In today’s story, we are going to talk about an extraordinary achievement by a self-reliant farmer, Mr. Muhammadali from Muttil Gram Panchayat of Wayanad district. It won’t be an exaggeration to call Mr. Muhammadali a magician of pepper vines on account of his success in developing ten varieties of pepper through farm breeding experiments all on his own. A person with basic school education became an accomplished plant breeder, a dedicated agronomist and an enthusiastic farmer – makes him someone to reckon in his times. Making a sum of around Three lakh rupees from a meagre land area of 23 cents is another marvel about Mr. Muhammadali and his farming technique. Bush pepper farming, techniques to improve production in coffee, banana and passion fruits etc. are his important area of concern but pepper cultivation and research are what makes Muhammadali an important person to look upon and be inspired.
Over the last ten years, he has developed varieties such as Noorumaniyan, Valampiriyan, Edampiriyan, and Kizhakkan. Most of these varieties are a fusion of high yielding pepper varieties such as Karimunda, Jeerakamunda, Balankotta, Uthirankotta and Panniyoor-1. Selection of the mother plant is a tedious process for him and it took several years of observation and data recording in his field experiments. The quality of the first generation was carefully observed whether it is the same as of the mother plant or any unique traits were developed in the progeny. Those plants that had varied traits were taken for multiplication and planting in the field and thus the research in Mr. Muhammadali’s farm continued and reached where it is today. He has noted down some unique qualities of pepper vines including one meter length for the panicle, huge size and hardened nature for the berries, elongated appearance for the leaves, resistance against attacking pathogens and definitely increase in the yield. He has a collection of all these varieties with unique traits in his garden where each of them are numbered and recorded.
Bush pepper farming is another major farming activity carried out in his farm where Colubrinum (Piper colubrina), the close relative of Piper nigrum is used as the stock. A nursery is being raised in the garden only for raising Colubrinum and each of the stock is later grafted with the varieties he has developed. The higher survival rate, disease resistance and increased yield are some of the noteworthy peculiarities in bush pepper farming. Bush pepper necessitates less attention compared to the field vines, which is an added advantage compared to the climbing vines. Another benefit is the ease in the management as the farmer can get a chance to look at each and every leaf of the plant that grows in a polythene bag. The most important aspect in bush pepper farming is that round the year harvest can be obtained from these plants if it is properly managed.
Mr. Muhammadali follows a complete organic means of cultivation in which he himself has devised a novel fertilizer approach for his plots. A fermented formulation made with a combination of four locally available plant species and bone meal acts as the major fertilizer for his plots. This formulation will be sprayed on the plants either on the leaves or drenched in the soil in different concentrations. In his plot, four or five barrels with a capacity of 200 litres are fixed to ensure the continuous supply of fertilizers to the garden. He is not using any other chemical in his garden even for plant protection irrespective of the humid climate of winter and hot summers. As a successful farmer, a major chunk of his income comes from Pepper and Coffee cultivation. Apart from being a pepper breeder, he is also cultivating bananas, cowpea, chillies and tomatoes in his 23 cents of land. His farming style is sustainable, replicable and his works make him a role model for other farmers.