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KAU embarks on a mission to rejuvenate hill garlic

Malai poondu’ or hill garlic grown on the hills of Kanthalloor and Vattavada areas of Idukki district of Kerala are known for its unique flavour, pungency, taste, medicinal properties and longer shelf life .

But the long crop duration of this indigenous variety of garlic had made the tribal farmers of the area cultivate hybrid varieties.

However, the Kerala Agricultural University (KAU) has initiated a study on the farming practices of garlic followed in the region to promote the variety that is on the verge of extinction.

Chemical, pesticide use

The study, financially supported by the department of agriculture, is aimed at identifying most suitable variety for cultivation and formulate the best farming practices for enhanced and sustainable production of garlic with characteristics unique to the region. “It is found that the productivity of the traditional hill variety is on par with the improved varieties but the crop duration of former is longer. The university has been propagating good agricultural practices in the region so that injudicious use of chemicals and cocktail application of pesticides are discouraged,” says R. Chandra Babu, Vice-Chancellor, KAU. “The steps to obtain geographical indication (GI) status for the Kanthalloor garlic has also been initiated as per the directions of Agricultural Minister,” said Dr. Chandra Babu.

The region, with a maximum temperature of 30 degree Celsius and minimum 14 degree Celsius is the only area in Kerala where garlic cultivation is being undertaken on a commercial scale.

“The tribal farmers are giving preference for the short duration varieties as they can harvest it in 90 to 120 days. Whereas, the hill garlic would take nearly 180 days for harvest,” said Jalaja S. Menon, assistant professor, department of plantation crops and spices.

The study showed that the small size of bulb, lack of awareness on scientific cultivation practices and wild animal attack are the major problems facing the hill garlic cultivation. By following scientific practices, we could reduce the crop duration,” added Prof. Menon who led the study. “When other varieties of garlic are available at the price of peanuts, this hill garlic is priced at around ₹200 per kg,” said A. Manoharan, a farmer at Vattavada.

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