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Cluster bean cultivation rewarding for farmers

Praveen Paul Joseph

Agro-climatic conditions said to be conducive for this crop

Tuticorin: Cluster bean, a warm-season crop highly adaptable to regions with low rainfall and high temperature, such as Vilathikulam block in Tuticorin district, was being grown not only for seed purpose but for feed to goats, said S. Raja Mohamed, Assistant Director (Horticulture), Vilathikulam block, Tuticorin district.

Cluster bean, (Cyamopsis tetragonaloba) was being grown extensively in about 50 hectares now, as against 20 hectares during 2008-09, in villages such as Poosanur, Kottanatham, Shengappadai, Vedapatti, Virusampatti, A. Kumarapuram, Karisalkulam, Ayyan Pommaiyapuram, Guruvarpatti and Kodankipatti during summer.

It was being cultivated on a buy-back method under contract farming. About 30 farmers were engaged in these contract farming activities directly, besides providing employment opportunities to agricultural labourers during the lean period of summer. It was being grown for use as seed, he told The Hindu, here on Sunday.

A hardy crop

“Cluster bean is a very hardy crop and withstands very high temperature as well as severe drought conditions. These conducive agro-climatic conditions encourage cluster bean cultivation.

The probable origin for this crop is West Africa and India. In certain types, the seeds are used for preparation of gum and such types are not suitable for use as a vegetable. It can adapt to all types of soils and tolerates alkaline soil. It thrives best in sandy loam. Water requirement for cluster bean is very minimum. Being a short duration crop, it is advised for raising during summer,” Mr. Mohamed said.

About five kg of seeds were given to a farmer to cultivate one acre by the seed supplier. The yield for an acre in 90 days was about 350 to 400 kg of seeds, leaving behind about 400 kg of dried opened pods and dried plants.

Dried pods as feed

Dried pods and plants were used as feed to sheep and goats, and farmers claim that it helped in increasing the weight of the animals, he said.

T. Vijayaram, a contract farmer of Guruvarpatti, said, “I have cultivated two acres of this type of cluster bean on a “buy back” arrangement with a company in Sattur area. I got about 350 kg of seeds from an acre and sold it at Rs. 50 a kg.

It fetched me Rs. 17,500 per acre. I also gained Rs. 10, 000 through sale of 40 bags of dried pods and plants. I used to leave my land fallow previously.

But now I have something worthwhile to do during summer, a lean period for agriculture.” Cluster bean seeds procured on contract farming from these villages were sent to Gujarat and other States for seed farming and for preparation of gum, sources from a seed supplying company said.

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