Sugarcane farmers return to traditional crop variety in Marayur

It is a return to the traditional variety of crop after 30 years

A few of the sugarcane farmers led by Jagadeeswaran of Koodayayal have harvested the traditional crop varieties of CO 413 which have almost disappeared from the sugarcane fields in Marayur.

Mr. Jagadeeswaran cultivated it in nearly two acres of land after developing the ratooning for three years. He said that this variety was found more yielding and is more adaptable to the change in climate and soil condition.They were earlier cultivating it and even if there was shortage of water, its survival rate was high compared to the improved versions of sugarcane varieties that were introduced later. He said that it yielded three times more than the hybrid varieties after one or two cropping. With the change in the climate and shortage of water, the yield of the new varieties was found less, he said.

It needed a growth period of 12 to 14 months compared to the nine to 10 month growth period of other varieties. One of the main features, the farmer claimed, was that it needed less fertilisation and much more rationing (growth of the new plant from the portion left beneath the soil after the cane is harvested). The sugarcane fields have to be cleared for new seedling after three to four ratoons in the case of the other varieties. He said that the Ayurvedic pharmaceutical companies were the main buyers of the traditional crop varieties and they preferred it for the purity of jaggery. He said on Sunday that a few portions of the sugarcane was already harvested and it was stopped due to rainfall. The harvesting will be continued in a day or two, he added.

He developed the ratooning after a long search for collecting a few cane stumps.

Selvin Mariappan, chef of Mapco (Marayur Agriculture Produce Company), one of the three agencies entrusted with the marketing of Marayur Jaggery after it received the GI (geographical indication) tag said that 20 farmers have already cultivated it thanks to the effort of Mr. Jagadeeswaran. Mr. Mariappan, himself a sugarcane farmer, said that they had very good quality jaggery from the traditional crop variety. It was aimed at further enhancing the quality of Marayur Jaggery. He said that the CO 423 varieties were found to be more adaptable to the problems like water shortage and pest attack in addition to more ratooning though it needed a long growth period. He said that Mapco is planning to supply 85,000 seedlings of it to the farmers. There are 9,000 sugarcane farmers in Marayur now, he added.

Marayur Agriculture Officer N. Priya said that CO 8632 is the common variety now cultivated by the farmers in Marayur. The traditional varieties of crops should be preserved. She said that she was aware of the old variety now being cultivated by a few farmers. The researchers in the sugarcane field had however pointed out that CO 413 contains more fiber than the improved varieties introduced later. However, the efforts of the farmers in moving to the old variety is appreciated, she added.

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