At a time when the market demand for timber products is on rise Kerala should work towards promoting tree plantation apart from other crops to further bolster the State’s plantation sector, said the experts at a seminar at ‘Plantation Expo’, organised by the Plantation Directorate, Government of Kerala, at the Sooryakanthi Exhibition Grounds at Kanakakunnu Palace here.
“Tree planters should closely monitor the market demand to make the best use of Kerala’s tree plantation options like timber, fuel wood, and high-value timbers. With the use of precise technology, high-quality Marayoor sandalwood, which has high demand in the world market, can be harvested in 15 years”, Dr A Balasubramanian, Professor, Department of silviculture, Forest College and Research Institute, Mettupalayam, said.
Also, the timely deployment of technology will aid in resolving threats faced by the plantation sector, including climatic, thereby enabling planters to tap on the market potential, he said.
Ajay Kakra, Managing Partner, JU Agri Innovation Ventures, Delhi, noted that the challenges like severe unseasonal rains, floods, and landslides often result in low yields while acute electricity crisis results in high irrigation cost.
On the role of technology in the plantation sector, he said, soil testing, deploying technically advanced commercial drone spraying system, precision farming, using best quality seeds and seedlings, and practicing sustainable agricultural practices will help in resolving major challenges faced by the plantation sector.
“Earlier, getting the soil tested was a time-consuming process, but now there are service providers who would help the planters with an IoT driven, chemical-free, portable and real-time soil testing device”, he added.
Stressing the scope of deploying technology in bringing out value-added products from the residues generated from plantation crops, Dr P Subramanian, Professor, and Head, Department of Renewable Energy Engineering, Agricultural Engineering College and Research Institute, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, said, biomass or plantation waste can be utilised for producing biochar/hydrochar which can be used for wastewater treatment.
Ambili GK, Senior Scientist, Centre for Water Resources Development and Management, Kozhikode, pointed out that water scarcity has a drastic effect on country’s plantation sector as major segment of plantation crops is dependent on irrigation.
“As the last ten years trend of receiving heavy rainfall in short period of time is not benefiting long term crop management, it has become inevitable to depend on modern irrigation methods for the survival of plantation sector”, she said.
Dr Soman, Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd, Maharashtra, said precision farming and vegetative mulching are ways to sustainable production. Also, for attracting and meeting the domestic as well as foreign market demand, there should be a considerable hike in the cultivation of plantation crops in Kerala, he added.
The seminar on the sidelines of the four-day Plantation Expo, which will come to a close on Sunday, aims at introducing the latest trends in the plantation sector apart from formulating policies to market value-added products.
The event marks the first major step to make Kerala Plantation a global brand while ensuring the progress of the labourers in the sector.
The expo features 100 stalls showcasing the products and services of the participants.
Public entry is free for the expo on all days from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
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