‘Mattu Gulla’, a special variety of green brinjal grown in Karnataka’s Udupi district for over five centuries now, is now attracting special attention from growers.

Grown in an area of about 60 acres between a beach and a small river at Mattu village in Udupi district, ‘Mattu Gulla’ is a produce with GI (geographical indication) tag.

Legend has it that saint Vadiraja of Sode Math,Udupi, gave the seeds of this variety to the devotees from the village. That is why the villagers offer their first harvest to the Udupi temple every year, and the dishes made out of ‘Mattu Gulla’ have a special place in ‘Anna Santarpanam’ (mass feeding).

Raising yield After getting GI tag for their produce in 2011, growers are now focusing on increasing the productivity of the crop with a bit of tweaking in cultivation methods.

During 2012-13, 26 growers from the village decided to adopt the cultivation methods, suggested by the Horticulture Department and scientists from the agricultural research station in the district, on 12.5 acres of land.

Under this, intensive cropping pattern was used for cultivation. The spacing was reduced from the earlier 2 ft X 2 ft to 2 ft X 1.5 ft. Saplings were planted in soil covered with plastic mulch.

Intensive cropping This technique helped protect the plants from insect attacks and soil-related diseases. It also prevented the growth of weeds in the field, and the mulch prevented the evaporation in the field.

Lakshman Mattu, Secretary of the Mattu Gulla Growers’ Association, said that the new technique has helped them improve their productivity. Earlier, farmers were getting 10 tonnes from an acre during the cultivation period of six months. Now, they are getting 18 tonnes/acre. He said that he got a net profit of ₹ 1.2 lakh an acre from the field, which was around ₹ 60,000 earlier.

Tech Adoption Mohan Rao, President of Vadiraja Mattu Gulla Growers’ Association, said that growers harvest the crop in 50 days with the modern techniques instead of 80 days earlier.

Encouraged by these results, 42 growers adopted these techniques on 25 acres during 2013-14, Sadashiva Rao, Senior Assistant Director (Horticulture), Udupi taluk, said.

The village has around 150 farmers growing ‘Mattu Gulla’. Lakshman said that the objective is to convince all growers in the area to take up modern cultivation techniques. Though many growers are happy with the change over to new techniques, some growers see other problems associated with cultivation.

Drawbacks Parameshwara Adhikari of the village said that some members who take others’ land on lease and grow ‘Mattu Gulla’ are not entitled to benefits from the Government.

The market for Mattu Gulla

Mattu Gulla commands a premium when it enters the market in October-November period.

Mohan Rao, President of Vadiraja Mattu Gulla Growers’ Association, attributes this to its taste, colour and the legend associated with its origin.

Giving examples of some people who tried to plant Mattu Gulla in other regions, he told Business Line that the quality did not match that of Mattu Gulla .

Farmers start cultivation of Mattu Gulla after October on paddy fields once they the standing crop is harvested. Harvest of the brinjal starts in December and continues till the onset of the Monsoon.

Considering the demand for this, some growers avoid cultivating paddy and start early planting of Mattu Gulla .

Such farmers, who bring the commodity early to the market in October-November, command a premium. Some of such farmers even got around ₹120 a kg during the initial days, said a grower.

The association has now been granted a temporary registration number by the Government of India’s Trade Mark Registry. With this, members are planning to market their produce directly under the brand name ‘Mattu Gulla’ from the next harvesting season, Rao said, hoping that this should help bring stability in the market.

As of now, a grower from Mattu gets around ₹20-30 a kg during the peak harvesting period, Rao said.