In his roughly two acres of land, most space has been dedicated to tuber crops like tapioca, yam and sweet potato.
Farmer Shyam Kumar prides himself on his collection of increasingly uncommon species such as ‘nanakizhangu’ and ‘aanakomban’ (a species of yam).“I do a seed collection once a year,” he said. “I approach Kani tribals from regions like Kattakkada and Kottur where I collect them from.”
He is particularly all praise for the ‘velladan’ kizhangu, a type of ‘nanakizhangu’, which he said attracts people the most. According to him, it is among the rarest of tubers - a species that is fast disappearing.
“This particular sub-species gives maximum yield among its kind,” he said. “At least, 25 kg can be harvested from a single plant. With proper care, it can give up to 50 kg.”
The last harvest gave him a yield of 37 kg from a single clump. “This is despite the low rains and high temperature this year,” he added.
Kumar, formerly with the Indian Air Force, has been in farming for the past 15 years.
In it purely for the love of it, he gets his advice from the College of Agriculture at Vellayani. “With the help of professors there, I rely solely on an organic approach to farming with zero use of chemicals,” he said. Instead of NPK fertilizers and chemical nitrogen-fixing agents, he depends on microorganisms - Pseudomonas, Rhizobacteria and Mycorhiza - which he testifies have helped him achieve some wonders, including a “ten-foot yam” and a record-breaking ‘kaachil.’ “These are available as powders and we have to mix them with water when we apply it, so more water is required,” he said.
Apart from the help he receives from the Vellayani College, he has developed his own organic fertilizer, a ‘nattugavi’, comprising many ingredients, including cow urine, bone powder and ghee.
The latest feather in the cap of Shyam Kumar, is the recognition he won last month at the Central Tuber Crops Research Institute (CTCRI) when it conducted a tuber crops exhibition.