Thrissur: A silent revolution in vegetable and fruit farming is taking place on Vattaru island of the Maldives, thanks to the enthusiasm of a civil engineer from here and technology back up of Kerala Agricultural University (KAU). E.C.Manoharan from Perinjanam first went to the Maldives in 2011 to carry out some civil engineering works, after completing which he got an assignment in the Middle East. Later in 2013, he went to Vattaru Island to construct a boathouse and terminal.
Having noticed the farming pattern and climate in the islands, he succeeded in convincing people that the seeds and planting materials from Kerala, with which the islands share an identical environment, will be more suitable for them than the seeds imported from Europe. He got in touch with scientists at KAU and selected varieties of fruits and vegetables. The greatest surprise was watermelon. When he heard about seedless watermelon varieties Swarna and Shonima, he contacted Dr.T.Pradeep Kumar who developed them and took seeds there. They produce fruits of maximum 3 kg in normal Kerala conditions, but it gave 8 to 10 in Vattaru.
The islands being a tourist destination, the seedless watermelons were sold like hotcakes, and now it fetches a price of Rs 120 per kg, whereas the average price in Kerala is only one-tenth of it. “Besides watermelon, I promoted the cultivation of bitter gourd, bottle gourd, brinjal and cucumber. The cultivation was in 40 hectares. All these varieties give good yields," Mr Manoharan said. "We do artificial pollination since natural agents like bees and butterflies are not common here. Seedless watermelon is much sought after in resorts, and a fruit fetches Rs 900, which is a good bargain for farmers.”
Cow dung is the main manure and organic solutions the pesticides. After its success on the islands, Union minister for agriculture is seeking steps to popularise cultivation of these varieties across India. A proposal for massive seed production has already gone, and they are awaiting the response. They have developed a hybrid variety of seedless salad cucumber as well. “Coastal areas in India are also suitable for seedless varieties,” he said.