The author Dr. Vasanth Kumar Thimakapura

“The Plant Doctor Averts Farmer’s Suicide”, said a Newspaper headline. I read it with interest, as it was at a time when hundreds of farmers in Mandya, Mysuru and adjoining districts in Karnataka, India were committing suicides due to failed crops. The newspaper report said that the ‘Plant Doctor’ was able to convince the farmer (who was growing chrysanthemum flowers for sale) not to end his life, as he would ensure that the farmer would get bumper crop next season. The plant doctor worked with the farmer with the needed crop husbandry practices, and farmer did harvest a bumper crop next season. The farmer is now earning a decent livelihood for the past three years. This is not an isolated incident, and I have seen and heard many such success stories in crops such as tobacco, ginger, papaya, banana and black pepper.

‘The Plant Doctor’ is none other than Dr. Vasanth Kumar Thimakapura, who has earned thistitle, and he is often called “Rytha Bandhu” (Farmers’ Friend). He is revered by the farming communities around Mandya, Mysuru and Chamarajanagara and Coorg districts because of his knowledge of crop husbandry, more particularly in managing insect pests and diseases and plant nutrient deficiencies. He calls himself as a ‘Generalist’, which is an understatement, as his knowledge of crop management is excellent and highly practical, especially for the smallholder and resource-poor farmers who are struggling to make a decent living.

The book “The Plant Doctor” is actually a ‘lifetime achievement award’ for Dr.  Vasanth Kumar. It distills the experience and knowledge he has gained during past > 30 years of working in the University of Mysore, Private Sector Seed Industry, and more importantly on-farm research and development with the farming communities.

It has practical solutions to address and overcome several stresses that plants undergo during their life cycle. These include:

  1. Several soil physical factors (soil structure, etc.) and soil nutrients; 
  2. Selection of proper seeds and seed treatment;
  3. Establishing a good crop stand;
  4. Proper weed management; 
  5. Integrates insect pest and disease management.


How did Dr. Vasanth Kumar Thimakapura work for PLANT DOCTOR Book?

The workflow

Most striking element in the book are the near-to-life photographs and pictures that will assist the farmers and extension workers in accurate identification of the problem—whether it is a plant nutrient deficiency, soil moisture stress, insect pest or disease (fungal, bacterial, virus, etc.); and suggestions for managing the stresses in an eco-friendly manner. Notable is the fact that most (>95%) of the photographs were taken by Dr. Vasanth Kumar, over a period of >30 years. It must have been a monumental effort, spending huge sums of money (when color slides and photos were expensive), time and energy. He says photography is his hobby and passion, but he can challenge any professional photographer in terms of lighting and camera angle and other photographic techniques. Some of the photographs are so natural that farmers can identify the problems without second thoughts.
Dr. Vasanth Kumar Thimakapura hails from a farming family, and did schooling in Government schools of Periyapatna, Mysuru district. He completed his BSc., MSc. (Botany), M Phil. (Seed Pathology), and Ph.D. (Applied Botany) from University of Mysore. He taught M. Phil. students for a few years, before joining Pioneer HI Bred Company as Pathologist in India. This gave him ample opportunities to work with other scientists and farmers in the field, and interact with international scientists during his multiple visits to other countries to participate in conferences. After working for 15 years with seed industry, he returned to his roots to work with the farmers starting with his native village of Thimakapura. He started a venture called “Green Life Sciences” to serve the farming communities, with two innovative products (Phyton T and Power Plus). He also provides micro-finance to resource-poor farmers.
He has established a state-of-the-art laboratory and library (Books, magazines and videos on agriculture, horticulture, animal husbandry, etc.) which cater to the needs of local farmers, free of cost. This laboratory also provides free disease diagnosis service-- both in situ and online-- which is first of its kind in the country. He writes copiously in both English and Kannada for many local newspapers. He is much sought after for TV shows and talks aimed at the farming community. He has conducted many hands-on training programs to farmers, and has dedicated himself to improving the livelihoods of the smallholder farmers.
He is a member of (i) American Phytopathological Society, St. Paul, Minnesota ; (ii) Indian Phytopathological Society, New Delhi; (iii) Indian Society of Mycology and Plant Pathology, Udaipur; and (iv) Indian Society of Seed Technology, New Delhi. He was elected Fellow of the Indian Phytopathological Society in 2017, in recognition of his dedication and contributions to crop disease management. He has received many awards, including the prestigious “Karnataka Rajyotsava Award” in 2013.
I am sure that the book series on “The Plant Doctor” will be a mile-stone publication in the annals of Farmer-friendly literature for decades to come.