Plantation crops constitute an important segment of horticulture in Indian agriculture. Palms such as Coconut (Cocos nucifera L.), Oil palm (Elaeis guineensis Jacq.) and Palmyrah(Borassus flabellifer L.) have contributed significantly for the rural economy of our country. More than 20 million people in rural areas are engaged in the production, processing andmarketing the products of these three crops. The long term nature of research on thesecrops, the prospects of higher returns from research investment and the likely distributionof research benefits to the small holders and economically disadvantaged sections of thesociety, make it imperative to strengthen the research programme on these crops.
The average coconut productivity in India is still at a low level (7307 nuts/ha/year) (2012-2013) as compared to the production potential of 27300 nuts/ha/year. This indicates the scope for increasing the productivity by bridging the yield gap through the use of quality planting materials and adoption of better management practices. Though the coconut growing regions have substantially increased their total nut production during the past, still there is a need to address location specific problems for sustaining and improving the productivity levels.
Oil palm is one of the highest oil yielding crops under equatorial bioclimatic conditions that could help the country to minimize the edible oil imports with the cultivation of location-specific oil palm hybrids along with the required management practices. Under intensive management conditions providing recommended dose of fertilizer and irrigation, farmers can realize an annual yield of around 20 tonnes of FFB; yielding about 4 tonnes of oil/ha. Still there is a potential to increase the productivity in different agroclimatic situations.
Palmyrah palm, adorns the dry landscape of the semi arid regions of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal, Bihar, Karnataka and Maharashtra. India has nearly 102 million palms and half of them are in Tamil Nadu. Out of 51.9 million palms in Tamil Nadu, more than 50% of palms are concentrated in the southern district of Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli,Virudhunagar and Ramnad districts, while Thoothukudi district alone has a major share of 10 million palms. The palms offer opportunity for increasing the employment potential and provide a source of income to the poor in the rural areas.
The arecanut palm influences the economic life of people in rural India, providing a decent livelihood for more than three million people and assured employment of 10 million man days annually, besides its role in religions, social and cultural functions. Arecanut contributes Rs.4500 million annually to the GDP of the country. Stagnating market prices and increasing cost of production, especially the skilled labour charges in the recent times have generated livelihood concerns of arecanut farmers in India. A check in additional area expansion and encouraging the farmer to adopt arecanut based cropping systems by strengthening the transfer of technology activities would certainly benefit the arecanut farmers’ in long run.
Several under-utilized palms are playing a critical role in the rural economy of Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Odisha states. Of these under-utilized palms, Caryota urens (commonly called Sulphi palm) serves as an important source of income to the tribal people of Bastar region in Chhattisgarh State. The inflorescence sap from this palm is used as a drink and it is also used in the preparation of jaggery. In addition, the flour from inflorescence sap and the root, bark and seeds are extensively used for medicinal purposes.
The All India Co-ordinated Coconut and Arecanut Improvement Project was sanctioned in the year 1970 by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and the project started functioning in 1972. The time line of the Project over the years is presented here under:
1970: All India Coordinated Coconut and Arecanut Improvement Project was sanctioned by the ICAR.
1972 : The Project started functioning and 12 centres located in eight states were added to the project.
1975 : Five more centres were added.
1977 : Konark Centre (OUAT) was added.
1980 : Experiments in Konark were shifted to Patha Farm.
1980 : Mondouri (BCKV) Centre in West Bengal was added.
1982 : Kahikuchi Centre (AAU) in Assam was sanctioned.
1985 : Kahikuchi centre started functioning.
1986 : Renamed as All India Coordinated Research Project on Palms.
1987 : Jalalgarh Centre in Bihar was recommended for closure.
1988 : Razole centre was merged with Ambajipeta centre.
1989 : Four oil palm centres at Vijayarai (Andhra Pradesh), Mulde (Maharashtra), Gangavathi (Karnataka) and Aduthurai (Tamil Nadu) wereadded.
1990 : Pilicode, Mahuva and Dapoli centres were closed. Coimbatore - Coconut programmes were shifted to Aliyarnagar
1990 : Arecanut centre at Coimbatore was closed.
1992 : Research work on arecanut was phased out.
1995 : Andaman Centre was closed.
1995 : Two centres for Palmyrah research– Pandirimamidi in Andhra Pradesh and Killikulam in Tamil Nadu were sanctioned.
2000 : Programmes of Konark centre were shifted to Bhubaneshwar due to the Super Cyclone.
2009 : Two centres for coconut research - Sabour (Bihar) and Navsari (Gujarat), Two oil palm centres - Madhopur (Bihar) and Pasighat (Arunchal Pradesh) were added.
2010 : One centre for coconut research- Pilicode (Kerala) was started.
2012 : Programmes of Aduthurai centre (TN) for oil palm research shifted to the Agricultural Res. Station, Pattukkottai in Tamil Nadu.
2014 : Two coconut centre ( Goa and Andaman) and four centre for Arecanut – Goa, Andaman, Wakavalli and Shivamogga and one centre for oil palm (Pedavagi) were sanctioned.