Monday, August 8, 2016

Tulsi picks up as cash crop in Agra

Agra: Tulsi plantation in the district is fast picking up with more and more farmers opting for the medicinal plant as a cash crop. According to local residents, farmers who sowed the plant have managed to earn thrice their investment since no part of the plant goes waste and seeds, leaves and even twigs are purchased by traders and agents right from their farms.
Rajkumar Lodhi of Fatehpur Sikri, who has been cultivating tulsi for the past three years, said, "My brother Santosh Kumar who is pursuing his post-graduation in agriculture, and I grow tulsi on our 1.5 hectare land. We read about it on the internet and gathered all necessary information before we began to sow the seeds. I visited several villages in Mathura and met farmers producing tulsi. My brother helped me in adopting suitable farm practices. In the first year, we grew tulsi on one hectare of land, which resulted in good profit for us. The crop takes just 140 days to be ready and every part of it is sold. Besides, there is a growing market for the plant."
Vijay Kumar of Bichpuri has been growing tulsi on his one hectare of land for the past three years. "In the beginning, I face hiccups. There was no information available about its farming either among local farmers or even officials. But I went ahead and sowed it. The profits were instant. Businessmen and agents came directly to my farm and purchased every part of the crop for its use in medicines and other religious purposes."
Dr RP Agarwal of Krishi Vigyan Kendra in Agra told TOI, "There are two major types of tulsi - Rama and Shyama. Majority of the farmers in Agra grow Rama tulsi. This type has light green leaves. It is known for its cooling properties and mellow taste. All parts of this plant emit aroma. The Shyama tulsi has dark green leaves. It has peppery, crisp taste. Leave size of Rama Tulsi is larger as compared to Shyama Tulsi. A tulsi plant needs to be protected from termites. It does not require use of any insecticides as insects stay away of it. Awareness among farmers about its cultivation has increased. More and more farmers are coming to us to seek information on its cultivation. This is a positive trend."
Mohan Singh Chahar, district head of Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, said, "The good thing about tulsi cultivation is that farmers don't have to make many efforts for selling their produce. Farmers have managed to earn thrice of their investments in tulsi cultivation."
Interestingly, the beginning of tulsi plantation in the district was mired in controversy. In 2009, the UP forest department, in collaboration with a private company, had launched an initiative to plant hundreds of thousands of tulsi saplings, claiming it would bring down the pollution level in the city which boasts of many monuments. The company said the tulsi plants would take care of refinery emissions. Incidentally the oil refinery closest to Agra is that 50 km away in Mathura. Some alleged it was nothing but a way to further commercial interests, with the company involved in the project being a tulsi exporter. There were also plans that the tulsi leaves will be used to scrub the Taj Mahal's marble surface to give it another beauty treatment like the mud-pack. But scientific viability of plan was not verified. Conservationist highlighted that being a major tulsi exporter to United States and Israel, the private firm had commercial interests behind promotion of tulsi plantation, after which, the drive was given up.
Source : The Hindu

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