A project on castor farming in Gujarat has yielded double the output over conventional farming, without any major changes in farm practices or additional expense. The experiment was conducted over 160 hectares in six districts, using the GCH-7 variety of higher yielding seed, developed by Sardarkrushinagar Dantiwada Agricultural University (SDAU), Palanpur.
The output per hectare reported, from most areas, is an average of four tonne. Conventional means have not given more than two tonne per hectare. The Solvent Extractors Association of India ( SEAI) had done an exhaustive study by comparing productivity across 200 model castor farms in the last 2 years, when compared to control farms using traditional methods across six districts of Gujarat such as Banaskantha, Patan, Sabarkantha, Aravalli, Junagadh and Kutch.
The result of the project could revolutionise the lives of thousands of farmers across Gujarat, Telangana, Rajasthan and other major growing states, according to top officials of the association. “Farming was done under our guidance and continuous monitoring, which doubled farmers’ income without significant change in farm practices or additional input cost,” Atul Chaturvedi, president, SEAI said.
The new seed doubles castor output without additional cost or change in farming. SEAI plans to expand the model farming area this year to 200 hectares across Gujarat, Telangana and Rajasthan, with the same variety of seed and farm practices. The GCH-7 variety withstands adverse climatic conditions. SDAU is working to develop seeds to withstand worm and pest attacks as well, Chaturvedi added.
B V Mehta, executive director, SEAI said that there is always demand for derivatives of castor seed from the world market. While castor oil is used for various industrial purposes, the meal finds application as bio-fertiliser.
India exports 200,000 tonne of castor meal to Japan and other countries. India supplies around 90 % of the world demand for castor oil and castor meal and the demand from abroad has regularly risen. Castor oil is used in a number of industries, including pharmaceuticals and in aviation (as a fuel which does not freeze at even -40 degrees of temperature).
The development assumes significance in the wake of farmers shifting to other crops for better return. After annual record output of 2.3 million tonne, castor seed prices had slumped to Rs 2,750 a quintal (the wholesale price in Gujarat is now Rs 4,075 a quintal ), pushing farmers to opt for other crops.
As a result, the production of castor seed has been hit. Its output was 1.4 million tonne in 2016-17, while the estimate from the agriculture ministry for is 1.5 million tonne for 2017-18. “It can be easily replicated in all castor growing regions in India. This is second year of the project.
This year, against Gujarat average productivity of 2,066 kg, in most of the model farms the production realised is between 3,500 kg and 6,000 kg,” said Haresh Vyas, head of castor model farms project at SEAI.
He added, “For the current year, SEAI plans to establish upto additional 200 model castor farms across major castor growing states of Gujarat, Rajasthan and Telangana and is in discussion with stake holders and the government for financial support.”