Flower with money power
Manual pollination of a vanilla flower.
Dr. T.N. Balamohan is Professor and Head, Fruit Crops, Horticultural College and Research Institute, Coimbatore. During a recent visit to Chennai to conduct a workshop on vanilla cultivation at the Urban Horticulture Development Centre, he spoke to M.J. Prabu.
Question: Is pollination of vanilla flower difficult? How can one pollinate large vanilla plantations?
Answer: Vanilla pollination is not that much complicated. Any one can be trained on pollination easily. Trained Labour can pollinate 1,400 flowers in a day.
Q: What is the investment required for vanilla farming?
A: Approximately Rs. 3.75 lakhs per hectare is needed to grow vanilla under the shade of coconut plantations. However, it may range from 15 - 20 lakhs per hectare under shade net.
Q: Is any financial assistance available?
A: Vanilla cultivation is being taken up on a largescale in and around the Pollachi area. Nationalised banks sanction loans in Pollachi and nearby areas after studying the feasibility of growing vanilla.
Q: What are the climatic factors suited for vanilla cultivation? Can it be cultivated everywhere?
A: Though vanilla is a tropical orchid, it requires 50 per cent shade for better establishment and yield. It prefers moderate climate for better growth and development. Being a creeping vine, a well distributed rainfall and moderate-to-high humidity are the two important factors that help in vanilla
cultivation. In plains, coconut plantations will provide the needed micro climate suitable for vanilla cultivation. However, if taken to other non-traditional areas, the environment has to be modified accordingly using sprinkler, humidifier and through regulation of shade around vanilla.
Q: Is vanilla cultivation labour intensive? How are the labourers trained in its intricacies?
A: Vanilla is not a very labour intensive crop. However, for large areas under cultivation, a fairly big labour force is necessary. The returns from vanilla will take care of the investment.
Q: What is the expertise available for an entrepreneur?
A: Many small farmers in and around Pollachi have successfully obtained a reasonably good yield. Though vanilla has been grown in sub mountains in recent years, it has been taken to non-traditional areas like Pollachi and Coimbatore. Vanilla growers have successfully standardised the methods of cultivation especially shade regulation, irrigation and other cultural operations. The Tamil Nadu Agricultural University has involved varietals improvement. The available packages on vanilla cultivation are enough for cultivation in Tamil Nadu.
Q: Any success stories of small self-help groups or participants?
A: Mr. Balathandapani, Ramapattanam, Pollachi, is one of the successful growers. Similarly, Dr. Mahendran, 15, Kamaraj Road, Mahalingapuram of Pollachi, has more than 20 hectares under
vanilla and cultivating scientifically by practicing modern horticulture. Mr. O.V. Somasundram, Odaipatti of Pollachi, is another progressive grower who has visited foreign countries where vanilla is grown and traded. They are also helping budding growers.
Q: Any institute or college offering a course or workshop on vanilla cultivation?
A: The Urban Horticulture Development Centre at No. 9, Ramanathan Street, New Avadi Road, Kilpauk, Chennai 600 010, Ph: 044 26443551, and the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in Coimbatore offer workshops and seminars. Dr. Balamohan can be contacted at
044-2431222, Extn. 270.
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