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Interactive session with Dr.M.N.Venugopal at the Tea Estates

Dr. M.N. Venugopal is a retired Chief Scientist of IISR, Calicut, one of the leading institutes of agriculture, and specifically spice related research in the country. He has been working closely with farmers across Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu for over forty years, and has a very hands-on approach to increasing field productivity via clonal up-gradation, usage of manures, fertilizers, pest/insecticides and soil and water management practices. He believes in the upliftment of farmers through targeted agricultural research. Dr. Venugopal has been associated with Tata Coffee for the past 6 years, and was brought on board for our project on collaborative farming and cluster development in various parts of Assam.

Amalgamated Plantations is encouraging STGs to take Pepper cultivation for alternate revenue generation. In the month of May 2016, interactive sessions with Dr. Venugopal (Pepper Expert & Consultant for APPL) was organized for STGs connected to Diffloo and Kellyden Tea Estate with active support from our Agri Business Team. Growers are supported with technology and input services in terms of saplings and fertilizer.

During his visit, Dr. Venugopal visited – Diffloo, Kellyden, Dam Dim, Chubwa, Chhaygaon, Hattigor, Teok and Majuli Tea Estates.
The areas which were focused on during the interactive sessions were:

1. Nipping or tipping of young vines at 3ft and 5ft, which results in good canopy structure. This was extended to a practical demonstration to the Pepper Mitras and the Core Teams.

2. Important field operations like basin management and tying of young vines.

3. Importance of planting only selected varieties of pepper cultivars in different zones to get a sustainable crop.

4. Aftercare of vines for better strike-rates.

Dr. Venugopal, after his visit to Diffloo, had the following observations:

1. Compared to previous years, the establishment of the estates was better. However, damage from some sources, particularly weedicides, grazing goats and human interference continued to pose a threat to the establishment of young vines. He suggested that if special attention was paid while spraying, the weedicide problem can be addressed; by taking precautions like manual weeding in a 1 meter radius of the pepper basin. Indicators can be tied wherever there are young pepper vines to alter the spraying squads. The grazing problem can be minimized with the construction of goat proof fences around the sections that are close to bastis.

2. All nurseries are self-sufficient in the production of good quality rooted cuttings.

3. The virus incidence in nurseries is less than 2%.

4. In the future, more emphasis should be given to varietal diversity.

5. At present, more than 17 cultivars/varieties/selections are under multiplication. By 2017 they can generate the required planting materials.

6. The varietal base needs to be enriched with the addition of specific selections like P-5, P-7, P-8 and growers varieties which are specific selections identified to get bold, early maturing and high quality pepper. These varieties will be introduced in due course of time from South India.

7. The future strategy could be concentrated on the development of varietal bases. In the Golaghat estates; P-1, P-5, Chomala, Karimunda and its selections, like Neelamundi, Chomala, Thevam and Vaddakan could be used. The P-5 can be sourced from South India.In addition, exclusive blocks may be raised with Vaddakan for attaining the boldest pepper and the one grower selection for white pepper. The Sigandini required for this will be sourced from South India as well.

8. Increasing the yield per vine, as this is a successful strategy used by many cultivators in South India.

9. The above mentioned integrated cultural practices can only be achieved via the implementation of selective harvesting and foliar nutrition.

Visit Report of Dr M N Venugopal (Retd. Principal Scientist, IISR, Calicut, Kerala) to Chhaygaon Farmers Cluster. Date: 25th May 2016

Farm visits and interactive session held at farmer cluster near Chhaygaon on 25th May`16.

APPL and Small Growers:

It is very heartening to note the awareness created by APPLF in collaboration with Grameen Sahara and SDTT. Good models of nurseries with high yielding selections, planting practices and implementation of need based production practices is established in remote village clusters. This will be a new chapter in the history of Assam Agriculture. This novel approach is likely to draw attention of small growers to open their new agro-based economy which will benefit Spice Industry of India. In the long run similar models will help the industry to get volume for product diversification and marketing. Strengthening their knowledge base and lifting their confidence is the need of the hour. This can be achieved by conducting exposure training/tours in arecanut and other plantation based cropping systems of Shimoga and North Kanara Districts of Karnataka.


Dr M N Venugopal

Date: 30th May 2016