With two monsoons a year, Kerala can increase its vegetable yield by turning to polyhouses, says V Vijayakala. The award-winning vegetable farmer from Karunagappally has been relying on the weather-proof mechanism for five years.
Vijayakala has been juggling her modest polyhouse farm and her job with a private firm. She is also active on social media collectives of people interested in farming techniques.
Vijayakala's polytunnel covers 100 square metres, in two sections. Half of it is on the backyard and the rest on the roof of the house. She spent Rs 1 lakh for the polyhouse and received Rs 37,500 as a government subsidy. She is now able to produce the vegetables she needs for the family and sell the excess to nearby shops. She said she is able to harvest veggies worth Rs 150 every time.
She has expanded the vegetable farming to an acre of land she had leased near her house along with husband Anil Kumar. She said she is also raising saplings in the polytunnel. She sold more than 500 saplings of Red Lady papaya last year.
A polytunnel is essential to sprout a sapling and raise it, Vijayakala said. Most of her vegetable garden is on the rooftop. The plants stand in separate buckets filled with a compound of soil and fertilisers.
The polytunnel on the backyard is dedicated to the cultivation of saplings and flowers. She has started cultivating orchids recently, on the mulching sheets spread out on the ground. She mostly buys saplings from larger nurseries, tend to them and sell them. She also raises her own saplings.
She said she is able to find buyers for her orchids from within Kerala and outside the state through her Facebook page. Again, polytunnels are a must to guard plants against diseases common in the wet seasons, she insists.
A major challenge is to keep the polyhouse sheets free of moss. She said she found it difficult to find experts who could clean the sheets without tearing them. Even agriculture department officials are not much of help in this issue. She said that she could do with more support from the department.