In a unique initiative, the State Agriculture Department is all set to take the science of hybridisation to the coconut farms for mass production of quality seedlings.
The ambitious plan is to develop the dwarf coconut farms scattered in small groups across the state to mother farms for developing Dwarf x Tall (DxT) hybrid variety coconut seedlings.
The project, to be implemented jointly with Coconut Development Board (CDB), aims at enhancing the production of high yielding hybrid dwarf seedlings to increase the productivity of coconut in the state as well as to tackle the acute shortage of labourers to pluck coconuts from tall palms.
There is a growing demand for DxT seedlings, as they are more resistant to pest and disease and are high yielding unlike its varieties.
However, the yielding period will be up to around 30 years whereas tall palms will have yield for nearly 70 years.
As a first step, the department would soon launch a hunt for dwarf coconut tree farms in the state.
“Dwarf coconut tree farms are scattered across the state in small groups.
For locating those farms, the department will soon request the public to inform the nearest Krishi Bhavans if they have dwarf variety coconut farms in their property.
After the completion of registration process, an expert team would visit those places to examine the quality of the varieties.
If found suitable, experts will carry out artificial pollination in the farms,” said R Ajithkumar, Director of Agriculture (in-charge).
In the process, Dwarf plants are taken as the female parent wherein its male flowers are emasculated from the spadix immediately after its emergence from the plant, leaving the female flowers covered with cotton clothes or bag to avoid pollination from any other male parent.
“Artificial pollination will be done on these female flowers using the pollens collected from male flowers of tall plants and will be covered with cotton clothes or bag.
The process will ber epeated thrice for effective pollination.
After 12 months, the matured nuts - DxT hybrid seed nuts - will be harvested by giving premium price to the farmers and will be sown in farms of agriculture department for raising seedlings.
Seedlings can be supplied for planting when they attain full growth after 10-12 months,” the director said.
At present, the total number of hybrid coconut seedlings produced in the state in a year comes around 25,000.
“Given the demand for hybrid varieties, the present production is not enough.
The production of seedlings can be increased only by identifying dwarf palms in the state and creating more dwarf mother farms.
Other wise, we will have to plant hybrid dwarf saplings to make new dwarf farms, which will take some 25 to 30 years and hence not practical,” he added.
The import of hybrid DxT varieties are also not entertained due to huge expenses and problems of adaptability with the climate of the state.