The bio fumigant plant at CTCRI (Central Tuber Corps Research Institute) was inaugurated by the Minister of Agriculture K P Mohanan on Tuesday. But the bio fumigant was actually built as part of the over a decade research work carried out by Dr. C A Jayaprakash. In an interview with Yentha one year ago, Dr.Jayaprakash had talked about his project to extract a new bio-pesticide from tapioca leaves. Now, with the home designed bio fumigant plant being given official recognition, Dr.Jayaparakash has just one final step to measure, before realizing his goal of mass production of the bio-pesticide.
Following up from where he left off the previous time, the Head of Crop Protection Board at CTCRI and his team members in the project, explain in depth about the bio-pesticides developed from tapioca leaves.
“The city corporation has their 'terrace farming' project going on, and the pesticides we have made is most suited – in fact the only suited pesticide - for urban farming,” mentions Dr.Jayaprakash, introducing the team of research student, scientists, chemist and technical officers.
The first bio-pesticide from tapioca leaves has been named 'Nanma', but names can change...
“This is the name that we have given to our product, but it could always change as we are yet to patent its mass production,” Jayaprakash reasons.
Jithin V Prakash, a research student, presents a live demonstration on the working of 'Nanma'.
“To make the pesticide, you take a bottle capful of the solution and mix it with one bottle of mineral water. Then you simply have to spray it over the infected spot in the plant,” he speaks as he demonstrates.
Pea plants are commonly attacked by a kind of sucking parasite that is resistant to the normal doses of chemical fertilizers. So they have to be destroyed by spraying high dose of chemical pesticides.
“The enzymes in 'Nanma' can easily kill these parasites in a matter of minutes,” says Jithin
And sure enough, within a couple of minutes the motionless dots of tiny creatures would simply peel off from the stem of the plant at the slightest touch.
But in the case of yam, a mere touch-up of the bio-pesticide over the surface isn't enough. The dry rot disease that occurs in yam is one of the most devastating storage diseases in yam production.
“Among the organisms that causes these disease, it is the male that gives off the white color and when the pesticides are sprayed, the male gets destroyed and those which don't simply fly away. But the females are left behind, each carrying hundreds of tiny eggs. The males belonging to this second generation would have a more pronounced effect as they could also crawl to the inside of the yam, threatening to repeat the disease with the next generation of yam as well,” explains Dr.Jayaprakash.
Research student Sreeraj R S narrates the specifics of the next product 'Shreya'.
“This solution is also mixed with water and sprayed on to the yam. But 'Shreya' contains enzymes that could dissolve the female organisms and also penetrate the yam surface to kill the new ones that might have entered it. The following up of 'Shreya' treatment with 'Nanma' after one week would ensure that no more breeding occurs.”
The final product 'Menma', is the most strongest, efficient and most volatile of the bio-pesticides.
Harish V R, scientist at CTCRI, explains the advantages of 'Menma'.
“One of the most resilient pests infests the banana plants, causing immense loss to farmers. Commonly termed as 'Thadapuzhu', they drill into the stem, reach the middle and destroy the plant from within. This insect in immune to almost all chemical pesticides available in the market.”
Harish dips a cotton swab in the solution and puts it inside a vial containing the insects and closes the vial. The toughest of all pests go still within half an hour. And just to make sure that the insects haven't been dead due to suffocation, another vial with the same insects, sealed tight but with no cotton swab show no difference to the condition of the insects.
“In case of the banana plant, this solution is directly injected into the stem where it would spread through all layers, killing every pest that has infested the plant,” says Harish.
The bio fumigant plant has been designed and built by Technical Officer V R Sashangan and research student L Rakesh. Till then the pesticide needed to be drawn out in its liquid form.
The bio fumigant plant has the gaseous extracts obtained from the tapioca leaves collected, compressed, filtered and stored in gas cylinders for easy transportation. The gaseous pesticide could be later mixed with water and directly applied to the infected portions.
Dr. L S Rajeshwary, Technical Officer and Assistant Professor in Chemistry shows the results of the waste product that's obtained.
“After the poisonous content is removed, the residue of treated tapioca leaves contains almost 40% of proteins and is a very good cattle feed. The gaseous bio-pesticide also leaves behind no harmful residue, as everything vapourises very quickly. So there has been no adverse effect observed as yet by using these bio-pesticides,” she concludes.
Yet Dr. C A Jayaprakash does not want anything left to chance.
“Since the pesticide gets vapourised quickly, people have wondered what would happen when they return to earth in rain water. So currently we are carrying out a test by growing fish in water mixed with the bio-pesticide and comparing it with the normally grown fish. So far, there has been no variation. But it needs to be confirmed; so we are going to persist for sometime before moving to large scale production.”
However, it appears that the concerned authorities are already convinced. As part of Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, CTCRI has been entrusted with a one year government project of Rs.50 lakhs to provide the bio-pesticide to farmers in Trivandrum, Malappuram and Kasargod.
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