Cultivating a crop for the future

Cultivating a crop for the future

Cultivating a crop for the future

The demand for jackfruit is on the rise. Traders from Hyderabad buy raw jackfruit straight from the farm, while there is a good market for fruits in Bengaluru.”

Krishnamurthy, a farmer from Venkatagiri Kote situated near the Bengaluru-Hyderabad highway, is confident about the future prospects of this largest known fruit. With that hope he has converted nine acres of grape and mulberry farms into jackfruit orchards in the last three years. Water scarcity and labour problem have forced him to change the crop. It is indicative of a trend catching up in parts of Karnataka where farmers have started considering jackfruit as a major crop.

Jackfruit has emerged as a “crop of hope” that could help solve problems of climate change and food security. In Devanahalli taluk, Dr Shyamanna has taken up jackfruit cultivation in his five-acre ancestral farm, which was abandoned for long. In 2011, he planted 500 saplings. The varieties included Lalbagh madhura, mattam varika, bairachandra, jenuhalasu, seedless and gumless jackfruit. Ninety five per cent of the plants survived.

Over the years, he has transformed the barren land into a model plot. Silver oak, jamoon, sapota and mango are planted either as intercrops or as border crops. A distance of 20x20 feet is maintained between jackfruit plants. The farm doesn’t have an independent source of water. He felt that since jackfruit requires water only in the first five years of its growth, digging a borewell is not a clever option. Instead, he purchases water from the neighbouring farm and waters plants through drip irrigation.

He has constructed soil and water conservation structures to maintain soil healthy and moist. Trenches are constructed on all four sides of the farm while ring trenches are dug around each plant. He prefers cow dung manure to chemical inputs. Regular pruning has helped the canopy spread wide like an umbrella. He does fruit thinning to remove excess fruit to improve fruit size and quality. He has observed pest attacks and disease, but has controlled using bio-inputs. Weedicide is applied once in monsoon, after which weed cutter is used to control weeds.

Muliya Venkatakrishna Sharma of Dakshina Kannada has planted 250 plants of 75 varieties in his two-and-a-half acre land. “Jackfruit plantation is still in experimental stage. I have planted the best varieties from malenadu, coastal and dryland areas and want to identify varieties that are suitable for this region.”

C Channegowda near Arakalagudu of Hassan district has planted 12 varieties in 10 acres and the orchard has more red fleshed varieties than yellow ones. He wants to tap the
consumer preference for red fleshed jackfruit. He has grown off-season varieties in another 10 acres. Vishvas K C in Dudda village of Hassan, has grown jackfruit in six acres. After experimenting both chemical and non-chemical method of cultivation, he has concluded that organic method is best suited for the crop.

“Take good care of the plants for five to six years and they will serve you for the entire life. The multi-purpose crop provides food, timber, firewood and fodder and improves micro-climate of the area. But enough caution should be taken to choose locally suitable plants. Depending on the preference of “food” or “wood” one can opt for grafted or seed-propagated plants. Drumstick, papaya and lemon can be grown as intercrops in the initial years. Seed-propagated saplings can be grown as border plants. It retains farm diversity and meets the needs of timber. Jackfruit cultivation can be sustainable when the diversity is maintained. Otherwise even this crop is prone to pests and insects,” cautions Dr Shyamala Reddy, Associate Professor, Department of Biotechnology, University of Agricultural Sciences, Bengaluru, who has travelled extensively in the jackfruit growing areas of South India. 

“In the last eight years, South Karnataka has seen an increase in  block plantations of jackfruit, which is mainly due to the availability of good quality plants by means of vegetative propagation (grafting). Jackfruit is also increasingly felt in trade and processing, triggering hope among growers. Jackfruit orchards have come up in about 3,000 acres in the state and over 500 acres are getting added every year,” informs Dr S V Hittalamani, former Additional Director of Horticulture.

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