Efforts are underway to popularise the inclusion of Amaranthus – a wide variety of leafy vegetables – as part of mixed cropping among farmers in the region.
Though known to be highly nutritious and still consumed but in a limited quantity it has economic benefits too and farmers can have multiple harvest to supplement their income. But cultivation was gradually on the wane and with it a slice of culinary culture/
‘’Amaranthus refers to a wide variety of leafy vegetables including Kirkire Soppu, Dantina Soppu etc which are consumed but in a limited manner. Besides, its cultivation and growth is gradually on the wane and we want to bring it to the mainstream once again’’, said Krishna Prasad, Director of Sahaja Samruddha, an organisation promoting cultivation of indigenous crops besides mapping the crop diversity of the State.
He said Danttu or stem amaranth used to be cultivated in backyard gardens and in hilly areas and once cultivated, farmers harvest it multiple times to supplement their income.
In a bid to popularise Amaranthus, Sahaja Samruddha acquired 30 varieties of the traditional crop from different parts of the country and all of them were cultivated on an experimental basis in the farm of Srinivas of Ramenahalli in H.D.Kote taluk of Mysuru district.
‘’Last week, a group of experts including scientists visited the farm for Participatory Varietal Selection Training and the objective was to learn which varieties perform well on-farm and to obtain feedback from the potential end users’’, according to Sahaja Samruddha.
The organisation also wanted to assess as to which traditional variety was adaptable to local climatic conditions so that it could be promoted for cultivation among the local farmers. Apart from adding to the crop diversity, the effort was also to enthuse farmers to conserve the traditional varieties’’, Mr. Krishna Prasad added.
Aravinda Kumar, Assistant Professor, College of Horticulture, Mysuru, pointed out that amaranthus was an excellent source of calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin A, B and C, and an incredible source of vitamin K and the crop offered the most nutrition per calorie than most foods.
For the participants the field visit was also an effort to orient the farmers to include amaranthus in the bouquet of crops under mixed cropping template and promote both crop diversity and empower rural communities to build upon indigenous and traditional knowledge, skills and practices.
The field day helped identify the varieties that most men and women farmers prefer, including the reasons for their needs and there were 65 people from Mysuru and surrounding areas who took part in the exercise. Of the 30 varieties cultivated in the farm, participants including those have an understanding of what grows best on their soil, were asked to tag the best variety that will be tolerant to pest and disease, adaptable to climatic conditions and cooking quality.
Based on their feedback about 10 varieties have been identified for further multiplication and spreading the varieties to a wider area, said Mr. Krishna Prasad.