There are a growing number of techies who practise the art of vegetative propagation
Wander around techie Sudhish Kumar’s extensive home garden and you’re bound to come across a nadan rose bush that flowers in orange, pure white, red and rose. In his colleague Sachin Narayana Pillai’s garden too at his native place you’ll see another rose bush blooming in multiple hues. The duo, it seems, are just two among the growing numbers of agriculture, horticulture and farming enthusiasts in Technopark who have gone a step ahead and practise vegetative reproduction (or ‘vegetative cloning’, as they like to call it).
In case you forgot those old biology lessons, vegetative reproduction is plant propagation without seeds, wherein parts of plants such as a stem, root or a leaf cutting can be artificially rooted to a new growing medium, which will often produce a new plant with the same characteristics as the mother plant.
“It’s really an art; only it’s an art practised with plants. It’s a slow art, which takes months, if not years, to cultivate to perfection and which requires a lot of patience. And therein lies its beauty. With vegetative cloning, a larger, fuller plant can actually be produced faster, skipping its juvenile stages. For instance, if a mango tree takes seven years to mature from a seed, with vegetative cloning a new tree can be grown in half the amount of time or less and, more importantly, it will be genetically same as the parent plant. It is also the only way to propagate some species,” explains Sudhish, who along with Sachin, has been somewhat spearheading the grassroots movement on campus.
A while ago, the duo even went all the way to the Karshika Gaveshana Kendram at Sadanandapuram near Kottarakara to attend a workshop on the basic principles of vegetative reproduction. Then, recently, the duo conducted an awareness workshop on the subject in Technopark, for which over 60 farming enthusiasts turned up. “Once you understand the concepts behind vegetative cloning – grafting, budding, layering and so on – and you get the knowhow, it’s a matter of experimentation really. There are lots of tutorials and guides on the subject available online,” says Sachin.
Most of these enthusiasts seem to start their experiments on roses and hibiscus plants. It’s because they are easily accessible and have lots of varieties. Plus they can be grown comparatively quickly, and because they bloom well and moreover, look good when they bloom.
IT support professional Chanchal Jayan, another vegetative reproduction enthusiast, who does extensive farming on the terrace of his home in Eenchakkal says: “I have been experimenting on roses and hibiscus plants, particularly hibiscuses of the dense-petal variety. Now, I am trying to graft two varieties of cherry together.” Similarly, the others too have started taking on more complicated experiments. Sachin is now trying his hand at vinyl grafting of varieties of mango and jackfruit, while Sudhish is growing several varieties of citrus – lime, lemon, orange, musambi, pomelo, wild orange a.k.a. Ganapathi naranga – on a lemon tree. “One of my most successful experiments was grafting a sweet ambazham – using a branch that a friend gifted me – with my nadan ambazham tree, which is more sour. The sweet one fruited after four months and now it gives fruit all time. The yields are best when the growth rates of the different plants are similar. I am also keen on grafting plants that are endemic to Kerala,” says Sudhish.