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Why a rubber cultivator is against GM Rubber?



S. Chandrasekharan nair is an ex-serviceman and a farmer of 62 years old who owns 0.96 hectare of rubber cultivation at Perukavu, Peyad, Trivandrum, Kerala. Rubber planted on 1989-90 and tapping started on 1997-98 and the details of yield and prices he got are as follows.                     

YEAR TREES Tpg dys Yield in Kgs Value Rs
1997-1998 210 163 693.9 23441.25
1998-1999 210 134 632.6 18268.05
1999-2000 210 121 1192.53 37032.60
2000-2001 300 127 1267 34872.25
2001-2002 315 126 1574.05 49983.25
2002-2003 350 125 2003 78717.85
2003-2004 360 97 2136.5 105288.40
2004-2005 328 86 1642.9 88193.25
2005-2006 334 96 1557.4 100763.89
2006-2007 330 NA 1042.3 88838.25
2007-2008 340 NA 1423.5 111305.48
2008-2009 360 147 1422.7 129842.48
2009-2010 360 155 1692.5 177019.15

His yield and income for the year 2010-11 are available here on google docs.

He got the training of rubber taping from Rubber Board. From 2002-03 to 2005-06 he used the stimulant diluted Ethephon to get more yield from the trees. Soil testing and leaves testing recommendations to apply  NPK also done. Unfortunately he saw the brownbast/TPD affected trees increase rapidly upto 65 trees completely and yield from other trees also decreased. He felt the deficiency of chlorophyll on a scratch in new bark and he approached Dr. Thomas Varghees (Former  professor and head of Soil Science and agricultural Chemistry, Kerala Agricultural University) to solve the problem. As per his guidance, applied magnesium sulphate for 20 rubber trees on surface soil with burned leaf litter at the rate of 50 grams per tree.  Within 20 days it was observed that the dripping rate of latex increased and the greenish colour of new bark increased slowly. Dr. Thomas Varghees introduced the farmer about the NGO Thanal which is an organic cultivation promoter.  From 2005-06 the farmer completely turned as an organic rubber cultivator  by using bio gas slery on the highest  portion of the terrace around the tree.

The organic cultivation and application of Magnesium Sulphate helped the farmer to increase his productivity with the survival of rubber trees. Another trial he done in the tapping trees was the application of Borax diluted with coconut oil on new bark with the guidance of Dr. Thomas Varghees. The wonderful result he felt from the application of boron which is an important micro nutrient  was visible in the structure of new bark. The importance of minerals for protecting against disease is well established. In fact, mineral availability was the single most important measurement used by several famous plant breeders to identify disease-resistant varieties.

Now the farmer know something about the physiological order of a rubber tree to prevent brownbast/TPD. He felt the need to maintain the quality of soil through organic manure  as input to rubber trees and proper tapping to maintain the quality of latex which will help him to tap the trees upto Z panel in lieu  of A to D panels. He is more confident now to tap his trees more than 50 years which will help the trees to grow more to fetch a good price for timber too.  

Being a commercial crop  farmer’s duty to produce food produces from the estate by feeding the cows with natural grasses and cover crops which can control the weeds without spraying roundup  a herbicide recommended by the rubber research institute. The farmer has the knowledge of the hazardous  effects of roundup on environment. He is able to provide quality milk and meat from the healthy cows by feeding the herbicide free or chemical free  grasses. This is environmentally and economically beneficial to farmers.

He know the harmful effects of GMOs and the need of organic farming to protect his soil and environment. He loves the bees which is procuring honey from rubber trees and the earth worms and other microflora which maintains soil fertility.  The farmer has become confident of organic farming which is a sustainable system to be popularised among other farmers too. He feels Kerala with a fragile eco system  should be kept GM free crops at any cost.


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Please note that this is the opinion of the author and is Not Certified by ICAR or any of its authorised agents.