on it. The solution can be sprayed to a height of 90 ft from the ground.
Mr. Chowdappa said a drone being developed by the CPCRI in collaboration with the Bengaluru-based General Aeronautics Pvt. Ltd. (a startup incubated by the Entrepreneurship Centre of Indian Institute of Science), also for spraying, would be commercially launched next year as well