There are 61 state horticulture farms and 17 parks and gardens functioning in 29 districts of Tamil Nadu. The farms produce quality planting materials at reasonable rates. They act as demonstration centres for farmers and also disseminate new technologies to the local growers. Botanical gardens and parks serve as ‘study centres’ for students and attract many tourists from India and abroad. According to estimates, around 925.854 units of planting materials were produced in these farms in the 2017-18 fiscal.
The horticulture sector in Tamil Nadu adds to the versatility of the state’s tourism sector. Shiva SubramaniamSamraj, Joint Director – Horticulture, Department of Horticulture, Government of Tamil Nadu for the Nilgiri district, told BE, “In the Nilgiris, we have many gardens, parks and farms and we conduct annual shows to attract tourists from all over India. The Government Botanical Garden and the Government Rose Garden are located in Ooty. Besides, the Doddabeta Tea Park, the Sim’s Park in Coonoor, the Kattery Park and the Kallar Gardens are popular among tourists.”
Government Botanical Garden, Ooty
This garden was laid out in 1897 by the Marquis of Tweedale and is spread over 55 acres. Lush green, well maintained lawns, rare trees species (like the cork tree which is probably the only such tree in India, the paper bark tree and the monkey puzzle tree - monkeys cannot climb this tree), a 20 million year old fossilised tree, an Italian-style garden bordering a clear pool, a vast variety of flowering bushes and plants in myriad hues (exotic and ornamental), a fern house with a vast range of ferns and orchids are some of the many highlights of this garden. A flower show along with an exhibition of rare plant species is held every year in month of May at this garden.
Birth of the horticulture department in Tamil Nadu
Initially all horticulture schemes in Tamil Nadu were implemented by a separate horticulture wing in the state agriculture department. This wing was headed by a Joint Director of Horticulture (Commercial crops) from the Directorate of Agriculture in Chennai.
Recognising the vast scope for development of horticulture in the state, a new ‘Department of Horticulture and Plantation Crops’ was created on September 26, 1979. The department was headquartered at Dharmapuri and was headed by a senior officer of the department. The Directorate was shifted to Chennai, LLA Building on Anna Salai in 1992. The Government of Tamil Nadu converted the post of Director of Horticulture and Plantation Crops into a cadre post for the I.A.S and since 1992, I.A.S officers have been posted to head the department.
Emergence of a new agency
The Tamil Nadu Horticulture Development Agency (TANHODA) was formed on June 18, 2004 and was registered as a society under Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act, 1975. It was conceived for the purpose of implementing centrally sponsored schemes.
TANHODA has provided much needed operational and financial flexibility for implementing schemes. Fund flows have become faster, the pace of implementation has picked up and schemes have seen steady progress.
Under Shiva SubramaniamSamraj, the state horticulture department has developed and maintains several unique farms for the benefit of farmers and agriculturists in the Nilgiri district. These farms are also revenue earning sources. Samraj told BE, “The department earns from the gardens, parks and farm an approximate revenue of around
Rs 20 crores. Against this, our administrative costs are about `8 crores. We do not export any produce but offer our expertise, plants, seedlings, and other products for the benefit of the farmers and agriculturists at a subsidised rate. The State Horticulture Farm at Thumanatty is the only farm in the country to cultivate and grow carnations. The other farms are located in Burliar, Coonoor, Nanjanad, Colgrain, and Gudalur.”