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KAU unit promotes mat nursery in paddy

A participatory technology development programme has been launched by the Regional Agricultural Research Station (RARS) of the Kerala Agricultural University (KAU) at Pilicode in Kasaragod to promote manual mat nursery in paddy in a big way.

RARS initiated the programme at Kolachery padashekhara in the district to perfect the technology of mat nursery without the use of machine.

The programme has been conceived under the Lead Farmers Extension Advisory and Delivery Services (LEADS) in association with the Department of Agriculture. The participatory technology development programme is being conducted by enlisting the participation of field assistants of LEADS programme, farmers, officers of the Agriculture Department and KAU scientists.

According to RARS scientists, the mat nursery is usually used for transplanting paddy using machine, namely transplanter. However, it is not practical to use transplanter in many of the paddy fields due to the difficulty in transporting it to the difficult terrain, non-availability of the machine as also shortage of trained persons to operate it, they said.

“The mat nursery does not require the services of traditional women labourers for transplanting,” said K. Abdul Kareem, Associate Director, RARS. Mat nursery saves labour up to 50 per cent and it reduces the nursery area to two cents of land as against 10 cents required for planting one-acre under the conventional nursery, he noted. Moreover, the nursery need not be prepared in paddy fields as it can be prepared anywhere and carried to the location, Dr. Kareem said.

The other advantages include requirement of no additional labour for picking the seedlings from nursery. It is also said that there will not be any incidence of weeds and that it is possible to effectively curb the occurrence of pests and diseases. A one-day practical training and workshop was conducted at Kolachery on December 5 for field assistants and lead farmers as part of the programme. Dr. Kareem inaugurated the programme at a function presided over by Narayanan Namboodiri, a leading rice farmer of the district. Agricultural scientists P.K. Ratheesh, T. Santhoshkumar, and others spoke.


India Develops Two New Hybrid Rice Varieties

India’s Kerala Agricultural University (KAU) has developed new hybrid rice varieties that have higher yields and are more nutritious compared to other rice varieties in the southern state of Kerala.

According to KAU’s project coordinator Prof. S. Leena Kumary, the new rice variety Mo.16 (Uma) has an average yield of around 6 - 6.5 tons per hectare which can increase to 8 to 9 tons per hectare under favorable conditions. The rice variety Mo.21 (Prathyasa) has an average yield of around 5.5 – 6 tons per hectare. The yields of these varieties are about 2 – 3 times the national average yield of around 3 tons per hectare. The new varieties have good milling rate (of around 65%) and cooking quality. Mo.21 has higher content of zinc and is more nutritious than other varieties, Prof. S. Leena Kumary told Oryza.

Rice consumption in Kerala stands at around 3.8 – 4 million tons, but the state produces just about 600,000 tons of rice annually due to lack of irrigation and low hybrid rice cultivation.

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KAU to step up research in microbial inoculant technology

 Kerala Agriculture University is preparing to step up research in microbial technology with the objective of developing a range of bio-fertilizers and bio-control agents to meet the growing demand for eco-friendly options from farmers in Kerala.

Scientists at the KAU have developed potent cultures of Pseudomonas and Trichoderma, bacterial and fungal strains that act against plant pathogens and promote plant growth.

The university has evolved technology for large-scale production and application of bio-control agents. It has recently developed a microbial consortium capable of combating a variety of fungal and bacterial diseases.

“The role of microbial inoculants in sustainable agriculture assumes special significance in the context of their eco-friendly nature, growing demand for organic vegetables, and the rising threat of pesticide residues in fruits and vegetables,” says P. Rajendran, Vice Chancellor, KAU.

Essentially, formulations of living organisms, microbial inoculants, when applied to the soil, improve nutrient availability, reduce input of chemical fertilizers, and promote sustainable agriculture.

“We have made remarkable achievements in this area. This is a giant step towards converting Kerala in to an organic state,” Dr. Rajendran said.

Pseudomonas and Trichoderma have been proved to possess a broad spectrum of activity against an array of plant pathogens causing serious crop diseases. The KAU has developed the technology for large-scale production of Pseudomonas in powder and liquid formulation of Pseudomonas and Trichoderma. A simple technique for farmer-level multiplication and field application of Trichoderma in organic manure has also been evolved.

The university has secured the registration of the Central Insecticides Board (CIB) for Pseudomonas.

The mother culture and production technology have been transferred to the State Bio Control Lab (SBCL), Mannuthy, under the State Department of Agriculture and different KAU centres for commercial production.

“Farmers are now fully convinced about the potential of these cultures and the response is so high that the SBCL and university centres are not able to meet the demand,” Dr. Rajendran said.

“All the centres are running on profit. It is expected that the royalty from the sale of mother inoculants will add additional annual revenue of more than Rs.10 lakh to KAU”.

Using mother cultures developed by the KAU, different agencies in the State are producing 1,200 tonnes of bio-control agents annually that can substitute 200 tonnes of fungicides worth Rs.6 crore. They also produce 100 tonnes of bio-fertilizers equal to 1,000 tonnes of nitrogen worth Rs.2.5 crore.

Farmers in Kerala use microbial inoculants extensively for the management of serious diseases and promotion of growth in black pepper, vanilla, cardamom, betel vine, ginger, rice, and vegetables.

Betel vine farmers in Thiruvananthapuram district and spice farmers in Idukki depend heavily on Pseudomonas and Trichoderma for disease management.

The current annual production of bio-fertilizers in India is less than 13,000 metric tons, against a potential demand of 34 lakh tonnes a year.

“There is tremendous potential for microbial industry. KAU has identified this as a sector for advanced research and massive production and hence a centre of excellence has been envisaged,” Dr. Rajendran explained.

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