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