The Telegraph
Thursday , February 28 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Scientist hails tuber as crop of the future
- Growing tapioca will come in handy if rainfall decreases and temperature rises: Expert

Jorhat, Feb. 27: The coordinator of the All-India Coordinated Research Project at Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, James George, today extolled tuber crops as crops of the future.

The scientist made a case for growing colocasia (kosu), kath alu, cassava, tapioca and varieties of yam in Assam because of their medicinal properties and changing climate of the region.

Addressing a gathering at Horticultural Experimental Station on the Assam Agricultural University (AAU) campus here today, George said increasing temperature and drought-like conditions which have started prevailing in the region could make tuber crops the best thing to be grown as they give a very good yield in temperature as high as 50 degrees Celsius.

“Kerala traditionally grows this crop as food crop but Tamil Nadu now has more areas under tuber crops, especially, tapioca as these are grown industrially and is converted into starch which is used in paper, gun and other industries. Maharashtra is now trying to jump onto the bandwagon and Assam should not lag behind,” he said. “A mobile starch-making unit costs hardly Rs 1 lakh.”

George said in Kerala after processing these were converted into sago, papad and even chips which were giving a stiff competition to popular potato chips companies.

“A company which produced chips and distributed these in three districts of the state alone made a profit of Rs 50 to Rs 60 lakh. Children just loved these chips but because of poor publicity this has not caught on,” he said.

Citing example of places in Bihar like Samastipur and Muzaffarpur, he said farmers there were netting between Rs 1.5 and Rs 2 lakh per hectare and many had given up other cultivation in favour of tuber crops.

“In another two or three decades if the temperature goes on increasing in this region and rainfall decreases resulting in ground water not being recharged say by 2050, then rice, cereals and pulses will not be able to grow and these tuber crops will sustain the future generations,” he said.

“In China’s Yunnan province and some other parts a species of yam is grown for their medicinal properties and are consumed as traditional medicine to cure stomach ailments and piles,” he said.

The vice-chancellor of AAU, K.M. Bujarbaruah, said besides tuber crops, the university was working on many other horticultural crops which would yield more and grow round the year. Some of these will be demonstrated to farmers in a few months’ time.

“A tomato plant which produces round the year and can grow up to 30 feet and yield 12kg to 15kg of tomato in a month, automatic machines which will wash and grade potatoes, growing of 1.5 lakh good quality saplings of different vegetables for distribution among farmers every month, growing crops on wasteland and soil-less farming are some of the things which we will show to the farmers,” Bujarbaruah said.

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