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How a Kerala woman farmer saves cashew trees from pests, cyclones

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New Delhi, Oct 25 (IANS) A woman farmer from Kerala’s Kannur district has come up with an innovative practice to develop support roots in cashew trees to protect her senile cashew garden from devastating borer attacks and frequent cyclonic storms.

The area under cashew cultivation in India is around 10.11 lakh ha, the highest amongst all the cashew-growing countries, and the total annual production is approximately 7.53 lakh tonnes with several farmers dependent on it for their livelihood. The coastal state of Kerala offers one of the best sites for cashew plantations in the country.

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However, its production is hampered by several biotic as well as abiotic factors. Stem and root borer is one of the most debilitating pests as it is capable of killing even the grown-up trees within a short period. Besides pest infestation, cashew nut plantation in coastal India is affected by frequent intense cyclones, and each such devastation requires more than 10 years for restoration.

Aniyamma Baby from Kerala developed an innovative “Cashew Multiple Rooting Propagation Method”, which generates multiple roots in a grownup cashew tree, thus improving production per unit area. It also helps eco-friendly management of stem and root borers, restores productivity, provides strong anchorage against wind damage/cyclonic storms, and extension of the plantation life without the necessity of replanting.

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In 2004, while harvesting cashew, Aniyamma observed one cashew branch, which was in constant contact with the soil, was generating adventitious roots (not tap root). She noticed that the new plant emerging from this root had faster growth compared to a normal cashew plant.

Next year, heavy infestation of stem borer (insect larva, or arthropod, that bores into plant stems) destroyed the mother plant, but the newly-developed plant was healthy and not affected by the infestation.

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“By observing the rooting and development of new plants from the mother plant, she thought of developing new plants by wrapping a sac filled with potting mixture on the nodes of lower parallel branches. She guided the new root to the ground with the help of hollow areca nut stem, as well as adding weight to the branches close to the ground and covering them with soil for rooting,” a release from the Science and Technology Ministry said on Monday.

Both of her experiments were successful, and she has been using these two methods in her old senile cashew plantations for the last seven years to support her family with continual supply of high cashew produce.

The National Innovation Foundation, an autonomous organisation of the Department of Science and Technology, has taken up the innovative technology for the necessary support and incubation activities.

“Cashew Multiple Rooting for Senile plantation” has been further verified by ICAR- Directorate of Cashew Research, Puttur (Karnataka) and the Kerala Agriculture University in the state’s Thrissur in 2020.

“It has been found to be a unique method and provides anchorage against wind damage/cyclonic storms, and restores cashew trees from severe attack of cashew stem and root borers in a very eco-friendly and cost-effective way. The technology offers new hope to the cashew growers having senile cashew gardens to realise additional yield,” the release said.

–IANS

niv/vd

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