Pilot Park to promote Cactus as the Green Gold crop of India established in Pune

Mar 11, 2024

On March 11, 2024, Shri. Giriraj Singh, Hon. Union Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, Government of India, inaugurated the first of its kind “Pilot Cactus Park”, at BAIF’s Central Research Station at Urulikanchan near Pune. On the same day, Shri. Manoj Joshi, IAS, Secretary, Department of Land Resources, Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India, inaugurated the Cactus-based vegan leather plant on this occasion. Shri. Sunil Chavan, IAS, Secretary, Soil and Water Conservation Department, Government of Maharashtra and Dr. Bharat Kakade, President of BAIF were also present on this occasion. A joint venture of BAIF and Five F Agroecology LLP was conceived and which has led to the establishment of this pilot plant.

During his online inauguration of the first batch of vegan leather based on the objective to promote cactus-based products for Fashion, Food, Fuel, Fertilizer and Fodder (Five F) from spineless cactus at this pilot production plant and interaction with the project partners, the Minister, emphasized that cactus is the future crop of the country and expressed hope that with the extensive network of BAIF, cactus will be established as a economically viable green gold plant and will spread to various clusters in the country. Dr. Bharat Kakade, President and Managing Trustee, BAIF, briefed the Minister and attendees about various cactus initiatives of BAIF and applications in addition to vegan leather, viz. as Fodder for animals in dryland areas, Fuel production through Biogas fed by cactus, Liquid Organic Fertilizer and Food industry applications such as cactus juice, products being developed out of cactus and plans of BAIF for promotion of cactus for the benefit of the communities in different parts of the country. Shri. Ravi Madan, Five F Agroecology LLP, Mumbai and Shri. Mahesh Maheshwari from Miracle AgriGreen Solutions, Ahmedabad, expressed their confidence about the benefit to farmers from this energy-efficient cactus crop.

During his interaction with BAIF Scientists and Technical team, while acknowledging the pioneering work of BAIF in cactus promotion, Shri. Manoj Joshi also advised the joint venture team to ensure the economic viability of the project as well as minimum returns to farmers through cactus cultivation. He expressed the need for a buy-back arrangement of the cactus cultivated by the farmers through the project. He also advised working out the economics, formation of a committee and planning for the second round of the pilot project outside Maharashtra and the need to define the number of locations/clusters and area to be covered. He suggested starting with 7-10 clusters and then expanding it to 20-25 clusters in the country, which will not only instil confidence in the farmers but also keep the focus on cactus and enlist the support from the Government of India for the vegan leather project and for taking it from lab to land.

Shri. Sunil Chavan, Secretary, Soil and Water Conservation Department, Government of Maharashtra expressed the commitment of his Department to support the cactus cultivation initiative in Maharashtra.

Dr. Vitthal Kauthale, Chief Thematic Programme Executive, Farm Research and Seed Programme, BAIF and In-charge of cactus research at BAIF, stated that there was no adverse effect on animals with their body weight being maintained and that it has become an ideal green fodder for harsh climate without any waste and with carbon sequestration potential. BAIF has been conducting adaptability and performance trial of spineless cactus accessions for fodder production since 2015 and has established an arboretum of 100 accessions of cactus. BAIF has also standardised propagation and production technology and established a protocol for feeding cactus to small and large ruminants and for technology transfer to farmers’ field by establishing over 800 demonstrations in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Karnataka apart from decentralised cactus nurseries on over 3.20 ha at various campuses. BAIF has undertaken collaborative research with ICARDA, ICAR-IGFRI, CLRI, NIIST and Five F.

The senior BAIF members present on this occasion included Dr, Ashok Pande, Dr. Jayant Khadse, Mr Pramod Takwale and Dr. S.S. Roy. Shri. Dashrath Tambale, Director, ATMA, Pune, Shri. Ravindra Bhosale, CEO, Soil and Water Conservation Commissionerate, Maharashtra, Ms. Sujata Hande, District Water Conservation Officer and Shri. Subhash Lonkar, Sarpanch, Gram Panchayat, Tilekarwadi, Urulikanchan were also present on this occasion.

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