An Article in SPICE INDIA Vol. 28, No. 11, November 2015
When one of the first nurseries in South India commenced operation in 1908 in Channoth area near Pattikkad in Thrichur district, the proprietor, Ollukaran Thomakutty never imagined that he would be playing a vital role in shaping the destiny of nutmeg cultivation in the state. The Otees nursery named after him by his son O.T Vareeth operated an area of about 400 acres of land. The nursery was also instrumental in promoting nutmeg cultivation in the area since those old days.
When Otees property gradually changed hands, it was only natural that the new owners of the parcels, buoyed by the ‘nutmeg ambience’ took up the plant nursery enterprise in the newly acquired land with renewed vigour. Thus Channoth area, a suburb of Pattikkad became the cradle of nutmeg cultivation in Thrissur and surrounding areas. At present, the area is dotted with many reputed nurseries, both large and small, supplying planting material of fruits trees, spices and plantation crops as well as ornamental to other nurseries and farmers across the southern part of the country.
Kallingal Nursery and Plantation, a 20 acre property located in this nutmeg hub is a unique nutmeg conservatory with about 11 distinct types of nutmeg selections. Mr. Ciby George Kallingal (42) and his wife Mrs. Swapna Ciby runs the farm with the help of 15 workers(3 male +12 female) along with a manager. This is one among the large number of well managed nurseries located in the area.
Mr.Ciby George Kallingal, an avid planter with an educational background of commerce, might not understand the nuances of in situ conservation or selection breeding. Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans H.), a perennial heterozygous tree, believed to be introduced to India by the British East India Company during the 18th century, yields two spices namely, the kernel or nut and the aril or mace. The heterogeneity coupled with the dioecy yield a good spectrum of variability in the true seedling. Guided selection for specific traits such as whole, thick mace; high nut weight; high mace weight etc. from among the true seedling trees and their clonal propagation are established farmer’s practice in nutmeg belts of the state. In fact some of the farmer’s plots, like Kallingal plantations, are in the in situ conservatory of elite nutmeg genotypes albeit by default.
The only son among four children of Mr. Varghese (Pappachan), a settler hailing from Muthalakudam, Thodupuzha, Ciby came to Pattikkad at a young age along with his parents in 1982. The present farm land of Kallingal plantations extending about 20 acres of fertile land was purchased from Otees at that time and subsequently bequeathed to him. Agriculture fascinated the young boy and a life on the farm filled his dreams. Incidentally, Mr. Pappachan (85) now living in Ottappalam , Palakkad is still in farming nutmeg, rubber etc.!
Ciby has put his heart and soul into farming with a strong and clear focus on enterprise diversification and value addition. The neat layout of the plantation and the neatly landscaped farmhouse stands testimony to this fact. A visit to his farm located amidst rustic surroundings offers a stunning visual treat. The wide unpaved farm roads are lined with profusely bearing arecanut palms, both local and highly yielding varieties. The farm road near the facilitation centre is lined with cages of fancy birds of both exotic and local origin. A visitor facilitation counter welcomes you on arrival with smartly displayed information about the farm and its activities.
The star attraction in the farm is the nutmeg trees, planted in careful geometry, to ensure adequate spacing and easy identification of varietal lines. Immediately after acquiring the land in 1982, wild nutmeg was planted in the field as rootstock. Elite scion brought from Thodupuzha region of Ernakulam district was field budded on these wild nutmeg root stocks. Careful evaluation of these trees over the years by the father-son duo has lead to the identification of 11 elite lines of nutmeg, which are now available from the nursery. The details of the nutmeg lines are given in the Table. The mother trees of each elite lines are available in the farm. This facilitates a real time physical verification of the pedigree by any potential buyer before committing his purchase. Indeed, a very rare opportunity for the farmer to make an informed choice!
The farm also caters the needs of agricultural researchers as many agricultural research students use the nutmeg population in the estate to conduct research for their postgraduate degrees.
The farm has about 1200 budded nutmeg trees and an equal number of coconut palms. Besides, the Kallingal farm also has about 3000 arecanut palms and black pepper vines. Intercropping is followed in the farm ensuring adequate space for all the components in the intercropping system including the nutmeg trees. The farm gives stress to organic fertilizers like green manure, farm yard manure, etc. but also use inorganic fertilizers for supplementing soil fertility. The dairy unit containing 7cows of indigenous breed, Kasargod Dwarf, meets the requirement of farm yard manure in the farm. The green leaves from Glyricidia planted along the farm border and other vacant places are applied in the tree basins. Irrigation is provided through drip irrigation. The farm produces more than 10 tonns of nutmeg per year.
The Kallingal nursery sells about 20,000 budded nutmeg plants, 10,000 approach grafts and 50,000 nutmeg seedlings of the elite lines besides 25,000 coconut seedlings(Kuttiyadi, DxT(NCD), COD, CGD, etc.), and 40,000 arecanut (Mohit Nagar, Kasargod) seedlings annually. All the products from this farm are in high demand among the farmers and Mr.Ciby attests that he has never faced difficulty in marketing planting material produced in the farm. The nutmeg plants from the farm have found buyers in states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka apart from its home state.
Livestock is also an integral component of the farm and an additional source of income. The farm maintains a stable with four white horses of Marwadi breed and Ciby loves to take a ride around his farm on them. Emu, turkey, fancy birds, ornamental fishes, various types of pigeons, dogs, love birds, rabbits, layer chicks, ornamental hens, quail and goat also find a place in the farm, which has become an illustration of the success of mixed farming in the state. Love birds, ornamental pigeons and rabbits are also available for sale at the farm.
Mr. Ciby takes special delight in showing around the farm to the farmers and facilitating their requirements. The visitor facilitation cum extension centre named ‘Vandanam’ at the entrance of the farm is rather unseen in a farmer’s homestead! Mr. Ciby is ably assisted by his city bred wife Mrs. Swapna, a post graduate in commerce, in sharing the responsibilities of running the farm. The welcome drink concentrate prepared from fresh nutmeg rind has found a steady market among the catering units and ensures utilization of the nutmeg rind through value addition. Mr. Ciby is a member of the Pananchery Farmer’s Club, Pattikkad, Thrissur which helps the local farmers including him to market their produce directly.
This affable farmer has found time to spare for many social causes also. the boys home for the poor near located nearby gets a regular supply of coconut from the Kallingal farm. For the Kallilngal family, agriculture is not only a fulfilling way of life, but also an enterprise which holds immense promise in the coming times. The clarity of this is evident when Ms. Tanya, his daughter, a plus one student, states her dream of pursuing a career in agriculture!
A recipient of Plant Genome Saviour Award of Govt. of India, a large live museum of spices is the dream project of Mr. Ciby .
Contact: Kallingal Plantation and Nursery, Pattikkad P.O., Trichur, Mob: 9895292228; Ph: 0487 2282268.