‘Rain Potatoes’ Shower Profits on Tribal Farmers in Koraput
A high yielding variety of Kufri potatoes has been introduced in Koraput in Odisha where over 7,000 farmers are reaping profits. These ‘rain’ variety potatoes are sown in July during peak rains and harvested in October.
Niroj Ranjan Misra 27 Oct 2023 11:53 AM GMT
The harvest is still on and Dinabandhu Khara has already gathered 360 quintals of potatoes from two hectares of land in Suku village (1 quintal = 100 kilogrammes).
These are rain potatoes, he explains, which the 52-year-old tribal had sown in Asadha (June-July) for an additional income. Normally, potatoes are cultivated from October onwards.
Khara is looking forward to a profit of above Rs 60,000 this season. It is going to be a happy Diwali for him and his family.
He is one of the 7,000 farmers from 200 villages in Koraput district of Odisha who have been encouraged by the horticulture department to cultivate the new variety of high yielding potatoes in the rainy season.
The Kufri Jyoti, Kufri Himani and Kufri Chipsona are the three varieties of rain potatoes, which, for the first time, are being cultivated in the eastern state’s Koraput district, which is notorious for poverty and malnutrition.
While Kufri Jyoti covers a major chunk of the cultivated land in 3,800 hectares of the district, nearly 120 hectares and 40 hectares come under Kufri Himani and Kufri Chipsona varieties, respectively. Khara has cultivated Kufri Jyoti variety of potato with excellent results.
“I procured 103 packets of seeds from the district horticulture department. The 50 gram packets cost Rs 400 each, which otherwise costs Rs 800 in the open market. I invested nearly Rs 30,000 in total and expect a profit above Rs 60,000,” Khara told Gaon Connection.
According to Puranjaya Panigrahi, Koraput’s assistant director of horticulture, “The Kufri varieties yield two times higher output than the traditional potato varieties and are more suited for commercial usage like making potato chips.
These three varieties are cultivated in Bihar, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and West Bengal, but have recently been introduced in Odisha, where they are likely to multiply profits of farmers.
The experiment to introduce the three potato varieties in Odisha were flagged off in 2019-2020 in 50 acres across 25 villages of Koraput. But at present, 7,000 farmers from 200 villages across 4,000 hectares are cultivating Kufri varieties in the district.
Sudam Chandra Biswal, the deputy director of horticulture in Odisha told Gaon Connection that the red soil in Koraput is conducive to the cultivation of Kufri Jyoti and other two varieties of potato.
“Besides, the natural drainage system in the land slopes of Koraput prevents water logging. As Koraput is 2,900 feet above sea level, its temperature varies between 17 and 22 degree Celsius which is favourable for potato cultivation,” said Biswal.
He went on to inform that to popularise cultivation of new varieties of potatoes, steps were taken on a larger scale with technical support of the Bhubaneswar unit of the Peru-based International Potato Centre (CIP), [Centro Internacional de la Papa].
The CIP’s officials guided the farmers, and undertook frequent field visits. “We distributed our copies of the Package of Practice among the farmers to systemise things,” said CIP’s junior research assistant Ranjan Sahoo.
In Odisha over 26,000 hectares of land is used for potato cultivation, producing over 3,00,000 lakh metric tonnes annually.
“If this year’s success is repeated next year, Koraput alone could contribute 20 per cent to 25 per cent of the state’s production,” said Subrat Kumar Chand, deputy director of the horticulture department.
“The assessment of the total production of Kufri potatoes is still underway in Koraput. We are measuring the total production by taking stock of the harvest collected by the farmers this year,” he added.
Cultivating Kufri potatoes has other benefits too. “Koraput’s farmers never cultivate one crop throughout a year. If they grow Kufri Jyoti during rains, they grow vegetables in winter. This alternating crop cultivation enhances soil fertility,” said Sarat Kumar Patnaik, secretary of Koraput Farmers Association.
It is one of the three non-government organisations that are coordinating the cultivation of potatoes in Koraput on behalf of the government.
The department plans to increase potato production in the Koraput district. In collaboration with Odisha University of Agriculture and Technology, Bhubaneswar, it is cultivating a tissue culture-called Apical Rooted Cutting (APC).
This technique of sowing potatoes involves transplanting cuttings to the field after germinating them in a screenhouse.
Rather than allowing tissue culture plantlets to mature and produce minitubers, cuttings are produced from the plantlets. Once rooted, the cuttings are transplanted into the field to produce seed tubers.
It is believed that apical rooted cutting will purge the potatoes of possible infestation of pathogens or pests and see about one-fourth increase in production capacity.
“We have recently set up three poly houses to undertake APC. While one has been set up in our Krishi Vigyan Kendra Pottangi block headquarters, the other two are in our High Altitude Research Station and Regional Research Technology Transfer Station, respectively in Semiliguda block headquarters,” Ashok Mishra, a horticulture scientist at Odisha University of Agriculture and Technology, told Gaon Connection.
There are however a few challenges that need to be ironed out. Inadequate cold storage facilities is a major one. Koraput presently has three cold storages having a total storage capacity of about 15,000 metric tons.
“My 10 acres have yielded 300 sacks of potatoes (each sack has 50 kilograms). But inadequate cold stores forces me to sell at a low price as I can’t afford for the prices to rise,” Gurunath Jhadia Mohanguda, a farmer in Kotpad block, complained.
Meanwhile, efforts were also made to sow Kufri potatoes in Kandhamal district in the monsoon of 2019-20, but they did not work out. The temperatures there were found to be unsuitable for the Kurfi Jyoti variety.
“Heavy rain also caused problems and the crop was affected by the bacterial wilt disease, ” informed Puranjaya Panigrahi.