A Visit to Central Research Station – Matale, Sri Lanka
Recently a team from The Spice Journal had an opportunity to visit the Central Research Station of the Department of Export Agriculture located in Matale. It is a vast and beautiful setting, about 100 hectare of lush gardens and vegetation. As we drove through the farmlands to reach the administration offices, we thought how wonderful it must be to work in such a serene natural environment.
We were welcomed to the institute by Dr H A Sumanasena, their Director/Research, and given a brief overview of the facility by Dr M Dharmadasa an entomologist who dedicates a lot of his time to the natural control of insects, avoiding chemical insecticides.
Entomology is a very interesting study of nature, particularly regarding methods of controlling pests without using chemicals which usually leave traces of poison on the food that we eat. In fact the enthusiasm shown by Dr Dharmadasa has given inspiration to The Spice Journal with consideration to developing a special section to this field of science.
Following Dr Dharmadasa’s overview we were hosted on a very informative tour of the beautifully maintained farmland by scientists Mrs. Lakmini Thilakaratne and Mrs. Chalani Attanayake.
Aware that The Spice Journal’s interest is primarily about spice; our hosts gave special attention in the tour to black pepper, cardamom, clove, nutmeg, coffee, cocoa, vanilla, betel, turmeric, and ginger.
First we were taken to a turmeric trial which is conducted to study the morphological variations of the turmeric samples collected from different districts in Sri Lanka.
Next to the turmeric trial, there was a trial of ginger which is conducted to determine physical and chemical qualities of ginger.
Then, we were shown a coffee trial where selected Arabica coffee varieties are being evaluated.
We observed a cocoa experiment which is conducted to evaluate field performance of rooted cocoa.
Moving further inwards into the research farmland we were shown a black-pepper trial with an irrigation system, i.e. drip irrigation.
Moving on we were guided through another “IMY” coffee plantation.
Next we were taken to a net house where black pepper rapid multiplication takes place using the bamboo method.
A mixture of coir dust and cow dung is filled into the hollow half cut bamboo sticks and pepper vines are trained up the bamboo, hence roots will sprout and take root at each node. Later the vine can be cut and each node planted will start a new pepper plant. According to our hosts, this is a very effective and fast way of propagating black pepper.
Towards the end of our tour we were shown vanilla, cardamom and nutmeg, all undergoing various experimental tests and monitoring. We had spent most of the morning touring the research station but even this was only a glimpse of the many scientific studies being undertaken, and we realized the significance of this facility to the export agriculture sector in Sri Lanka.
The purpose of The Spice Journal is to publish studies like those taking place at the Matale research farm and studies from other spice growing regions of the world, so that the scientific community can share experiments and learn from each other.
Many presentations of various experiments done by this research facility have already been uploaded to The Spice Journal “Research and Reports” section. These presentations will be followed with the scientific papers as and when they become available to us.
Our appreciation to Mr. W D L Gunaratne, Director General of Department of Export Agriculture, for initiating this informative session with the Matale Research Station.