Crop breeding and management of pepper, ginger, rice, scented rice and cool season vegetables; studies on crop weather relationships and soil fertility management are the main areas of research. A number of institutions including the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), National Horticulture Mission (NHM), the State Horticulture Mission (SHM), the India Meteorological Department (IMD) and Government of Kerala provide funds for research and development activities.
The station maintains germplasm of black pepper, ginger, turmeric and rice. More than forty accessions in rice including scented varieties are maintained. Fifty five accessions in black pepper are being maintained and evaluated. Twenty seven accessions in ginger and thirty six accessions in turmeric are maintained.
RARS is the lead centre for the multi institutional National Agricultural Innovation Project ”Multi Enterprise Farming Models to Address the Agrarian Crisis of Wayanad District of Kerala” funded by ICAR. More than 7000 farmers in 9 panchayaths are participants in this project.
Network project on Agro meteorological advisory service provides short-term forecasts on weather along with crop advisory based on the forecast. The information is provided to farmers through the mass media.
RARS Ambalavayal is a Co opted Centre for the All India Coordinated Research Project on Spices. Research programmes on pepper, ginger, turmeric etc are taken up under this project. Multi Location trials (MLTs) with improved varieties of rice, ginger, turmeric and pepper are conducted at RARS to recommend suitable varieties for the region. A network project on “Characterisation and management of soil fertility with respect to secondary and micro nutrients” has been initiated to evolve recommendations for management of secondary and micronutrients. Another Network Project to develop system recommendations for nutrient, pest and disease management is also under way. Research programmes on precision farming in banana and vegetables are in the offing. Crop weather modeling studies have been initiated on pepper. Studies on impact of climate change in crop production in the high range region have also been initiated. Training programmes on fodder production, vegetable cultivation, Fruit and vegetable processing, IPM practices etc are organized for the benefit of farmers.
RARS serves as a major hub for the supply of seeds and planting materials of various crops. Rooted cuttings of black pepper, seed materials/seedlings of ginger, turmeric, clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, mangosteen; grafts/seedlings of mango and other fruit plants, seeds of different varieties of rice, scented rice varieties like Jeerakasala and Gandhakasala, seeds and seedlings of tropical/cool season vegetables, various ornamental plants including roses are being produced. Women Self-help Groups are engaged in the nursery production activities. About 5 lakh rooted pepper cuttings, 25-30 tons of rice seeds, 4-5 quintals of vegetable seeds, 2-3 tons of ginger and turmeric seed rhizomes and 2-2.5 lakhs seedlings/grafts of various tree spices/fruit plants are produced annually.
RARS took lead role in obtaining Geographical Indicator Registration for the scented rice varieties Wayanad Jeerakasala and Wayanad Gandhakasala in favour of Wayanad Sugandha Nellulpadhaka Sangham. Steps are being taken to get similar recognition for Wayanad Pepper and turmeric in favour of Wayanad Organic Consortium.
RARS provides agro-advisory services to the farmers as well as extension personnel. Multi-disciplinary diagnostic team visits are conducted to address field problems.
The farm and nursery are visited by farmers, tourists, students and the public. The station has excellent rapport with farmers, Local Self Government Institutions, Department of Agriculture and other agencies working in the field. The facilities are also being used for providing trainings. Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) Wayanad also functions in the campus and conducts training programmes, frontline demonstrations, and participatory action research pogrammes. This farm is a notified centre in the tourism network of DTPC Wayanad and attracts tourists. RARS also has a name for its collection of roses.
Extension and other activities
Jack fest-2015, a two days programme was conducted at RARS, to educate the people about the importance of jack fruit in food security and scope of total value addition of the fruit. Seminars were conducted to aware the farmers on market potential, health benefits, diversification of value added products from jack fruit in market. Nearly 101 value added products from jack fruit were prepared by the trained SHG (Haritha) of RARS and displayed in the fest. The programme also had on offer a feast which included 18 jack products as dishes. This programme helped to inspire the youth in starting new ventures in value addition and exporting of products from jack fruit.
The major crops of Wayanad are coffee, black pepper, paddy, summer vegetables, banana, jackfruit, mangosteen, avocado and tuber crops. The set of technologies available to boost productivity of these crops is still at the outreach of farmers. Hence the potential yield possible from these crops had never been realized so far. Hence in situ production of inputs, their optimal use and technological interventions are envisaged.
Potential of RARS, Ambalavayal
RARS Ambalavayal has immense potential for profitable cultivation of an array of horticultural crops like cool season vegetables, mango, litchi, orange and avocado, exotic fruit crops, annual fruits like strawberry, commercial cut flowers like orchids, gerbera and anthuriums, medicinal and aromatic plants, fodder, coconut and tender coconut. The Center has already taken up research projects to promote commercial production and high density planting of fruits like lichi, mangosteen, avocado, rambutan and cool season vegetables.
In a recent internal assessment of the performance of various research centres of institutions of KAU by the General Council, the Governing body of KAU, the RARS, Ambalavayal was adjudged as the best research unit of the Kerala Agricultural University during 2013-14. The assessment was based on its team work, efficiency and performance in spite of its inadequacies like shortage of scientists and poor infrastructure.
The RARS is well- poised and waiting on its wings to develop as a Knowledge Centre for Agriculture in the High range region. Intensive research programmes will be taken up in black pepper, ginger, sub topical fruits, scented rice and ornamental plants. Model units for precision farming, high density orchard and cut flower production will be established soon. RARS, Ambalavayal has all the potential and natural conditions to set up a horticultural college with advanced laboratory facilities and infrastructure for hi-tech farming to cater the needs of farming and research community of the region and the country.
Germplasm conservation is the need of the hour and RARS has taken significant strides in this direction having in stock 34 ginger and 30 turmeric varieties. The farm also has a vast collection of germplasm of rice accessions. Including indigenous ones, the RARS preserves 63 accessions including 15 scented types. Breeder seed production of GI registered varieties like Gandhakashala and Jeerakashala and other varieties like Gandhakashala dwarf and Deepthi are also part of activities of the farm. Quality seeds of these varieties along with Athira and Uma are also produced in huge quantities for projects and schemes intended for farmers. Seeds are produced for organic/black njavara which is famous and in high demand for its medicinal properties. Research on rice varieties focusing on hybridization and selection suited to our climatic conditions is a vital activity envisioned to address the issue of food security. Rice-fish integrated farming is commonly practiced in our fields cultivating fishes like rohu, catla, red snapper and grass carp. This should give a boost to the culture of integrated farming and the inclusion of white meat in the diet should help the nutritional security concern looming on our state.
A study on water use and resources conducted by the Centre of Excellence in Environmental Economics (CEEE) of the Kerala Agricultural University (KAU) predicts severe water scarcity in the State by 2021. The study has projected a gap of 1,268 billion litres between supply and demand for 2021 on the basis of current level of rainfall, storage and available groundwater. Current signals of climate change, land-use changes and demographic pressures point to a still wider supply-demand gap. RARS has taken the cue and already has eleven water harvesting ponds conserving rain water for meeting the agricultural demands during the lean season. The biggest of the ponds’ is large enough to hold one crore liters of water. A natural pond serving the demands of agriculture and drinking purpose of the farm and the panchayat is also an asset that the farm possesses.
The organic wastes produced in the farm are converted into value added vermi compost by the numerous vermi compost units established throughout the farm. The compost is utilized as an organic input within the farm and also brings in significant revenue by over the counter sales.
Further details are available at- http://rarsamb.kau.in/