Frequent crop failures and low agricultural productivity are the main constraints, threatening the livelihood security of many of the Indian farmers. “Farmers who follow traditional agricultural practices alone are more vulnerable to such crises,” says Dr. V A Parthasarathy, Director of Indian Institute of Spices Research (IISR), Calicut, Kerala. Adoption of scientific technologies in crop production is the only available weapon in farmers’ hands to tide over such situations.
Unlike annual crops, farmers who grow perennial crops cannot frequently replace the crops with new high yielding varieties as and when new varieties are released by research institutes. “The best way to increase yield in such crops is to adopt better crop management practices,” adds Dr. Parthasarathy. Effective scientist-farmer interactions can build confidence in farmers for adoption of improved crop husbandry methods. The scientists at IISR succeeded on these lines and created role-model farmers for others to follow. Mr. Numan Adil and Mr. Mahamad Iqbal from Karnataka strongly believe that farmers need to come forward to adopt farmer friendly technologies developed by scientists for high returns from their farmlands.
After completing his pre-university studies, Mr. Numan Adil aged 42, of Chikanahalli, Belur Taluk in Hassan District of Karnataka followed the footsteps of his father taking agriculture as a way of life. Mahamad Iqbal, his younger brother, aged 32, also joined him after graduation. They had inherited 80 acres of land from their father. The main crop, arabica and robusta varieties of coffee, is cultivated in 75 acres and 5 acres of valley land is under areca nut cultivation. Black pepper is cultivated as an intercrop in 40 acres and orange is raised as an intercrop in 20 acres.
Coffee is planted at a spacing of 6.5 x 6.5 feet (for arabica) or 10x10 feet (robusta) and black pepper at 15 x 15 feet. Orange is given a spacing of 25x 25 feet. In black pepper, Panniyur 1 is the predominant variety and the vines are trailed on silver oak, palwan, or jungle trees. The duo started planting black pepper in 1998 and replanting of dead vines was a regular practice in each year. Even though black pepper was grown in 40 acres, the yield during the years was very poor and the average annual production was only 4 tones from the plantation.
The planters happened to attend a seminar organised by the Cardamom Research Centre (CRC) of IISR at Appangala in Karnataka in 2002 on the sidelines of a Krishimela held at Mudigere in Karnataka. After initial discussions with the scientists during the seminar, the farmers visited the Centre in 2003 for a detailed discussion on various problems faced by them in realizing better yields from the black pepper plantation. The scientists convinced them that adoption of crop management technologies only can help them in increasing crop yield.
The scientists made series of visits to their plantation and identified the major bottle necks. Incidences of quick wilt disease of black pepper caused by Phytophthora capsici were very rampant in the estate. Phytophthora infestation kills the plants in a short period of one month and it is a serious problem in all black pepper growing tracts of India. They were loosing about 20 per cent of their vines every year. Slow decline of vines due to nematodes and fungus attack, shedding of spikes due to improper water management and suboptimal use of fertilizers were also found as factors for low yield. The planters were given field-oriented training by the scientists in identification of various diseases and pests of the crop.
A plant health management schedule was prepared for them which they meticulously followed. The scientists regularly monitored the implementation of the schedule, which included:
1. For management of quick wilt and slow decline diseases, spray the plantation with two rounds of bordeaux (1%) as prophylactic, the first round during June and the second round during August- September.
2. Drench the basin of the vine with copper oxy chloride (0.2%, 3-5 litres/ vine) in June.
3. If any vine is noticed infected with Phytopthora, spray the vine immediately with Metalaxyl + mancozeb (0.1%) and drench the basins of the vine and nearby vines with same solution. A second need based spray may be given after 10 days. As phytosanitation is very important in reducing the incidences of diseases, the dead vines, fallen leaves and spikes of infested vines need to be removed and burned.
4. Plant basin management techniques like application of organic manures (minimum 10 kg/vine), liming, earthing up and mulching should be carried out at least once in a year.
5. For grown up vines, fertilizers at 145g nitrogen, 55g phosphorus and 240 g potash may be given in two splits during June and September
6. In case of pre- monsoon failures, provide 4-5 times basin irrigation with 40-50 lit. of water /vine at an interval of 5-7 days
7. Regulate the shade of support trees to provide minimum 50-60% exposure to sunlight in April.
8. Undertake root grub, mealy bug and termite control measures by drenching the basin of the support trees with chlorpyriphos (0.07%), 4-5 litre/tree in September.
The farmers adopted the recommended package and Phytophthora disease incidence reduced from 20 per cent to 4 per cent in the first year of adoption itself. For the last two years (2007-08, 2008-2009), the disease incidence remained below 2%. The yield from the plantation remarkably increased to 10 tones from a mere 4 tones before adoption of the package. During 2009-2010, they realised an yield of 15 tones. “Our success is only due to strictly following the scientific package suggested by the scientists,” says Mr. Numan Adil. “We are spending only rupees 5 lakh for the entire black pepper plantation of 40 acres for adopting the technologies and the net profit increased 3-4 times,” says Mr. Mahamad Iqbal, the younger brother. “We decided to attend the meetings organised by research institutes in future as the meeting in 2002 was a turning point in our life,” he adds.
They also participated in the Piperaceae seminar conducted at IISR, Calicut in 2008 along with other farmers whom they motivated. “Technologies are available for successful cultivation of any crop and a farmer has only to strictly follow the scientific package for maximising returns from his holdings’ says Dr. M N Venugopal, Ex-Head of the Centre. “We are always available to the farming community for any kind of scientific discussion and the success of farmer brothers in Belur is not only applicable to planters but also to small and marginal farmers,” says Dr. S J Ankegowda, the present Head of CRC, Appangala.
For further information readers may contact Mr. Numan Adil and Mahamad Iqbal, Doddagolla estate, Chickanahalli, Belur Taluk, Hassan District-571 201. Karnataka; 09448237624; 09449338430
Dr. S.J.Ankegowda, Sr. Scientist and Head, Indian Institute of Spices Research, Cardamom Research Centre, Appangala, Madikeri-571 201, Karnataka. Phone: 08272-245451;245514.