Teasel gourd enchants farmers

Teasel gourd enchants farmers
Highlights

An increasing number of farmers, particularly those weighed down by losses that they suffered for three years growing cotton, are switching to the cultivation of teasel gourd as the vegetable, credited with medicinal properties and a distinct taste

Pithapuram: An increasing number of farmers, particularly those weighed down by losses that they suffered for three years growing cotton, are switching to the cultivation of teasel gourd as the vegetable, credited with medicinal properties and a distinct taste, finds a ready market in several districts and cities of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Odisha. Found normally in the wild, teasel gourd today commands a heavy price in the market, not less than Rs 120 per kg, almost on par with mutton and pulasa fish.

Farmers are going gaga over teasel gourd, despite highinput costs and lack of support from the Horticulture Department. Many dryland cultivators are evincing interest in raising the crop, with cotton farmers leading the pack. The main reason is that farmerscultivating teasel gourd are earning twice the amount they invest per acre.

Over the past three years, many farmers have switched to teasel gourd as cotton crop had caused them heavy losses. Teasel gourd is now cultivated in at least 300 acresspread over Vannepudi, Kodavali, Sarabhavaram, Tatiparti, Potuluru, Chintaluru, Santi Ashram and other villages. The vegetable never disappoints farmers, whether in terms of yield or price.

Traders too are buying the vegetable from farmers at the rate of Rs 700 to Rs 800 per 10 kg and selling it at Rs 1,200 per 10 kg in the retail market. The vegetable is bought in bulk in places like Visakhapatnam, Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Khammam and Kakinada in Telugu states and in the neighbouring Odisha state. The shelflife of the vegetable is high. Hence, traders are coming forward to buy it in large quantities to meet the growing demand in other States as well.

As of now, most of these farmers are relying on seeds from the teasel gourd that they harvested. For this, they preserve some of the well-formed teasel gourd for subsequent use as seeds. They also purchase three kg of seeds (one kuncham) at Rs 1,200 from Potuluru village.

Once planted, teasel gourd yields crop for three years. As part of crop management, farmers need to tackle pests. Currently they are of the view that the current high yield could go down if fertilizers are not applied in sizeable quantities. The vegetable is cultivated in places where there is assured irrigation facility and availability of water.

Under favourable climactic conditions, the yield would be at least 50 kg for each harvest. The total yield per acre would be at least six tonnes.

The farmer recovers the investment from the first year’s yield. From the next year onwards, the farmer gets profits as the input costs dwindle. The cost of picking the teasel gourd is not costly.

However, all soils are not suitable for the crop. In Gollaprolumandal, farmers of Vannepudi and Kodavali cultivate it on a large scale. Farmers decry the lack of support from the Horticulture Department. They expect the department to provide subsidy on the seeds. Farmers are also demanding subsidy on fertilizers and pesticides.

Teasel gourd farmers incur heavy expenditure to support the plants from drooling or sagging. A tractor load of support sticks, brought from forest for propping the plants,costs not less that Rs 20,000 and sometimes the price can go up to Rs 50,000.

BY Saride Nageswara Rao

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