Lessons from the 10th century: Kerala takes ayurveda route to boost organic farming – The New Indian Express


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Demonstration of organic farming of tubers in Pathanamthitta district.

Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The agriculture department is now returning to Vedic roots to propagate Vrikshayurveda, the ancient science of plant life, among organic farmers in the state. The body of knowledge has been systematically compiled in the form of hundreds of Sanskrit slokas by Surapala, approximately 1,000 years ago.

Though the text compiled by Surapala, royal physician of King Bhimapala during the 10th century A D, had fallen into oblivion for several centuries, Y L Nene, chairman, Asian Agri History Foundation, had obtained a copy of the manuscript from the Bodleian library at Oxford and got it translated into English by Nalini Sadhale which was later released in 1996.

The Vrikshayurveda was first documented in Chanakya's Arthashastra. Varahamihira and Sargadhara also explained about the ancient plant science.

Now, the Kerala chapter of the Asian Agri-History Foundation in association with the agriculture department is advocating different ayurveda preparations, mentioned in the holistic treatment text for effective plant management, for organic farmers in the state under the 'Subhiksham Surakshitham - Bharatiya Prakartik Krishi Padhathi (Kerala Agro Ecology-based Biodiversity Conservation) project.

If Surapala's Vrikshayurveda documents and praises organic manure cum pesticide made from fish and animal waste called Kunapa Jal, the agriculture department suggests herbal Kunapa Jal (herbal decoction) made using a dozen weeds, cowdung, jaggery, sprouted black gram etc. It can be made by putting all these ingredients in a bucket and allowing them to ferment in a place without exposure to sunlight for a particular period.

C V Jidhesh, assistant director, agriculure department, and founder-secretary of Asian Agri-History Foundation Kerala, said, "It will take some time for the organic manure to fully disintegrate in the soil. For instance, if we apply the cowdung powder directly into the soil, it absorbs around 17 per cent of the nutrients in the cowdung in a year, while it will be 51 per cent if the compost made of cowdung were to be applied in the soil. So, if we make herbal ayurveda preparation mentioned in the Vrikshayurveda, the results can be more rewarding."

"Further, these preparations will allow organic farmers to follow a holistic crop management system like pre-sowing treatment of seeds, growing intercrops, pest management, balanced nutrition and optimum use of water while making optimum use of plant population in the farms. This will also ensure that the farmer will get a harvest equal to the produce of inorganic chemical fertiliser applied
farming. The department has now set its sights on bringing 500 ha of farmland in each block in the state under the new model in one year, for which it has formed farmer interest groups in cluster level to impart training to farmers and create resource persons at the field level," he said.

K Vasuki, agriculture director, said, "This will not only reduce the dependence on chemical fertilisers and pesticides in the state, but also bring down weedicide application in farmlands by making use of weeds in crop management. The farm trials held in the state promise smooth transition from chemical agriculture to organic way of cultivation in a short span of time. This will also play a crucial role in building an eco-friendly environment in the state," she added.

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