DSCN4464.jpg

Improving plant growth with TerraCottem soil conditioner in Tamil Nadu (India)

Photo credit: SCAD DSCN 4464

Improving plant growth with a soil conditioner in the drylands of Tamil Nadu (India)

by Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem (Ghent University – Belgium)

A Belgian group around the Past-President of one of the Rotary International clubs in Antwerp (Belgium), Dr. Stany PAUWELS, and SCAD (Social Change and Development), an Indian NGO directed by Dr. Cletus BABU in Tamil Nadu (South India) were recently introducing trials on the use of the soil conditioner TerraCottem (TC) for improving plant production in the drylands of Tamil Nadu. The Belgian group offered an important quantity of TerraCottem to SCAD and trials were set up at SCAD headquarters in Cheranmahadevi, at SCAD KVK Agricultural Center and in different villages in the drylands of Tamil Nadu.

SCAD has initiated intensive training programmes to promote the use of Terracottem and to motivate the rural people to set up kitchen gardens. The period of June – July is the prime Agriculture Season of Tamil Nadu. Farmers who received some soil conditioner have started application in their test plots.

As far as the test plots raised at KVK are concerned, the Terracottem-treated fields are showing a lot of favorable results. The Bhendi (okra)-fruits harvested from the treated plots are healthier and more vigourous than those of the control plots.

Since the farmers have started their work with TC recently, they are yet to see the results.

This year, SCAD has fixed 2000 Kitchen Gardens as a target in the Tuticorin District alone. In the first phase local native seeds have been distributed to 1250 gardens, along with the seeds offered by the Belgian groups. The production in these gardens will be closely monitored.

SCAD is also interested in “bottle gardening“, an idea launched in a former posting on this blog (see “My vegetable garden in plastic bottles“, 2008-02-13). SCAD has already given a training on bottle gardening to the Self Help Groups (SHG)-members. They showed a lot of interest on that method, motivating local people to eliminate plastic bottle from their environment.

Nowadays, SCAD KVK-scientists are closely monitoring the effect of TerraCottem (TC) on vegetables and other plant species and on the planned Kitchen Garden programmes. Promotion of TC among the farming community is going on in selected SCAD-sponsored villages. Feedback from the communities will be send later.

Family gardens or kitchen gardens are relatively new to this dryland region. The rural population has no tradition in gardening during the dry season. Together with bottle gardening, this method can improve food patterns and public health in a significant way. It can also alleviate poverty, offering farmers a chance to take their vegetables produced locally to the nearby market, thus competing with vegetables important from distant production centers in other Indian states.

Here are some pictures illustrating the actual situation in June-July 2008 :

2008-06 : Village Vedanatham – Mrs. Mariyammal – Crops raised : Gourds, Sesbania, Cluster beans, etc. (DSCN 1768)

2008-06 : Village Vedanatham – Mrs. Mariyammal – Crops raised : Gourds, Sesbania, Cluster beans, etc. (DSCN 1769)


2008-06 : Village Vedanatham – Mrs. Mariyammal – Crops raised : Gourds, Sesbania, Cluster beans, etc. (DSCN 1770)

2008-06 : Village Vedanatham – Mrs. Mariyammal – Crops raised : Gourds, Sesbania, Cluster beans, etc. (DSCN 1787)

2008-06 – Village M.Velayudhapuram – Mr. Muniyasamy – Crops raised : Gourds, Sesbania, Cluster beans etc. (DSCN 1835)

2008-06 – Village M.Velayudhapuram – Mr. Muniyasamy – Crops raised : Gourds, Sesbania, Cluster beans etc. (DSCN 1838)

2008-06 – Village M.Velayudhapuram – Mr. Muniyasamy – Crops raised : Gourds, Sesbania, Cluster beans etc. (DSCN 1839)

2008-06 – Village M.Velayudhapuram – Mr. Muniyasamy – Crops raised : Gourds, Sesbania, Cluster beans etc. (DSCN 1840)

2008-06 – Village Thulukkan kulam – Mrs. Pushparani – Crops raised : Zinnia, Bhendi, Amaranthus & other greens (DSCN 4430) – Mixing the TC with top soil.

2008-06 – Village Thulukkan kulam – Mrs. Pushparani – Crops raised : Zinnia, Bhendi, Amaranthus & other greens (DSCN 4439) – Applying TC to Drumstick (Moringa) tree

2008-06 – Village Thulukkan kulam – Mrs. Pushparani – Crops raised : Zinnia, Bhendi, Amaranthus & other greens (DSCN 4449) – Mrs. Pushparani applying TC to Brinjal (Egg Plant) raised in a small pot (Container Gardening). Asparagus and Alternanthera in the small containers.

2008-06 – Village Thulukkan kulam – Mrs. Pushparani – Crops raised : Zinnia, Bhendi, Amaranthus & other greens (DSCN 4464) – Proud owner of the garden with Zinnia, Marigold plants. In the rear end, some papaya trees.

2008-06 – Village Thulukkan kulam – Mrs. Pushparani – Crops raised : Zinnia, Bhendi, Amaranthus & other greens (DSCN 4477) – Little girl sitting in her TC-treated kitchen garden with Amaranthus greens.

2008-06 – SCAD KVK – Women SHG members – Test Plots showing healthy Bhendi (Okra) fruits – (DSCN 7690) – SCAD Anbu Illam cook is harvesting the Bhendi fruits (Abelmoschus esculentus).

2008-06 – SCAD KVK – Women SHG members – Test Plots showing healthy Bhendi (Okra) fruits – (DSCN 7692) – Healthy bhendi plants with long fruits.

2008-06 – SCAD KVK – Women SHG members – Test Plots showing healthy Bhendi (Okra) fruits – (DSCN 7695) – SCAD Anbu Illam cook in the TC-treated Bhendi garden

2008-06 – SCAD KVK – Women SHG members – Test Plots showing healthy Bhendi (Okra) fruits – (DSCN 7696) – Fresh and healthy bhendi fruits harvested from TC-treated bhendi garden.

2008-06 – SCAD KVK – Training for Kitchen gardens by KVK Staff Members – (DSCN 7712)


2008-06 – SCAD KVK – Training for Kitchen gardens by KVK Staff Members – Self Help Group of Women after training. -(DSCN 7713)

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.