To improve vegetable production in the remotest parts of India’s Odisha state, ICRISAT in partnership with the World Vegetable Center has established naturally ventilated hi-tech nurseries in the state’s tribal districts of Koraput, Nabarangpur and Rayagada. The polyhouse nurseries became operational in December 2021.
The three nurseries, one each in Pungar village in Kunduli Gram Panchayat, Padargam village in Temera Gram Panchayat and Singari village in Kumudabali Gram Panchayat, are being operated by Self-Help Groups (SHGs). Dr Arshad Pal, Scientist, World Vegetable Center, informed that the nursery structures are equipped with facilities of fertigation MixRite, foggers, etc., and each nursery structure can produce about 300,000 quality vegetable seedlings per batch. The members of SHGs were trained in raising soil-less seedlings using cocopeat and protrays.
Why hi-tech horticulture nurseries?
Production of good quality vegetable seedlings ensures high yield and quality. It is often observed that scientific design and technical knowhow are lacking when nurseries are established through developmental schemes, especially in remote rural locations. Secondly, the building capacity of traditional horticulture farmers in raising good quality seedlings locally is critical to augment their livelihoods. The seedlings raised in unscientific nursery structures/open fields have poor germination, are infested by insects, pests and diseases. This often results in increased mortality of seedlings when they are planted in the main field, and subsequently farmers realize low yield. Such experiences can be a major deterrent to efforts aimed to improve crop productivity and rural livelihoods. The Odisha Livelihoods Mission (OLM) Project aims to tackle these issues.
Dr Prasad Kamdi, the project’s Coordinator for Nabarangpur District, pointed out that local availability of good quality seedlings can fulfil the seedlings requirement, reduce mortality during transportation and the transportation cost of seedlings.
Dr Aviraj Datta, the project’s Coordinator for Koraput District, informed that the cost per seedling of tomato has come down significantly from Rs 5 to 7 to about half a rupee for the farmers in OLM-ICRISAT project sites. Farmers are no longer dependent on local nurseries. Capacity building exercises carried out by the project team have enabled the farmers to raise disease free seedlings using cocopeat and prortrays in this hi-tech nursery structure with negligible or no mortality rate by themselves.
During the inauguration of the nurseries, Dr Pushpajeet Choudhari, Coordinator for Rayagada District, said these structures will ensure good quality seedling production along with significant reduction in input cost of vegetable cultivation, making tribal farmers self-reliant in the long run.
Dr Sreenath Dixit, Head, ICRISAT Development Center, highlighted that in the future quality seedling production in these nurseries can become a highly commercialized business for the SHGs, wherein the farmers from surrounding areas can buy the seedlings.