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Papaya Emerges as a Savior for Farmers as Armyworm Ravages Corn in Thoothukudi

Numerous small and marginalized horticultural farmers in Thoothukudi district, Tamil Nadu are displaying a keen interest in transitioning from corn crops to papaya due to the numerous advantages associated with papayas, revealed A Varadharajan, the president of Karisalbhoomi Vivasayigal Sangam.

Shivam Dwivedi
Papaya Emerges as a Savior for Farmers as Armyworm Ravages Corn in Thoothukudi (Photo Source: Pixabay)
Papaya Emerges as a Savior for Farmers as Armyworm Ravages Corn in Thoothukudi (Photo Source: Pixabay)

Until approximately four years ago, corn was a popular choice among farmers because of its high yield. However, the invasion of fall armyworms on the crops severely tested the patience of many farmers. Despite their efforts to treat and remove the proliferation of weeds around the plants, the crops couldn't be salvaged. Consequently, completing the harvest became an arduous challenge.

Furthermore, the lack of government support exacerbated the situation, as there was no minimum support price for corn. Although officials from the horticulture department inspected the crops and provided methods to save them, the yield of corn remained discouraging. At this critical juncture, when many farmers were left uncertain about their future, papaya cultivation emerged as a viable alternative.

As the government actively campaigned about the benefits of papayas, farmers began switching to this new crop. In a district that cultivates blackgram, green gram, pearl millet, sunflower, onions, and other crops across approximately five lakh hectares, 30% of the agricultural land was previously dedicated to corn farming. However, today, the majority of corn-growing farmers in the district have embraced papaya cultivation.

A farmer in Mettilpatti shared his success story, stating that he had planted 1,000 papaya saplings in an acre of land. Starting from the tenth month, he was able to harvest the fruits, whether ripe or unripe, and extract the milk from them.

After extracting the milk, he would sell the fruits separately. On average, the farmer obtained 50 kg of papaya milk per acre, which yielded reasonable returns. However, it is crucial to handle the extraction process with care and ensure that the milk is preserved in a cold storage facility within approximately 12 hours, he added.

A horticulture department official highlighted the fact that papaya cultivation requires minimal water for irrigation. During dry spells, papaya crops can be sustained with minimal water usage, and certified seedlings promise high yields and quality milk. The fruits can be sold separately to establishments that produce jams and other by-products, further adding to the economic potential of papaya farming.

The shift from corn to papaya has not only offered hope to the struggling farmers of Thoothukudi district but has also demonstrated the adaptability and resilience of agricultural practices in the face of challenges.

As more farmers continue to embrace papaya cultivation, it is likely to bring about a positive transformation in the horticultural landscape of the region, offering a sustainable and lucrative alternative to traditional crops.

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