It is perhaps not known to many that the exotic chillies of Jharkhand are some of the best in the world and in great demand in USA and several western countries. What makes the chillies cultivated here and especially in Jamtara so spectacular is the unique agro-climatic conditions (hot summers with cool winters and monsoon showers from the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea, good forest cover and alluvial soil).
Jamtara is largely dependent on rural economy with more than 60 percent of its residents actively involved in farming, livestock and fisheries. Though Aghani paddy, Bhadai corn, wheat, lentils, tomato, vegetables like potato, cauliflower and capsicum are the traditional crops grown here, farmers have found tremendous success with intercropping chilli, ginger, ole or suran, Ladies finger, pumpkin and gourd with the native vegetables.
The chillies in particular can be grown throughout the year with two sometimes three harvests depending on the variety grown. The farmers normally grow Pusa Jwala, Pusa Sadabahar, Arka Meghana, Arka Sweta, Kashi Early, Kashi Anmol, Kashi Surkh and Pant C-1.
These high-yielding plants are grown in April – May when it is the peak summer. Due to the high temperature, the seed and plant grow quickly and are transplanted in the fields after 25 days. The chilli starts fruiting after 45 days. It is a common practice to uproot chilli plants in the medium land in the fruit-bearing stage in June, prune its roots to some extent and replant in the upland. The moisture available in the medium land helps the chilli plants to grow without additional irrigation.
The rainfall in the monsoon season rejuvenates the upland and therefore, uprooting of chilli plants is done after the first harvest. This method has helped the farmers have excellent quality produce throughout the year.
The green chillies are sold in local markets while the ripened red chillies and chilli powder find several takers in markets across India. This cash crop has changed the fortunes of small and marginal farmers in this district.
Successful schemes by both the state and central government in educating the farmers on the importance of organic, natural and zero farming has gone a long way in replenishing the soil. The need of the hour is value-added products and processing plants to provide employment to the locals and provide steady income for the farmers.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)