Pinangode: Having tried their luck at almost all the major agricultural crops, more and more farmers in the Wayanad district of Kerala are now taking to the cultivation of sunflowers on an experimental basis.
The area under sunflower farming, which used to be cultivated extensively only in villages along the Kerala border, is on a gradual rise in different parts of the district.
The flower farmers are hopeful of the fields churning in profits by combining the income they get from the harvest of oil seeds with that of farm tourism. As other crop cultivations prove to be a mere gamble, the farmers in increasing numbers are venturing into sunflower cultivation in anticipation of a steady and stable income.
Flowers draw visitors
One key advantage of cultivating the sunflower is that it can be harvested in 65 days after sowing the seeds. Although the duration may go up to 75 days given the climatic conditions of the region, growers are of the view that this delay will not have much of an impact on the income prospects. The crop is harvested in about a month after the flowers turn into full bloom.
With these flowers in full bloom expected to draw visitors in droves to enjoy the gorgeous sight, the farmers remain hopeful of the crop, bringing them some additional income. At the same time, they acknowledge that farming has just begun and there is no point in expecting huge profit margins at this stage.
C K Mujeeb, Thomas Marottickal, and E K Sethumadhavan, farmers from Panniyora in Pinangode, are all now cultivating sunflowers on a one-and-a-half-acre property here. The land there was earlier used for growing plantains, and they incurred additional expenditure in terms of preparing it for growing sunflowers. This is expected to have an impact on the income, although it will not end up in a loss, they say.
More options explored
To fetch one liter of sunflower oil, the growers would need as much as three kilograms of the seed. Their plan is to extract oil from the crop directly from the mills functioning locally. If the plan fails to work out, options of taking the harvest to areas where these flowers have been widely grown for a long are also being explored.
The trio has decided to experiment with the sunflower this time following the failures in the cultivation of other crops. The flowers grown in the fields here are much bigger. The seeds used here were purchased from a private enterprise, besides those received from the local Krishi Bhavan.
The saplings have been planted at a distance of one-and-a-half- feet from one another. Cow dung powder is applied to these plants, which are watered only on a requirement basis as the plants will wilt in case of receiving excess water. The harvest should be scheduled before the rainy season.
According to these farmers, above the income it brings in, the scenes of these flowers in full bloom filling the hearts of visitors with joy render even more satisfaction.