22 Jan 2014

Pioneering Spices Research

Life has changed for good for Mr. George Thomas Panackavayal, a 65 year old progressive farmer from Koorachundu in Kozhikode district of Kerala. George Thomas’s story is an inspiration for those who lament agriculture is no more a profitable business. From a novice farmer to an award winning visionary figure, his triumph is a living testimony to the significant work done by the Indian Institute of Spices Research (IISR), Kozhikode,through its Krishi Vigyan Kendra(KVK).
Being a traditional black pepper grower, George was cultivating local varieties. Yield from these vines was not so promising and most of the vines died because of quick wilt. Like any other traditional farmer, his life was also full of ups and downs. 
The Beginning of a New Innings
It was in the year 2007, a training programme on mushroom cultivation at IISR’sKrishi Vigyan Kendra located at Peruvannamuzhi in Kozhikode district changed his life forever. It was the beginning of a winning partnership in agriculture. With the guidance and support of the KVK, he started a mushroom cultivation unit investing around one lakhrupees.
Later George Panackavayal turned into cultivation of ginger and turmeric by procuring five kilograms of IISR Prabha variety of turmeric and Varada variety of ginger. He followed the scientific crop management practices; took the advice of experts from KVK and IISR at each and every stage of cultivation and it worked well. In 2010, he sold 1000 kg of turmeric and 500 kg of ginger rhizomes to other farmers through the Participatory Seed Production programme of KVK. Next year also, he harvested a bumper yield of 500 kg of turmeric and 400 kg of ginger from a mere 15 cents of land.
In the year 2007, he planted around 300 vines of high yielding varieties of black pepper such as SreekaraSubhakaraPanchami and Pournami released by IISR. From the third year of planting, the vines started yielding and in year he got a yield of 200 kg fetching him a net income of 75000 rupees. He is also growing coconut, areca nut, nutmeg, rubber, tapioca and other tuber crops. He was one of the four farmers mentioned in the Harvesters of Hope, a compilation of the success stories of 101 farmers in the country, published by the Ministry of Agriculture in 2009. He credits all his success to the support he got from IISR.
George’s success story is not an isolated one. Thanks to remarkable work done by IISR; many farmers have scripted success stories by cultivating different spices across the country.
IISR Genesis
Spices research in the country had a modest beginning with the establishment of a regional centre of Central Plantation Crops Research Institute at Calicut- the city of spices in the year 1975 by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). Further in 1995 the research on spices gained full momentum with the establishment of Indian Institute of Spices Research, the one and only ICAR centre for research on spice crops. The institute is located in a serene campus of 14.3 hectors at Chelavoor, 11 kilometers from Calicut city.
The experimental farm of IISR is located at Peruvannamuzhi, a picturesque setting about 51 kilometers north east from the city of Calicut. The research farm, set up in a leased land of 94.8 hectares, focuses on intensive production of nucleus planting materials and conservation of biodiversity in spices. IISR is also the headquarters of All India Coordinated Research Projects on Spices which is the largest spices research network in the country. The mandate crops of the institute are black pepper, cardamom, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, allspice, garcinia, vanilla and paprika.
IISR maintains the world’s largest germplasm repository of spices with a total of 2575 black pepper accessions, 435 cardamom accessions, 685 ginger and 1040 turmeric accessions. Apart from this, the institute has gene repositories of Vanilla, Paprika and other tree spices such as Cinnamon, Clove, Nutmeg and Cassia.
A significant contribution of the institute in the field of spices research is the breeding of high yielding spice varieties that are tolerant to drought, pests and diseases. The institute has developed various technologies for sustainable production of spices.
Spices Varieties Released by IISR
A significant contribution of the institute in the field of spices research is the breeding of high yielding spice varieties that are tolerant to drought, pests and diseases.
Eight varieties of black pepper were released by the institute. Varieties such asSreekaraSubhakaraPanchami and Pournami are already in the farmers’ field. Latest varieties include IISR Thevam, IISR Malabar Excel, IISR Girimunda and IISR Shakthi.
IISR Vijetha 1, IISR Avinash and IISR Kodagu Suvasini are the cardamom varieties developed by the Cardamom Research Centre (CRC) of IISR functioning at Appangala inKodagu district of Karnataka.
The ginger varieties of the institute, IISR Varada, IISR Rejatha and IISR Mahimaare suitable for cultivation in all major ginger growing tracts of the country.
Eight high quality turmeric varieties have been released so far by the institute.SugunaSudarshanaParbhaPrathibha and IISR Alleppy Supreme are known for their highcurcumin content and other quality attributes.
IISR Vishwasree, a high yielding nutmeg variety with a bushy and compact canopy, is suitable for all tracts in South India. Kerala Shree another nutmeg variety released recently. Navasree and Nithyasree are the leading cinnamon varieties of IISR well known for their bark oil and oleoresin.
White Pepper Production Technology
White pepper is one of the value added forms of black pepper that fetches high revenue for farmers. Owing to its charming creamy white colour, mild flavor, attractive odor, good taste and suitability to use in any food item, it has become a hot choice in the international market especially in the European countries. It also fetches almost fifty percent higher price in the market.
Traditionally, white pepper is produced by the de-cortication of ripened or dried berries. But this conventional method and other mechanical decortications were inadequate for bulk production of white pepper at industrial or farm level. The hygienic aspects and quality of white pepper are also a matter of concern. Scientists at IISR have developed a bacterial technology for converting mature green pepper to white pepper through bacterial fermentation.
Mature green pepper obtained after harvest is washed in sterilized water containing a mid log phase culture of Bacillus bacteria and it is incubated at room temperature for five days. Then the pepper berries are trampled and washed thoroughly with running water to remove degraded pericarp and bacterial metabolites. Creamy white pepper berries obtained through fermentation is dried to get high quality white pepper.
Broiler Goat Rearing
‘Broiler Goat Rearing’, fine-tuned by the scientists of the Peruvannamuzhi KrishiVigyan Kendra of IISR is a boon to the farming community especially in the areas where green fodder is in scarce. Under this method, 15 to 30 days old kids with a higher birth weight are selected before they start eating green leaves. These kids, once identified, are kept away from their mothers and are housed separately in sheds made of bamboo or wooden poles. Proper ventilation, sunlight and cleanliness are ensured at all the times.
Initially, the kids are given small quantities of concentrated feed. And the quantity is increased gradually depending upon the intake. Additional supplements such as liver tonic mixed with fish oil are also given twice a week. Young kids are also provided with mother’s milk for one month (twice or thrice a day) for their proper growth. Various women self help groups like Kaveri Kudumbashree and Nidhi and several other individual farmers inPeruvannamuzhi of Kozhikode district of Kerala have been rearing goats in this method for the past five years. According to the members of the group the method is highly suitable for those who don’t have enough land for grazing animals.
Less cost, more profit, ease in cattle management and a good demand for the goat meat are some of the many favourable factors encouraging the farming community to adopt broiler goat rearing more passionately. Kids bred under broiler technology gain about 25-33 kilograms in 120-140 days, whereas in traditional system of green feeding, the goats acquire only a maximum weight of 10 kilos, that too in 6 months. The expenditure towards feeding a kid under this method comes to about Rs. 1200. A net income of Rs. 5050 to 7050 (at Rs. 250 per kg on live weight basis) can be easily realized in this method.
IISR is continuing its journey. By changing the lives of generations positively this institute is presenting science with a human touch.

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