A coconut palm plantation in south-central Kerala could take just five years, with a capital investment of $100 million, as local agronomists push for greater yield and a longer harvest.
As the palm plantation boom has become a national trend, several other states in Kerala are in the midst of the same process of creating a new class of farmers, working with a wider range of inputs, from traditional crops to fertilizers, as well as more modern technologies.
This has prompted the State Agriculture Development Corporation (SADC) to offer its services to a group of farmers who are planning to start a new plantation in the coastal state of Kerala on the banks of the Krishna river.
“We have been offering our services for years in other states but we are getting a lot of applications for this plantation,” said M. Ramakrishna, a farmer from Ernakulam district.
“It’s a good opportunity for us as a farmer to grow a crop that is better than what we were able to grow last year.”
The State Agro-Biological Research Institute (SARI) is also providing services to the farmers, who will be trained in the fields, and they will be able to work in the new plantation.
The land is going to be planted in a way that the farmers will be growing the crops on the plantation, said Anand Kumar, head of SARI’s agriculture department.
“The crops will be grown in an area of 3.5 hectares and the plantation will be around 50 hectares, which means we will have to plant it in the centre,” he added.
The farmers will get a total of five acres of land for the land, including five plots of coconut palm and one plot of rice, he said.
This is enough land to grow an average crop of 500 grams of sugar per hectare, and this will also give them a chance to grow the crop in the sun.
“We will be planting the crops in a shade of 2.5 to 3 metres, so the crops will not reach their full size,” he said, adding that the crop will have more nutrients and be more nutritious than that of the rice grown in the past.
The State Government is also looking at how to implement the technology and processes used in the palm plantations, and is in talks with other states for setting up a similar farm.
The plan to grow rice and palm is an indication that the government is looking at the future and not just the past, said P. Rama Rao, director general of Sari, adding the government wants to ensure that it is working with the farmers.
“I am sure the Government will continue to develop the technology in Kerala to provide more than just rice,” he pointed out.
The state government plans to plant the crop at a location at least a kilometre away from the plantations, where the farmers can grow the crops themselves, as they do in other places in the state.
“Our plan is to plant rice on a farm and then we will plant palm on it,” said Mr. Rao.
“But the plantation could be in a place where the palm is grown and it could be planted with the rice,” added Mr. Kumar.