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Barren Vidarbha, Bundelkhand smell scent of success with aromatic crops

| | New Delhi

Once faced with threats of dwindling income due to climate change in tough and barren terrain such as Vidarbha (Maharashtra), Bundelkhand (Uttar Pradesh) and salt-affected land in Kutch (Gujarat), farmers are now hoping to cash in on high variety aromatic crops (lavender, lemon grass and medicinal plants like ashwagandha) they have started growing under a scheme launched by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

The CSIR scientists have developed a variety of superior aromatic crops, which can be grown in these difficult regions. The results of the initiative launched last year in July under the CSIR ‘Aroma Mission’ have been encouraging, promising to change the lives of millions of farmers, said Dr Sudeep Kumar, Head, Mission Directorate, CSIR.

He said the aim is to develop superior aroma crop varieties, agro-technologies, and assessment of their suitability for large-scale cultivation in specific agro-climatic regions like water-scarcity areas or flood affected regions (See Box).  Dr Vibha Malhotra Sawhney, Principal Scientist, Mission Directorate, CSIR explained that the mission focuses on area under selected aromatic crops along with enabling interventions including setting up of distillation units and catalysing setting up of cooperatives for marketing of the produce.

“The idea is to ensure value addition of aromatic crops in the form of high-end aroma chemicals and products as well as encourage skill development activities which will check migration too,” she added.

For instance, pointed out Dr Sawhney, in the flood-affected Cuddalore, vetiver (khus) has been cultivated in the 45 hactres of area. While in salt-affected (Kutch) Palmarosa, rosagrass has been grown in 137 hactares. She said the farmers have already started earning Rs 1 lakh/ha after growing these aromatic plants.

Similarly, in drought-affected areas in Vidarbha and Marathwada and Bundelkhand, lemongrass, palmarosa, and vetiveris are being grown and farmers are ensured of income even under extreme weather conditions.

Ditto for the farmers in Jammu & Kashmir where aromatic plants like tagetes, lavender, lemongrass are being grown in area spreading 95 hectares, while in North-East region these crops  have come up in 38 hectares of area with farmers hoping to earn Rs 1 lakh per hactres, said the scientist.

Lavender oil has been successfully introduced in the highlands of Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh in 46 hectares.

The Aroma Mission, apart from promoting selected crops for the production of essential oils, will also promote, among the farmers and entrepreneurs, value addition of these oils by isolating the desired chemicals, modifying these for higher values, and using these for the products which can be manufactured at a smaller scale with low investments.

This will help the unemployed youth turn into an entrepreneur and will also generate employment opportunities especially to women, said Dr Kumar.



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