A Plantwise experience from Tamil Nadu. Writing and reporting by Kavya Dashora, CABI India
Amaranthus Photo: plantspeople.org/edible
50-year-old Sarathambal lives with her husband and son, in Pooncheri village near Iluppakkorai, in Thanjavur district. The family engages in diversified cropping systems in their 2 acre land, to expand the source of subsistence and income, to increase yield, and to minimize pests and diseases commonly found in monoculture.
Sarathambal shoulders the responsibility of cultivating amaranthus, a traditional vegetable for Indian cooking, in different plots of 30 cents, earning a regular income of Rs.3000 (£30) per month.
The family frequently encountered pest and disease problems in their crops. It was par for the course that farmers sought and implemented ad hoc suggestions from peer farmers, suppliers, and fertilizer shops. In this manner, Sarathambal utilized blanket recommendations of chemicals for all crops without scientific diagnosis of the disease.
As a result, over a period of 30 days, the amaranthus crop yield reduced in quantity and quality, fetching lower prices in the market. Sarathambal was anxious as a substantial portion of their family income was depleted due to deteriorating plant health.
Fortunately, M S Swaminathan Research Foundation runs plant clinics, in collaboration with the CABI-led Plantwise programme, to provide precise diagnostic, and advisory services for plant diseases, helping create durable plant health systems for smallholder farmers, in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, and Maharashtra.
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