Kerala farmer harvests his vertical 'field'

1.5-acre of farmland at Pulpally in Wayanad is a laboratory of sorts for its owner, C. Varghese. It is here that he conducts experiments in agriculture, for instance regarding vertical farming. Mr. Varghese’s crops are grown on PVC pipes which are fixed on soil in a vertical position. Twenty tomato seedlings are planted in a single 5-foot-long PVC pipe with a diameter of 1 foot. This method is also suitable for cultivating tuber crops such as sweet potatoes, Dioscorea (Kaachil in local parlance), and potatoes.

Holes are made in the PVC pipes every 8 cm using heated iron rods. The hollow space in the pipe is filled with a potting mixture mostly comprising coir pith and a smaller amount of soil and cow dung. Crops are planted in the punched holes. Most vegetables such as tomatoes, brinjal, cumin, and leafy greens are being grown in the garden. “Fruits such as strawberries or flowers can be grown, even in apartments, through vertical gardening,” says the farmer.

Mr. Varghese is continuously improving his methods in vertical farming and has now fitted two or three hinges on two layers of PVC pipes. The method allows hassle-free filling of potting mixture and harvesting of crops. “This technique requires less labor and space. Crop management, too, is easy. Residents of flats can try this method on their balconies,” he says.

Another major advantage is that water consumption is less. Moreover, if the topmost layer is watered, the water will slowly get drained to the lowest layer. “Time can also be saved to a large extent,” he says. Kitchen waste can be used as manure, which in turn can solve the problem of waste disposal.

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