When a new crop fails at the first go, most farmers lose heart and curse themselves for their wasted time and effort. But Mariayapuram Ayilukunnel Jose was not ready to give up on pepper even as root worms and a slew of other diseases destroyed the vines he grew for the very first time, 20 years ago.
The industrious farmer went in search of high-yielding, disease-resistant varieties of pepper. It was then that he read about a new variety of pepper, which was grafted in Brazilian Thippali plant.
Once he learned that the new variety was resistant to usual diseases such as ‘druthavaaatom,' Jose planted 60 saplings of the same at his half acre land on four Thippali stalks his friend had brought from Pala. Three years later, when all other pepper plantations in the area suffered root decay and other diseases, Jose’s miracle vines gave him an excellent harvest.
The next year, Jose grafted the best quality Karimunda and Panniyur 1 varieties in Thippali and sold it to farmers. Jose’s pest-resistant varieties were a huge success among pepper farmers and soon, he started grafting commercially. This year, he sold around 10,000 saplings, which in the beginning had cost Rs 50. Now, a sapling would earn him Rs 100-120 rupees.
Today, the half acre land he owns in Idukki is a paradise of pepper. Jose harvested 250 kilos pepper from just 60 flowering vines this year.
From Idukki to the flats in Kochi
For those who do not have space to grow pepper vines, Jose has found a new variety called the bush pepper. Grafted in Thippali plant, bush pepper can be grown in pots or grow bags. The vines would be five feet long and corns are grown on it for 12 whole months. Around two kilos of dry black pepper corns could be collected from a vine.
People who live in villas and flats in Kottayam and Kochi are coming in large numbers to Idukki to buy bush pepper corn saplings from Jose. Those interested in terrace farming are also approaching him for advice and best quality pepper.
Experiments in half acre
Jose’s half acre land in Idukki is a laboratory where this farming enthusiast experiments with plants. Besides pepper, he grows coconut and nutmeg.
In vegetable farming, Jose has adopted his own unique methods. For instance, tomato and egg plant grafted in Chunda plant (Solanum Torvum) gives a good amount of produce, says Jose. The chasmogamic variety in lady’s finger (okra) that he developed would amaze people: just four lady’s finger would weigh a kilo.
Besides this, Jose, who strictly follows organic farming methods, grows beans, tapioca, ginger, bitter gourd and long beans.
In his farm, Jose has an ordinary-looking coconut tree which is about 20 feet tall. But this tree gives around 400 coconuts a year. (The Indian record is 300 coconuts per year from a tree.) This healthy tree yields at least a bunch of ripe coconuts a month. Jose grew this sapling from a ripe coconut that he got from an uprooted tree, years ago from Mundakayam.