Idukki is Kerala’s largest district and usually called as spice village of the world. Mr. Sebastian Joseph is a marginal farmer and has studied only upto fourth standard. His first attempt at farming was banana cultivation, which failed miserably. But his determination and will power saw him through. With the help of his son Rejimon, Sebastian has developed a new variety of cardamom which heralded a revolution in the cardamom cultivation. Today 88.7 per cent of the total area under cardamom cultivation in Idukki is under cultivation of ‘Njallani’, the superior variety of cardamom selected by Sebastian and his son Rejimon.
New cardamom variety – ‘Njallani’ Sebastian Joseph with the help of his son Rejimon Joseph developed a new cardamom variety ‘Njallani’ by selecting good berries and crosspollinating these. This variety could be multiplied by clonal propagation method. Presently a vast area under cardamom cultivation is covered by this variety. Earlier, his attempt to cultivate food crops failed miserably due to attack by wild animals and consequent financial loss. In those days cardamom was widely cultivated in the high ranges. Sebastian tried to shift towards the cultivation of cardamom.
With the help of his son, Rejimon Joseph, Sebastian started experiments. He observed variation in the shapes of the cardamom. He selected the good berries and cross pollinated them. For this purpose he selected four cardamom plants and put bee hives in their midst. He then coverd the plants with mosquito net. He would also mark the flowers that produced the berries. These berries were pure clones. Next, the clones which bore more and bigger berries were selected. The selected four clones had born 148 berries. Capsule was double the size of the common Mysore variety. He called his selection ‘Njallani’ after the ancestral name. Sebastian began to multiply this selected variety by the clonal propagation. It was observed that a ‘Njallani’ variety has 120-160 capsules compared to 30-35 in the ordinary variety. Instead of planting seedlings that take two to three years to bear fruit, he began to plant shoots and was able to shorten the yield span to two years compromising neither on quality nor on quantity of the yield. In his quest to constantly upgrade the cardamom variety, this industrious farmer has recently developed another cardamom variety which is yet to be named and which he says can even be grown in the plains and not just hilly terrains. His son Rejimon not only helped him in all these operations but also contributed significantly to the success of his selection.