Putting a smile on onion farmers' faces

Miscellany

However, last year, a group of scientists under the leadership of Gurudat Hegde of Forestry College of Sirsi came forward to help the farmers.

The recently formed Uttara Kannada Onion Growers’ Welfare Forum was keen that any kind of research or demonstration of innovations related to the crop should be conducted in the fields, involving farmers.

Hegde and his team had a similar idea. “Participatory research is a very practical and apt way of delivering technology to farmers. We have explained our approach, programme and their role in it clearly. Only then have we started this experiment,” scientists said.

Because of the involvement of farmers themselves, the results in this type of symbiotic research are believed to be more reliable and the transfer of technology, more effective.

Salad onions suffer from a serious problem of twisting (curling) of leaves and the crop loss is as high as 30-35 per cent. Its cause is not known. Scientists have prioritised this as an area of study.

Five farmers each from Vannalli and Handigon volunteered to participate in the experiment. A small part of their total cultivable area was kept aside for the experiment and the rest was cultivated under the conventional method.

All aspects like seed treatment, sowing, transplanting, manuring etc were done as per the instructions of scientists. “Scientists visited the field every week from Sirsi (70 km away) for supervision and their presence gave us moral support,” says Timmu Mukri, treasurer of the farmers’ forum.

Appreciating the efforts of scientists, Goli Annappa Naik, Secretary of the forum said, “Crops on the experimental plots certainly look healthier and better.”

This project has been funded by NABARD. As participatory research is a new approach, farmers are equally curious to know about the progress of the project. “Because some amount of risk is also involved here, the continued cooperation of farmers till the end of the project will help us a lot,” said Gurudat Hegde.

On a visit to Kumta last year, Lawande, Director, Directorate of Onion and Garlic Research, Pune, was surprised to see such a crop. Now the research centre has come out with the quality parameters for salad onions.

These onions have been found to contain about 22 per cent total sugars when compared to 16 and 14 per cent in normal varieties like N-2-4-1 and Bhima Shubra. The pyruvic acid content was as low as 1.63 micro mole/ gram when compared to 3.9 and 4.48 micro mole / gm in the normal ones.

The phenols were 0.12 mg / gm when compared to 0.55 and 1.54 mg /gram in others. Higher sugars and lower phenols and pyruvic acid content contribute to the special taste of traditional onions, it is said. “Certainly they appear to be different from the normal varieties, but some more studies are required,” said A J Gupta, Sr Scientist, DOGR, Pune.

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