Variety

Capsule containing water to enrich soil moisture gains acceptance among Kerala farmers

V.Sajeev Kumar Kochi | Updated on May 12, 2021

Developed by ICAR, Pusa Hydrogel is being marketed by Palakkad Krishi Vigyan Kendra

Hydrogel capsules,brought out by Krishi Vigyan Kendra(KVK) in Palakkad to help conserve soil moisture, is increasingly becoming popular among the farming community in Kerala.

This is evident from its sales in the last one year, enabling KVK to sell around 3-4 lakh capsules. Idukki Cardamom Growers Cooperative Society made a bulk procurement and other farming communities as well made such purchases, V.P.James, Technical Officer in KVK Palakkad said.

Despite being launched two years ago, the product had not received the desired attention from farming communities. As a government entity, KVK has its own limitations for an aggressive marketing of the product and its promotion was confined mainly through Krishi Bhavans. However, the demonstration in the expo organized at VAIGA (Value Addition for Income Generation in Agriculture), by the State’s Agriculture Department in Thrissur ensured it got a good response, James said. “It were the efforts of the late K.N.Sunil, an assistant professor in KVK, Palakkad, that has borne fruit. He carried out a research in encapsulating the gel in capsules and made it into an eco-friendly form,”he added.

Eco-friendly technology

Hydrogel is an environmental-friendly technology developed by Indian Agricultural Research Institute in New Delhi. The gel is based on a biodegradable starch and it holds water to a capacity of 400 times its weight. When soil moisture content reduces, the gel releases water in the soil and helps to retain soil moisture. The capsule has to be placed in the root zone of the plant, 5.6 metre below the soil level.

Hydrogel conserves moisture and releases water when the soil becomes dry. Hence the number of irrigations can be reduced and the interval between the irrigation can be prolonged. Capsules can stay in the soil for around three months. Priced at ₹3 per capsule, four capsules can be used for vegetables grown in poly bags or pots. For banana and areca nut, the application should be 8-10 capsules per plant, while 20 capsules would be sufficient for coconut and nutmeg, he said.

An agriculture expert noted that Pusa Hydrogel is a semi-synthetic, cross linked derivatized cellulose-graft-anionic polyacrylate superabsorbent polymer, which has been developed by the Indian Agriculture Research Institute. It has proved to be highly efficient in managing drought conditions, leading to higher yields. However, it is desirable to conduct more studies to understand the long-term environmental impacts on as well as the degradability of the gel under Kerala conditions.

Published on May 12, 2021

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