Peechy: The Banana Research Station situated at Kannara in Kerala's Thrissur district has been adjudged the best centre at a national event held in Ludhiana in Punjab. The unit of Kerala Agricultural University (KAU) won the laurel at the All-India Coordinated Research Project (AICRP) on Fruits that is held under the aegis of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).
The research centre works in coordination with other government agencies to find solutions for problems faced by banana farmers. The centre is engaged in research and teaching too.
Several value-added banana products are sold through its sale outlets. They include banana seeds, organic manure, banana stem juice and pickle, banana flower pickle, banana mixed jam, banana chips, vermicompost and ornamental plants.
Situated on a 40-acre campus at Marakkal, the research station has the largest banana germplasm collection in the country. Out of these, Manjeri Nendran, Myndoli, Big Ebanga, Zanzibar, Yangambi KM-5, Popoulu, Karpooravalli, Amritsagar, and Dudhsagar are popular among farmers.
The centre has developed two banana hybrids - BRS-1 and BRS-2 as well as eco-friendly and easy-to-dye banana fibre that could be used as textiles. As the technology to develop this geotextile is costly, the fibre is yet to find any commercial buyer.
A variety of Popoulu banana was developed by the research station based on studies conducted since 2002. A bunch weighing on average 20 to 25 kgs typically has 75 to 80 fruits. Popoulu is distinctive for the shape of its fruits, despite being similar in taste and colour to the Nendran.
Karpooravalli is a variety commonly found in the backyards of Kerala homes. The plants are usually tall and take long to mature. The Kannara station has developed a shorter Karpooravalli that gets ripe for harvest in just 11 to 12 months. Its fruits are ideal for processing to make jams.
Started in 1958 to undertake research for checking the Bunchy Top Disease in banana, the centre was later shifted to Marakkal in Kannara and upgraded to carry out comprehensive research on all aspects of the banana. In 1970, the research station was brought under the All India Co-ordinated Fruit Improvement Project of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). In 1972, it became affiliated to the KAU.
The facilities available at the centre include a tissue culture lab to develop quality planting material for distribution to the farmers, a biocontrol lab, biofertilizer lab, banana fibre unit, virus indexing unit, plant health clinic, vermicompost production unit and a hostel for trainees.
The centre head Dr P B Pushpalatha, scientists Dr Vimi Louis, Dr Gavas Ragesh, and Dr Manju P R presented the achievements of the Banana Research Station at the Ludhiana meet.