Coastal areas of Southern India having frequent episodes of cyclones and Tsunamis generally remain saturated with water containing a high amount of salts. The land even remains flooded during most of the year making them unsuitable for the cultivation of traditional crops. On the other hand, the coastal areas of the western region, though not affected by floods/cyclones frequently, remain dry receiving scanty rainfall. However, the groundwater generally used for irrigation in these areas is high in salts, and hence unfit for cultivation for most of the crops. We have identified a few aromatic crops which can tolerate such conditions to be the crops of choice. Last year, we identified a few Tsunami affected villages like Nochikkadu and Thiyagavalli in Cuddalore district, Tamil Nadu, where an old and low-yielding cultivar of vetiver was being cultivated as it can tolerate a high degree of floods and salts. But the genotype grown there gives very poor yield and contains a low amount of essential oil, the main economic component of the plant. CSIR-CIMAP has now introduced high-yielding cultivars of vetiver (roots containing around 1% essential oil) in about 20 acres, and if found suitable, plans to enhance the area under cultivation to at least 500 acres in a couple of years. It is hoped that these high-yielding cultivars will enhance the income of farmers by almost threefold.
Kutch and other coastal areas of Gujarat, apart from having desert climates, are affected by secondary salinity as the groundwater contains high amount of salts. Farmers of this region (Bhuj, Rapar, etc.) were not able to utilize their fields economically. Sometime back, we introduced palmarosa, an essential oil-bearing crop, which is able to tolerate high levels of salinity and drought, in these areas. The crop has now become popular and hundreds of farmers have come forward to adopt this remunerative crop in these areas. Last year, CSIR-CIMAP conducted awareness programmes in these areas and distributed seeds of a high-yielding variety of palmarosa. It is estimated that the crop which now covers an area of more than 200 acres, will soon expand to another 500 acres, providing livelihood and income-generating opportunities to thousands of farmers. Currently, this crop is able to generate a net profit of Rs. 60-70000/acre under conditions where no other crops could survive and generate any benefit in the farmers' fields.