The task of mechanising agriculture operations in the marshy fields of coastal Kerala will soon become a reality.
As part of its efforts to revive the traditional practice of Pokkali farming, the Kerala Agriculture University has developed a machine that enables mechanised transplantation of paddy seedlings in Pokkali fields. Along with this, the varsity has also developed a combined harvester for Pokkali fields, which is being fine-tuned after on-field trials.
According to varsity officials, a joint effort to mechanise Pokkali farming was launched in 2013 by Rice Research Station (RRS), Vyttila, and Agricultural Research Station (ARS), Mannuthy.
“The search for a Pokkali rice transplanter ended with the ARS suggesting a walk behind a mechanical transplanter and its successful operation in 25 cents in the Pokkali field under RRS Vyttila last year” said V.Sreekumar, Head, RRS. ‘Since crop performance was encouraging, this year mechanised transplanting was extended to two acres using seedlings raised in pro trays. Thus, the traditional practice of sowing paddy seeds in mounds in Pokkali fields and manually spreading the seedling was substituted with an easier and quicker method.” he explained.
U. Jaikumaran, head ARS, said that transplanting operation using ‘walk behind transplanter’ was completed in two acres within five hours. Channels and bunds in Pokkali fields will have to be designed so as to facilitate easy movement of machinery’’, he said.
Service provider group
In addition to mechanising Pokkali farming, the varsity also proposes to set up a service provider group with specialized training in mechanized transplanting to ensure sustenance of mechanized agriculture in Pokkali lands.
Cultivated in the coastal areas of Ernakulam, Thrissur and Alappuzha, Pokkali rice was awarded the GI (Geographical Indication) tag in 2008.
The large-grain rice has a distinct flavour and commands a higher price than ordinary varieties. Once extended over 25,000 hectare, the pokkali fields have now dwindled to 10,000 hectare. Out of this, paddy cultivation is now being restricted to a mere 1,000 hectare owing to labour shortage and non-availability of machinery.
A joint effort to mechanise Pokkali farming was launched by Rice Research Station and Agricultural Research Station