Indian Institute of Horticultural Research has identified this particular tree for further propagation under revenue sharing model of Tamarind Improvement Project
A 40-year-old tamarind tree in Tumakuru district in Karnataka has brought sweet tidings for its grower, though its speciality is very high sour content. The tree, with distinct properties, is set to fetch a revenue of over ₹9 lakh in the course of the next one year, as the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research (IIHR) has identified it for further propagation under revenue sharing model of Tamarind Improvement Project.
The institute has named the tamarind variety after the 66-year-old farmer Lakshmana, who has grown this tree in his farm in Nandihalli of Tumakuru district. The initiative by the institute comes close on the heels of massive response to two such earlier efforts with jackfruit, including a special variety of ‘Siddu jackfruit’.
According to IIHR’s Principal Scientist and head of its Tumakuru-based Central Horticultural Experimental Station (CHES) Dr. G. Karunakaran, who identified this tamarind variety, this tree not only yields more, but also gives quality pods with higher sour content. “The mean annual yield during the scientific assessment from 2016 to 2020 was 251.4 kg as against 165.0 kg in other trees,” he said.
“The pods of Lakshmana tamarind tree are long, broad and curved. The average length of a pod is 25.4 cm. Also, the pulp is light brown in colour with less fibre. Pulp recovery is high at 43% as against 28% in local tamarind trees. Total acidity is found to be 20% and sugar content is 29.78%,” he said.
The institute entered into an MoU with farmer Lakshmana for production of saplings through grafting method. As per this agreement, the institute will produce about 10,000 saplings from this tree and sell them for approximately ₹150 each. As much as 60% of the revenue from sales will go to the farmer.
The pulp and seeds of Lakshmana tamarind tree in Nandihalli, Tumakuru district, Karnataka.
Lakshmana’s son Vinay says that this particular tree always stood out from the total of 30 tamarind trees owned by the family. “Such is the quality of the pods and pulp that it has always fetched us a premium price in the market. In 2020, we got ₹425 per kg for the processed pulp from this tree,” he said. “We have hardly made any extra effort to nurture this tree as tamarind trees are drought-resistant and maintenance is inexpensive,” he added.
Mr. Vinay is an MBA graduate who quit his job in Bengaluru to look after the farm along with a book store. He is very proud of his family’s achievement. “My MBA-based job in Bengaluru would not have got this kind of recognition,” he said.
Special focus on tamarind
Farm scientists have zeroed in on tamarind for promoting as a crop that can support entrepreneurship and provide seasonal employment opportunities in rural areas besides ensuring sustainable income to growers in parched areas.
Dr. G. Karunakaran says a tamarind tree can sustain extreme dry weather as it is climate-resilient. “It requires minimum amount of water, mostly during the initial period. The tree starts giving a yield in five to eight years,” he said.
Tamarind processing offers seasonal employment in rural areas, especially for women.
Pointing out that the tree’s pods need to be processed manually to get the pulp, scientist said generally the processing work is done by women in their house. In Tumakuru district, which has a high concentration of tamarind trees, farmers pay about ₹20 per kg for processing. Workers earn anywhere from ₹200 to ₹400 a day through processing. This work last from February to April. But this is the time when most other agricultural activities would have come to a standstill reducing job opportunities.
What has caught the attention of scientists is the multi-purpose use of all the parts of the tamarind tree. “The shell of the pods is also being sold and even its seeds are in demand. In fact, some entrepreneurs are exporting the processed seeds to other countries,” he said.
A private processing company has set up a unit in Tumakuru district to produce tamarind concentrate, which has a shelf-life of two years. A representative of the company said the concentrate was developed by using CFTRI technology and would have zero wastage unlike raw tamarind that cannot be used completely. He said tamarind concentrate could be used in producing puliyogare and Indian masala-related products, besides some sour chocolates. He said there is a demand for tamarind seeds from Gulf countries where it is used to make juice.
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