Kerala is a small state with high population density. The number of small families (with 4-5 members) is increasing in the state in urban as well as rural regions.
Farm lands are being rapidly converted into housing plots and this causes a severe reduction in crop grown area. Especially for vegetables, a reduction in their yield has a severe impact on the economy.
The market share of vegetables cultivated in Kerala is less than 33 per cent. About 67 per cent of vegetables coming in Kerala market are from neighbouring States. Moreover, it is evident that the agricultural commodities coming from outside can contain hazardous pesticide residues in them.
“The growth of conventional system of vegetable cultivation has its limits in the light of farm land unavailability and labour shortage in Kerala. Hence, major thrust needs to be given to the technological development and proliferation of vegetable production in small plots,” says Dr. C.P. Robert, Programme Coordinator, ICAR-Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Pathanamthitta district.
Vegetable farming in homes is an approach to address this concern. The proposed project ensures production of minimum 50 per cent of the family demand of vegetables. This could effectively make the rural and urban household self sustained in vegetable consumption.
The existing system and practice is insufficient to produce enough quantities of vegetable for the households. So, modern cultivation practices with adoptable precision farming techniques are incorporated through introduction of ultra density vegetable production systems. “The major objective set by us was to promote eco-safe vegetable production unit through this technology based farming to overcome the limitations of vegetable production due to lack of land and labour,” says Dr. Robert.
The system is meant to ensure regular availability of vegetables for every family by increasing the productivity through the optimization of space and time.
The institute was keen to make it possible to ensure self sufficient, safe and sustainable vegetable production in every rural and urban household in Pathanamthitta district.
In short, this method is an innovative and unique one for enhancing the nuclear family to produce their own vegetables from a limited area round the year.
It is a modern farming system in which the vegetable crops are grown in an intensive manner taking care to see crops get sufficient amounts of sunlight through transparent poly sheets, irrigation through drip and essential elements and micro nutrients through fertigation.The crops are grown in 18 sq. metre space inside the rain shelter in grow bags. The All India Coordinated Research project on pesticide residues conducted at Kerala Agricultural University revealed that the vegetables like amaranthus, chilly, curry leaf, cowpea etc coming from outside states contain pesticide residues in severe amounts.
“This technology encourages the family to produce vegetables in a hassle free manner. Different vegetables can be cultivated in batches accordingly with the season of corresponding crops. The project provides a portable rain-shelter with grow bags, fortified growing media and drip irrigation system to 100 households across the district. Members of the selected household will be given training in ultra density vegetable cultivation under rain shelter. Regular management of the drip irrigation system, fertigation facilities, identification and remedy of major pests and diseases, crop calendar etc are the foremost topics for the training,” explains Mr. Sreekanth, agriculture engineer at the institute.
When polyhouse cultivation promoted with huge subsidies does not lead to break even in 3-5 years, if people are given 75 per cent subsidy (the total cost of the unit is Rs. 33,000) of the total cost this can cover more people and enables per capita vegetable production with a motto “ grow your own vegetables.”
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